When We Drove the Cars Ourselves
Tamara Warren was at the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach in August and reflected on the golden age of automobiles:
Being up close with the more elegant pre-war cars at Pebble Beach, it’s natural to see how the affair with the automobile began. Before computers, there were cars. It must have been exciting, to be on the advent of such progress in the early 20th century. That’s what I imagine when I see the cars, what it was like to be alive then, when horses ruled over horsepower. In 1909, the Italian futurists constructed their ideology based on the allure of the automobile, a contemporary thing of seduction of power and speed inspired by rapid innovation:
“We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”
We’re on the brink of self-driving cars, new ways of thinking about transportation, and the myriad of ways that technology will shape car culture. But what happens if and when we no longer drive for purpose, or even for pleasure? Could the 20-teens be the beginning of the end of motoring as we know it? We live on a planet where fires burn uncontained, where perhaps the golden era of motoring is a flickering flame, as we seek out other solutions that come with other tradeoffs and a new gold-rush of speculation.
I think the act of manually driving a car faces a similar fate as riding a horse: it will become a leisure time activity reserved for the weekends for those that can afford it.