“In America today, there are more cars than drivers. Yet our investment in these vehicles has yielded dubious returns. Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years. The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war. Every technology has costs, but lately, we’ve had reason to question even cars’ putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?”
—Nathan Heller, The New Yorker Magazine
The New Yorker Magazine is a literary publication read predominantly by intellectuals. Recently, the iconic magazine has been publishing several excellent pieces on the unfolding evolution of the automobile industry. Their most recent article called “Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?” is a must-read. The piece is a fascinating look at the challenging past, present, and future of the automobile. You can read The New Yorker article by clicking here or you can listen to it on audio via the New Yorker website. The nucleus of the story is based on the recent book by Dan Albert called “Are We There Yet?: The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless,”
Heller questions the sustainability of the current automobile way of life as we know it. He proposes that the roads of the future will look very different than today. Self-driving cars are poised to take over the market. He contends that the original sin of the automobile was the commercial pressure of personal ownership of cars. It turns out that the concept of car sharing is over 100 years old. Heller notes that the average car spends most of its time parked. The shared car of the future could be a leap in utilization and could pick up the kids, go get groceries and be a shared resource that is a profit center. Autonomous cars, congestion pricing, and more integration with urban transport will be a solution for the future. The coming age of robot vehicles is upon us—get ready.