The term automobile originates from the Greek word autos (self) and the Latin mobilis (movable), which when combined means a vehicle capable of moving on its own (self-propelled) (Wikipedia, 2010). In the contemporary society, the term automobile is also often loosely referred to as cars, although the term automobile itself encompasses trucks, buses, and other means of transportation on wheels. For the purpose of this TechPost, I will only be focusing on cars as personal transportation. The invention of cars revolutionized the way people travel from one place to another by allowing people to conveniently travel in much greater speeds than the traditional horse wagon. It also allowed for an easier access to remote places. Cars have not only become one of the most popular means of transportation, it created motorsport, and also often seen as a symbol for social status.
The most prevalent shift in car culture today is the increasing popularity of hybrid and electric cars. However, the hybrid and electric car segment only appeals to a small niche market. Bill Vlaslic and Nick Bunkley (2010) wrote an article for The New York Times titled A Future That Doesn’t Guzzle. In this article Vlaslic & Bunkley discussed that about “98 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States last year were powered by conventional gasoline engines”. This shows just how much interest Americans have in the niche segment. Automakers unveiled a slew of hybrid and electric concept vehicles in the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. It goes without saying that automakers are putting a huge emphasis on this technology for the future of automobile, but what is the reason behind this? Are automakers really interested in saving the environment? Or is it just a way for the manufacturers to meet the stringent emission requirement of the future (Vlaslic & Bunkley, 2010)? Not to worry though, Ford’s Executive Chairman, William C. Ford, states that “we will be ready for the demand whatever it is, whether it becomes 10 percent of the market or 90 percent.”
The shift towards a more environmentally responsible automobile has to be a positive effect of the car culture shift. Buyers might not be ready to accept this new technology because of the significantly different driving experience. Hybrid car seems to have more chance of success than completely electric car in agreement to Bob Lutz’s (2010) statement for The New York Times that “the company did not think pure electric cars were best in the United States in the near future, because drivers often traveled beyond the range of those cars”. It is quite hard to see a completely electric car to succeed at this time due to the fact that our fossil fuel supply still exists. Oil companies would not allow for the success of electric car as long as they’re still in business. All these effort by automakers to promote their greener vehicles are great because it helps in saving our planet from further degradation. I personally think that the technology best suited for this decade is the clean diesel technology because it combines the driving feel of a normal car, yet it delivers astonishing fuel efficiency while doing minimal damage to the environment.
SOCIAL TREND / TECHNOLOGY THAT MIGHT PRECEDE
Future plausible technologies that will precede the hybrid and electric (battery) generation would have to be some sort of renewable fuel cell technology or even nuclear power. Nuclear do create another problem, that is its radioactive waste, but that’s an entirely different story. It is highly unlikely that there will be a new social trend that will change the way cars are used. If there were a possibility for a radical social trend shift, it would be the idea of completely relying on public transit system for our transportation needs. And to end on a wild note, maybe teleportation would one day come true.
Wikipedia (2010). Automobile. Retrieved February 9th, 2010, from http://en
Vlaslic B. & Bunkley N. (2010, January 11). A Future That Doesn’t Guzzle.
Retrieved February 10th, 2010, from The New York Times Web site:
Vincent Teng – firstname.lastname@example.org