Touting the overclass fantasy that computer navigation will someday somehow rescue cars-first transportation from its own fatal flaws, that king of hype, Elon Musk, let loose this Freudian slip:
“You can’t have a person driving a 2-ton death machine.”
Quite right, yet how is it that we not only have that, but refuse to talk seriously about fixing the problem?
The answer lies in the political economy of what is and what is not discussable. Cars are as profitable and pro-capitalist as they are wasteful and dangerous. Hence, directly discussing and combating their wastefulness and danger is forbidden within the great marketing campaigns we know as mainstream media and mainstream politics.
Fortunately, Mr. Musk also has something to say about what would happen if that taboo were ever shattered:
“People may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous.”
Musk, of course, is thinking only of the immediate dangers to individuals in and around in-service automobiles, not the larger dangers of climate change, resource depletion, and petro-war. He also presumes that driving, not cars-first transportation, is the problem to be addressed.
Nevertheless, the point stands: People may outlaw driving cars because its too dangerous.
TCT hereby goes on record to say the sooner, the better.
None other than The Economist magazine says that “America’s freight railways….are universally recognised in the industry as the best in the world.” Our passenger rail, of course, would have to greatly improve to reach the level of a sick joke.
How ironic and telling, then, is this news, as reported by Automotive News?:
Railroad companies are struggling to keep up with surging U.S. demand for trucks and SUVs, frustrating Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
The rail industry’s struggle to keep up with the car industry’s growth was felt last year, when unusually harsh winter weather forced companies to slow down locomotives and run shorter trains. That led to backlogs for commodities that make up a bigger share of cargo, including fuel, coal and grain. The disruptions left automakers with as much as about 250,000 vehicles waiting to be shipped by rail, according to TTX Co., the rail-car pooling operator. The typical industry standard is having about 70,000 shippable vehicles on the ground and waiting to move.
Once again, our grandchildren, should they somehow inherit a livable, hsitorically-aware world, will debate whether to laugh or to cry over this Orwellian technological inversion. As we squandered the planet’s last stocks of easy fossil fuels, the main engine of that squandering overwhelmed one of the main alternatives to the whole terrible charade.
May our descendants somehow forgive us…
DbC recently saw a sign that it endorses, in Berkeley’s People’s Park. Click for larger version. Copyleft restrictions only:
Google has announced it is working on a driverless car. As usual, mainstream journalists, always breathless and brainless about “tech” stories, are reporting on the project as if it is somehow a portent of major change in our wildly expensive and unsustainable transportation order. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, naturally, eggs them on, speaking of the project as if it’s somehow “in keeping with our mission of being transformative.”
The reality? As reported by Automotive News, GCars “will be electronically limited to 25 mph and will never go on highways. They will be designed as ‘neighborhood’ vehicles.”
In other words, GCars, if they are ever actually viable, will be GTaxis. As such, they will be taking riders away from existing, driver-employing public transit systems and taxi businesses, as well as further stymieing cyclists and pedestrians in the nation’s most walkable and rideable places.
Not quite transformative, is it?
Of course, in market-totalitarian America, “America” means corporate capitalists. Hence, we find the U.S. Energy Secretary out pimping for extension of the reign of human history’s most wasteful lifeblood-to-a–ruling-system product. As reported by Automotive News:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy wants auto suppliers to know that it still has $16 billion in low-interest financing available to support efficient-vehicle programs, and it wants them to step forward for a share of those funds. The department’s lending authority comes under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which Congress created in 2007. Early in the Obama administration, the Department of Energy used the program to lend about $8.4 billion to Ford, Nissan, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive. Suppliers were always eligible, but none secured funding. Now, under Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the program is being overhauled to make it easier to fund production of technologies such as lightweight materials, efficient engines and low-friction tires.
The changes that Moniz announced today include legal clarifications to show that suppliers are eligible for the program, a promise to respond more quickly to applicants and the creation of a new online application portal.
Moniz announced the program changes on Wednesday during a speech to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, or MEMA, a trade group representing auto suppliers.
“Today we are presented with an opportunity to hit the accelerator on U.S. auto manufacturing growth,” Moniz said.
To restate: In the year 2014, the person in charge of solving the nation’s energy challenges is bragging about “hitting the accelerator” on making automobiles.
Orwell was an amateur.
Per the WHO, via Harper’s magazine:
Number of deaths in traffic accidents for every 100,000 vehicles on the road in developed nations : 11
In Ethiopia : 3,865
The New York Times today happened to run this photo of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Depicted is a street in Greenville, Mississippi. Check out the prevalence of automotive businesses even at this early date:
Part of the reason corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles is the fact that, once the inherently sprawling, alternative-discouraging infrastructure for cars-first transportation is fully built, that infrastructure renders car ownership almost literally necessary. To forgo a car is to add extra risk and time constraint to lives already unfolding amid insecure and decaying economic and social conditions.
I mention this because of this interesting story from today’s edition of the mighty USA Today.
Seems that, among the population who incur both forms of debt (and the rich pay cash for cars, by the way), people are four times more likely to make late payments on their mortgages than on their car loans.
Felicia Young of Tampa says paying her auto loan became more important in the last two years.
“When my credit scores declined and I was facing removal from my house, my car suddenly became the only item I had worth anything,” says the 45-year-old, who holds both full- and part-time jobs as an administrative officer.
Young adds that she needs her car “to get to work and make money. Period.”
“If push comes to shove, you can live in your car,” Becker says. “But you can’t drive your house to work.”
No wonder the overclass insists that the current American lifestyle is non-negotiable.
Corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles. Neither rain nor sleet nor Peak Oil nor World War III will divert them from their money-making mission.
Hence, the unchanging nature of the “greatest spectacle in American sports,” the Super Bowl. Like both the National Football League and the whole of American television, it remains, first and foremost, a behavior-modification project whose main sponsor remains the automotive-industrial complex, which itself remains the indispensable heart of the capitalist economic order.
According to this piece from The Huffington Post, there were 60 commercials — not counting five ads referring viewers back to the NFL and this year’s Super Bowl broadcaster NBC — run during yesterday’s broadcast. (Note: If the widely reported cost of $3.5 million per ad — almost 100 times the rate charged for ads during Super Bowl I — is correct, that means the 2012 Super Bowl show generated $210 million of advertising revenue for NBC, not counting any ads promoting the game in advance.)
By DbC‘s count, 21 of the 60 Super Bowl XLVI ads were for cars, tires, or cars.com.
As for the content of these ads, there was, of course, zero acknowledgment that anything has changed since the days of the Studebaker. Indeed, none other than Clint Eastwood, after a couple decades of decent movie making, took his opportunity to jump his own personal shark by appearing as a mindless tough guy in a Chrysler ad assuring everybody that it’s merely “halftime” in the great American project of cars-first living.
Wanna bet, Dirty Harry?