You know the feeling. The weather has just gotten warm. You get behind the wheel on a Friday afternoon and head into the weekend. Your favorite song is on the radio, you’ve got the windows down. Is there anything better?
American media have captured that scene for generations. Hundreds of songs have been written about driving and cars.
But would your feelings be the same if you weren’t the one driving? If instead, the car was driverless?
Journalist and car critic Dan Albert says that “how we understand the history of the American automobile and make sense of our automobile-dependent present will determine the driverless future.”
His new book “Are We There Yet?” traces America’s relationship with cars — from skepticism during the horse-and-buggy era, to the present, when the days of needing a person to operate a vehicle may be numbered.
Here’s part of a Forbes review of Albert’s book:
Are We There Yet? takes a linear, chronological path through American automotive history, and concludes with Albert’s bittersweet concession that we may indeed be on our way to new relationship with transportation. “When we embrace driverless cars, we will surrender our American automobile as an adventure machine, as a tool of self-expression, and the wellspring of our wealth and our defense,” he wrote. “We will be left with machines unworthy of love and unable to fill the desires our driven cars now do.”
And although car sales are soaring, interest in driving seems to be declining. A 2016 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found “the percentage of people with a driver’s license decreased between 2011 and 2014, across all age groups,” according to The Atlantic.
How is the American relationship with cars changing? How does climate change factor into the success of the automotive industry? And will we ever be able to agree on the best playlist for a road trip?
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