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The Future of the Automobile

Tyler Reller
UNCC
Introduction/Background
The unnerving ring of an alarm clock pierces the stillness of the early morning hours and
shatters the remnants of last nights dreams. The morning begins in a hurried rush. You take a
shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. As you put on your clothes and grab your
backpack, youre faced with the horrible realization: you have an assignment due at the
beginning of class in half an hour and you still have to commute to school. But then the fear
subsides as you walk out to your car and unplug it from the wall socket. Stepping inside there is
no steering wheel, there are no gauges, and there are no pedals. You simply turn it on, pick a
destination from the touch screen, and the car takes off.
While this may sound like clich sci-fi fodder, it should not be dismissed as an indulgent
and nave solution to our transportation problems straight from The Jetsons. In fact, such a
reality is closer than many would ever have imagined. The rapid evolution of technology that
has occurred within the last decade or so has hardly been limited to faster computers, smarter
phones, and more capable gaming consoles; the automobile has also seen a huge change in
technology. Advances in computer technology and power have enabled features never before
seen in automobiles such as blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise control, smartphone integration,
and advanced drivetrains. While these features seem remarkable by themselves, their real value
will be in their ability to facilitate even further changes. This paper explores how cars will
evolve going into the future and how car enthusiasts will adapt to changing cars and roads.

Before delving into the science behind unraveling the secrets of the future to discern what
is to become of the automobile as we know it, I shall divulge my personal connection to the topic
at hand. Ive been car-obsessed ever since I was a fetus. My lust for all things automobilerelated deepened as I was exposed to car magazines and car shows. While I am personally
something of a Luddite when it comes to cars, I am completely enamored with the myriad ways
that engineers and designers have utilized technology to make automobiles faster, safer, cleaner,
and more people-friendly.
Review of Relevant Literature
One important aspect regarding the future of the automobile is what propulsion source
will take over from fossil fuels as the preferred choice. With ever-increasing concern for the
environment, many different solutions have abounded in the last few years. Hydrogen fuel cell
vehicles have been championed by many as the future, but very few steps have been taken in that
direction. One idea is to break water down to get the hydrogen that is needed to power fuel cells,
which release nothing but water to the atmosphere. Biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel,
could work too, but the stranglehold of big oil and big automobile has prevented a lot of progress
(Carson & Vaitheeswaran, 2007). Others contend that electric vehicles are the future. The CEO
of the electric car maker Tesla has chosen to stop enforcing the hundreds of patents his company
has developed. He hopes that by doing so he can encourage the development of electric vehicles
and raise the percentage of electric vehicles sold past the 1 percent mark. Teslas technology has
been beneficial to many car makers already, and BMW has expressed interest in sharing Teslas
battery tech (Peralta, 2014). Regardless of what powers them, it seems like the car of the future
will be a part of a transportation network that is unlike that which we know today.

Much thought has been directed toward what the transportation network of the future will
look like. Henry Fords grandson Ford alleges that freedom of mobility is limited by the number
of cars on the road. There are 800 million cars worldwide, which will grow to 2-4 billion cars by
mid-century. The average American spends a week a year in traffic jams; the average driver in
Bejing has a five hour commute. In the future, 75 percent will live in cities, and 50 of those
cities will have 10 million people or more. Ford alleges that the future will require smarter
public transit and smarter parking. Ford envisions a smart vehicle network connected the same
way social networks connect us, a car that can find parking itself, and smart taxis you can hail
with your smartphone (NPR/Ted Staff, 2014). Fords vision of connected cars is far from farfetched. The department of transportation intends to attempt to implement mandatory vehicle to
vehicle (v2v) communication. This system would allow cars on the road to know what all the
other cars on the road are doing, which would allow the cars computers to make safer decisions
and keep drivers abreast to changing conditions. A test of such a system has reduced accidents
by 70 or 80 percent. The NHTSA did not mention self-driving cars, only that this system would
use vehicle to vehicle systems to alert drivers to potential dangers (Peralta, 2014).
Connected car systems, such as v2v, could facilitate other automotive developments, such
as cars that drive themselves. Such technology does come with drawbacks, however. Google
intends to make its autonomous car available to the public within a year. Numerous automakers
have stated they want to sell autonomous cars by 2020. The biggest issue is making it safe.
Templeton says autonomous cars could alleviate or eliminate the number of greenhouses gases
and road deaths. Downsides include elimination of paid driving jobs, the possibility of increased
suburban sprawl, increased laziness, and the possibility of government corruption (Rath, 2014).
Others have expressed similar concerns. Nicholas Carr is a critic of automation and thinks the

