reading: The Car: The Rise and Fall of the Machine that Made the Modern World

The Car: The Rise and Fall of the Machine that Made the Modern World [Kindle Edition]
By: Bryan Appleyard

There are those that portend that the transportation industry is about to change in radical way. Our former relationship with the automobile and it’s supporting industries is drastically being challenged. The love of our life will be a simple utility.

Before I comment, a moment of reflection. In today’s world consider any object including people.

Now that object is in a place. Consider the following.

Does object need to be moved?

How much energy is required to move that object.?

A totally cold assessment of transportation , I agree. but to some analyst that is the end game, a zoom out view of what needs to be considered in today’s world when every aspect of our lives may be quantified by cost, carbon footprint, environmental impact and safety.

Now back to the book.

This title caught my eye as electric vehicles have stirred such a frenzy like a poked hornets nest.

The haters have mounted a campaign in a last ditched effort to prove that the electric vehicle is a pipe dream concept and has no benefit over the ICE vehicles that we were taught to love. But the fact that a set amount of energy can only be extracted from a gallon of gas was a nail in the coffin of the Internal Combustion Engine no matter how “clean” it was. Other technologies could be improved many times.

From first hand experience, cars were a freedom to leave the nest, I bonded many friendships over grease and oil soaked clothes, grimy hands and tools. It was a benefit as far as the learning experience. I never attended any structured automotive education. We learned mechanical engineering by turning this or that and disassembling, modifying and repair as a way to afford our wheels. At the time our effort, time and labor didn’t get considered. For our generation and demographic the automobile was an escapism, a hobby and for some the calling to a career.

Later in life I came to question the allure of the automobile. No longer did I want to be prone, face up under a vehicle. It became a futile effort expending time and money to fuel, repair, insure, register and maintain this form of transportation. It was a point in life I didn’t have the need for transportation to get me to a physical location for employment.

One of the pivotal moments of transportation (and briefly mentioned in the book) was the birth of ride hailing. Amazing is the fact that it did not require a retooling of any sort. It was born from, as in my opinion we will see more of this, a stitching and marriage of software technology. Financial software gives us the ability to eliminate any sort of physical exchange of paper currency. Billing and payment is seamless with the service. Employment software let these services hire and manage the workforce of available drivers, a subset of the existing gig economy. Finally, mapping software and tracking allows instant , or close to it , on demand transportation from any point A to any point B. Quietly underrated this was in my opinion one of the greatest disruption and an option to the complex and increasing expensive mechanical contraptions that sit in our driveways. A direct counter culture to the heart of the Automotive Industry.

Purchase and ownership of the automobile is now not required.

This all combined to give the user a safe, up to date well maintained vehicle and vetted driver at their whim. The naysayers balked , taxis seemed to disappear from the landscape overnight. As with all technology it will evolve with the addition of electromechanical revelations and increased computer power, the driver will be removed from the equation.

This book goes into detail of the history of the automobile. From inception to it’s present state. It’s a bit thin on present but the author has laid the groundwork to make his point. The shift from horses to self powered vehicles was equally disturbing and disruptive to the way of travel and business. No one today mentions that we were at a time almost knee deep in horse shit or the pollution, disease and damage it caused.

The author brings up another lesser know fact that the expansive infrastructure required that followed the development of the automobile changed the landscape dramatically, the haters of the time rejected the idea of the proliferation of the automobile and it’s required infrastructure as it would be an ecological disaster waiting to happen. DID IT ?

So was the relationship of the automobile in our lives a grandiose effort to support the automotive and associated industries?

All in all, to me an interesting read The Car: The Rise and Fall of the Machine that Made the Modern World is yet to have the final chapter written. It’s about to unfold.

Addendum 10/02 :

Will part of the final chapter be that we are still being catered to as far being sold a device we don’t need? Is the illusion that the transportation we need is still a necessity of boasting ownership of speed, luxury and a status symbol we display ? How will industries react to a vehicle that does not require a driver and accidents are reduced to nearly none? Will signs be erected that read ” Autonomous vehicles only beyond this point” ? Perhaps the signage will be barcodes for the vehicle own sake.


September 2022

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