Rationalising Automobility in the Face of Climate Change
When the Model T was launched, the owner of Ford Motors, Henry Ford, is known to have remarked that the consumers could get it in any colour they wanted as long as they wanted it in black. Ford’s Model T was the first automobile produced on moving assembly lines with completely interchangeable parts, and the introduction of this new mode of production is widely considered to have democratised automobility. With the reduced production costs, automobility was no longer restricted to the economic elite but affordable to the growing American middle class. Hence, even though the Model T was a standardised product that left the consumer with few alternatives, it quickly came to epitomise individual autonomy. Thanks to the wonder of assembly line production, the American consumer could get what he (or, rarely, she) wanted and go where he wanted, unrestricted by route plans and time schedules. He could go On The Road as Jack Kerouac famously did in the 1950s, and as generations have done ever since. Indeed, the fantasy of unhindered automobility extends well into the future where the automobile has transcended the last infrastructural restrictions on individual mobility and colonised the sky. Consider, for instance, the stark contrast between the streets below and the sky above the city of Los Angeles in Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Blade Runner. While the streets of Los Angeles are crowded by an impassable mélange of people, objects and cultures, flying automobiles move unimpededly in the uncrowded sky above...
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