decline of drivers started with the introduction of the navigation system, which he compares to
pilots who are so used to autopilot they are incapable and ineffective in emergency situations.
Carr also brings up the issue of alert fatigue, where people just stop paying attention to alerts the
car gives. He also brings up the issue that car makers have to codify difficult decisions, such as
how a car should respond if it has to pick between a head on collision and hitting a pedestrian
(NPR Staff, 2014).
It is clear from my sources that the future of the automobile is open to interpretation.
There is still debate about how the car of the future will be powered, with electric vehicles,
biofuels, and fuel cell vehicles all having their supporters and detractors. Another hot button
issue is the transportation infrastructure of the future. While some envision connected cars that
can communicate with each other and drive themselves, others are against this position. They
think that autonomous cars will make people lazy, ineffective drivers and that car makers will
have problems trying to make an autonomous car system work without flaw. Despite the
disparities among the sources, they all seem to indicate that cars will move away from fossil fuel
power and that they will grow ever more connected in the future.
Entering the Conversation
Most people view driving as a chore, a sort of necessary evil. The popularity of the
automobile has raged for so long in part because of the aversion of honest, hardworking
Americans to subject themselves to public transportation. Time spent behind the wheel, exerting
concentration upon the road and all of the other drivers is, to most people, time that could be
better spent doing something else. These people will no doubt rejoice at the advent of the
driverless automobile, a perfect marriage of the Thoreauvian freedom and seclusion of the
automobile with the ease of use of public transportation. Other people relish the time they spend

driving. To them an open road, a steering wheel, and some pedals are all the ingredients needed
for a perfect relief from their workaday lives. How will these people, who enjoy the noise of an
automobiles engine, the sensations of turning a wheel and changing gears, and the mere concept
of driving, cope in a world where cars are electric, steering wheels and pedals are unneeded, and
driving is done for you?
The freedom of mobility and sense of adventure conveyed by the automobile has made
the past hundred or so years unlike any other in human history. It is fair to say that the increased
mental, social, and physical freedom brought forth by the advent of the automobile was as great a
revolution in the previous century as the advent of new communications technology will be in
this one. One only needs to examine the United States to see the evidence. From road side
motels to drive through restaurants to highway tourist traps, the United States is a country built
around the automobile. While the novelty of the automobile has worn off somewhat over the
years, to many the act of driving a car is still the ultimate expression of freedom. The ability to
just get in the car and drive anywhere and at any pace the heart desires, carries a certain romantic
notion. Because of this powerful sensation, many have become united with a love for the
automobile, as evidenced by the hundreds of car shows and magazines that focus on every aspect
of the automobile and driving experience. From low-riders to drifters to hot-rodders, the
automobile and everything it represents, is the ultimate fascination in life.
The evidence suggests that there are two main ways to look at the automobile. To some,
it is a necessary evil that, although it fills a need for transportation, is also responsible for air
pollution, noise pollution, car accidents, congestion, and financial expense. To others, the
automobile means much more. From a simple tool to escape the boredom of everyday life, to a
rolling canvas, the automobile represents a great boon to society that balances out its negatives

with its positives. With future changes coming to the automobile such as electric drive and
autonomous drive, the first group should soon see its grievances with the automobile alleviated
and eliminated. The second group, however, may experience much of what they enjoy about the
automobile diminished by these same changes. Those who enjoy the thrill of acceleration, the
sound of an engine, and the sensations of steering, changing gears, and braking may find very
little to enjoy about electric cars that handle all of the driving themselves. Using information
gathered about the expected future of the automobile, I will attempt to predict the ways driving
enthusiasts will survive the future.
To understand why car enthusiasts may feel some misgivings about the future of the
automobile, it is important to remember why they came to enjoy driving in the first place. To
driving enthusiasts, the sensations of revving out an engine, steering, braking, cornering, and
changing gears are all things meant to be appreciated. The makeup of the car of the future may
replace or undermine these sensations. Electric motors are quickly gaining favor as the
propulsion system of the future because of their increasing practicality due to developments in
battery technology and their ability to provide emissions-free transportation within cities. But to
a car enthusiast, electric motors cannot match the angry roar of a high-performance engine. The
autonomous vehicle is also quickly gaining favor as technology grows in support of it. The extra
free time from not having to concentrate on the road and the increased safety of eliminating
human error are more than enough to draw support. But to the driving enthusiast, being
chauffeured by a robot is antithetical to the purpose of the automobile, which is to be driven and
enjoyed. In the future, as car makers move to meet the needs of the majority of the public,
driving enthusiasts may find very few vehicles geared toward driver involvement and enjoyment.

