We tend to think that the automobile revolution started with Henry Ford, but there was legislation in England in 1865 regulating cars, requiring a man with a red flag walking 60 feet in front of it, and a 2 MPH speed limit in town. In fact, the auto revolution was a long time coming; the car is just one part of a much larger system that took years to put in place. Emily Badger writes in the Atlantic, quoting Professor Maurice Cohen of the New Jersey Institute of Technology :
It is like the cellphone replacing land line phones; it isn't happening overnight but you can see it happening. Things are changing but we may not even know what they are.
“We tend to focus on the car itself as the central element,” Cohen says, “and we fail to recognize that it’s not just the car.” Like any ubiquitous technology, the car is embedded in a whole social system. In this case, that system includes fuel supply lines, mechanisms for educating and licensing new drivers, companies to insure them, laws to govern how cars are used on common roads and police officers to enforce them. In the academic language of socio-technical transitions theory, all of that stuff is the regime around the car.
“The replacement of the car is probably out there,” Cohen adds. “We just don’t fully recognize it yet.”
Great reading in the Atlantic