When Will We Grow Up?
The steam engine, for instance, came out of very simple physics, which had been in use centuries prior to its ‘invention’, in simpler and incomplete forms (tea kettles), yet nobody ever stopped to think that the steam, were it to be put under pressure, could move pistons and rods about and create movement and energy, anywhere, at any time and under pretty much any weather conditions.
It was amazing that somebody finally did think of it, and did so at a precise and very specific point in our history.
But still, steam engines and their many wonderful uses are not the topic here, as they are simply engines which would be useless if they had nothing to drive/operate. This also applies to automobiles, which have not suffered any truly radical redesigns and improvements since they were invented. I`m not saying there is no progress, but we should really move the automotive industry along quicker because there simply isn’t enough of it.
So we come back to the idea of stagnating, then making a quantum leap, towards something new and revolutionary. What we have been doing, since the creation of the first cars as we know them, is simply adding more stuff and making them more complicated, in order to comply with our changing needs and lifestyles.
For instance, at first nobody realized just how big a problem exhaust fumes would end up being, so they did not fit any sort of device to the exhaust pipe, in order to clean it. Nowadays, we have catalytic converters, particle filters and a whole host of other ‘filters’, to make the stuff coming out of the back of cars that little bit cleaner.
However, catalytic converters and particle filters are expensive, heavy and, well, they make modern engines, especially modern turbodiesels, feel sluggish and unresponsive. It may say 110 hp on the package, but get behind the wheel and you`d be hard-pressed to say there were more than 80-90 hp in total.
The engines themselves have become overly-complicated as well, and with variable valve timing, turbocharging, supercharging, electronic this and electronic that, it is simply added complexity, which is good for the manufacturer, because your car will spend more time at the dealer’s for ‘some sensor needing to be replaced’.
These are all examples of how modern cars have become just too darn complex and complicated for their own good. There are only disadvantages: the owner no longer feels a bond or connection with the car, because it is no longer a living ‘mechanical being’, and since you now have rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights and even cars that drive themselves, you are honestly better off taking the bus or train – it`s exactly the same.
What we need is a new approach, and I don`t mean EVs or hybrids. What we need is something completely new, fun and in tune with our needs as modern human beings. Cars as we know them only have disadvantages, and no matter how good they are, they still pollute in some way or another (EVs included), they still take up way too much space, and they still aren`t practical for city use.
I do know what the solution to this problem might be, but we need to grow up and realize that cars are very 20th century, and as we have already made the transition from conventional trains to their much more modern and faster maglev alternatives, by thinking outside the box, perhaps we could apply the same philosophy to our own personal vehicles, and break free of convention in order to create something new, revolutionary and genuinely useful.
We are slowly shifting towards better forms of personal transport, but they are still tainted with our ‘classic’ ideas of what a car should be. If aliens came to earth, how could you possibly explain to them why you have two different engines in one vehicle that you call a ‘hybrid’. If you take one step back and actually look at the idea behind hybrids (not the actual execution, which is genuinely useful, but its benefits still do not outweigh the cons), you realize they are simply a work-around of old problems we are still choosing to ignore.
There is still a long way to go, before we finally move on to something better, but once that something comes along, it will be so fresh and so perfect for our needs, that we will wonder why we hadn`t thought of it centuries before. Cars as we know them will be used for entertainment and will be a fun way to spend the weekend, but for our everyday transportation needs THEY ARE OUTDATED!
When will we grow up? Well, we will probably never be capable of actually doing it fully, and we will always need lessons to collectively teach us that what we are dong is wrong. We are still at the beginning of actual advanced technology, and we are now just scratching the surface of what can actually be done.
Think about it – somebody could patent a cheap teleportation device in the next few years and render all conventional modes of transportation irrelevant. This is the kind of shift I`m talking about – something big, really big, which will affect us all and once we embrace it, we will look back and wonder how we lived so long without it, whatever that ‘it’ may be. As i`ve said at the beginning, this new and yet-unknown technology will come as a shock, after a period of stagnation (now, basically)... so all we can do is wait and put our faith in the birlliant scientific minds of the world.