While buying a new driver-oriented car will certainly become harder than simply popping
into the local dealership and picking what you like, driving enthusiasts need not despair. Kit cars
are exempt from most government regulations, and while they are presently a minuscule fraction
of the cars on the road, they will see a lot of new business from driving enthusiasts whose needs
are not catered to by mainstream car brands. While government legislation has traditionally
always encouraged the technological advancement of automobiles, it is possible that in the future
government agencies could recognize the priorities of driving enthusiasts and use legislation to
allow the manufacture of driving enthusiast oriented automobiles that do not meet the same
emissions and safety standards that mainstream cars do. Many car enthusiasts will likely tend to
keep older, lower-technology cars, as opposed to buying newer, higher-tech ones. Others will
search out older cars in junkyards and fields to restore to driving condition. With the massive
collective knowledge and supplies of the internet, it should be easier than ever to keep a vintage
car on the road.
One obstacle that may stand in the way of vintage car owners is vehicle to vehicle
technology (v2v). This is a relatively new technology born from the experience that has been
gained recently in cellular and data networks. What the technology does is connect cars on the
road via one giant information sharing network. This allows all v2v equipped cars to have
access to the information regarding the decisions of all the other drivers on the road. The
implication of this is that cars can use this data in conjunction with their current safety systems to
prevent car accidents. For instance, if the driver of one car tries to cut off a car behind it, the
following car can use information from the leading car and apply the brakes to prevent an
accident. Such technology is crucial to making autonomous cars work, and federal government
regulatory agencies are already taking steps to mandate such technology in future cars. This puts

those who prefer vintage cars in a tricky spot. With cars that were designed with little or no
computing power on board, sustaining v2v would be next to impossible. This would make
vintage cars obstacles that autonomous car would need to dodge, and would undermine the
integrity of a network of connected cars, which could force legislators to ban vintage cars from
the road.
While banning vintage cars from the road would eliminate the traffic concern, vintage car
owners would likely be heartbroken by being unable to drive their precious machines. Luckily,
careful implementation of government legislation could reduce any such apocalyptic future from
occurring. It is an observable pattern that most traffic follows certain patterns. Highways
stretched between the cities and the suburbs, and the main arteries of big cities see a
disproportionately large amount of traffic, while curvy back roads and two-lane highways see
little traffic. Government legislation could restrict access to these main arteries to modern
vehicles with v2v technology. Back roads and relatively disused highways would be reserved
for vintage cars without v2v. This would allow society to reap the safety benefits of a network
of smart vehicles that can all communicate with each other, while allowing fans of vintage cars
places to go for a drive. This solution could very well appease both groups, because it allows
owners of autonomous cars practical access to the destinations they frequent most, while also
allowing vintage car owners to spend time enjoying their cars on scenic drives.
Conclusion/So-What?
The present and future are proving to be one of the most exciting times in history for the
evolution of the automobile. In this paper, I have reviewed how various aspects of the
automobile may change and how car enthusiasts can assimilate with the changing future of
motoring. The propulsion systems of cars in the future are likely to migrate away from fossil

fuels to more eco-friendly solutions. Cars are also going to become connected to each other,
creating an infrastructure that will help support autonomous driving. Car enthusiasts will have to
search for cars appropriate for their desires and may have to find different places to drive then
before.
Because car enthusiasts do not comprise a majority of car buyers, their wants/needs may
not be catered to in the future. This paper suggests how whatever challenges they face may be
mitigated. The future of the automobile is indeed an important topic. Most of us still depend on
the automobile, to some degree or other, for our transportation needs, therefore it is important
that we understand how the automobile will evolve through the future. Understanding the future
of the automobile can help us understand how to reduce pollution and car accidents.
Understanding the future of the automobile can help us understand how society can help ease
congestion. Understanding the future of the automobile is, to some degree, understanding how
the basic transportation structure that underpins the economy will change in the future and the
effects that it will have. Even though this was an extremely comprehensive essay, there are other
areas regarding the future of the automobile that are dying to be explored. One area to research
is how car ownership patterns will changed with the increased expense of owning a car, in
addition to increased urbanization. Other areas of research could the future of the automobile in
less developed nations, the future of automobile racing, the future of automotive journalism, and
more.
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