Sunday, October 02, 2016

Teenagers won't dream of cars anymore?

I was perhaps ten years old when my parents--ahem, my father, given that he made most of the budget decisions--decided that the old car would not work with the new sky-high petrol prices.  The family joke is that my younger brother refused to walk, having been spoiled by the car.

The car meant something back then.  I remember Holden Caulfield commenting in The catcher in the rye that people are always dreaming of their next cars--even when they drive out of the dealer in their new car!  And that continues even now.  I seem to make my own stories about people based on the type of cars they drive.  Even the car that I drive has a reputation for the owners being dull, boring, careful, and everything else along those lines.

In the future that is arriving, cars might not mean a damn thing.  Think about the science fiction movies that you may watched.  Not the science fiction of a gazillion years from now, but set in the near-future.  Recall how boring the transport mechanisms are in those movies?  They are boxy and utilitarian. That's it.  There is no art, there is no story, no life about those transport units.

This essay, by a chair-professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, argues that cars will never be sexy again.  With developments like Uber and self-driving cars, "the automotive logic of the 20th century—“cars as luxury, cars as freedom, cars as sex”" has been turned upside down.
cars are becoming leased appliances, made and sold with efficiency to suppliers intent on renting them out for minutes at a time to customers who would rather forget ever having been inside them. Nothing could be less sensual than the boring universe of business-to-business fleet sales—except, maybe, the boring universe of business-to-business fleet-sales component supply.
I suppose the boring future will be another version of Henry Ford's line that any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

When that future arrives, there is one thing that I will miss most in this part of the world--the bumper stickers.  Some vehicles have awesome statements in their bumper stickers, including those that I disagree with, of course.  Once I saw one of those huge pick-up trucks with a bumper-sticker with an arrow pointing to the exhaust pipe.  The sticker read "Your Prius can suck on this."  The other day I saw a small car with stickers all over the bumper, the rear frame, and half of the sides as well.  That kind of a personalization won't be there in the future?  It will be a boring future even for this dull and boring guy!

My favorite bumper-sticker had truly my kind of humor.  What was in the sticker?  "I hate bumper stickers!" ;)

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