"If we're 100 years into the automobile era, it seems pretty inconceivable that the car as we know it is going to be around for another 100 years."

#Driving

Sat, Mar 16th, 2013 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

In this article by Emily Badger in The Atlantic Cities, the decline of the landline and the steamship tells us something about the future of the private car: its eventual replacement. We just don't know with what, yet.

All of those technologies rose, became ubiquitous, and were eventually replaced. And that process followed a pattern that can tell us much about the future of the automobile — that is, if we’re willing to think about it not in the language of today's "war on cars," but in the broad arc of time.

“There’s not going to be a cataclysmic moment,” Cohen says of what’s coming for the car. “Like any other technology that outlives its usefulness, it just sort of disappears into the background and we slowly forget about it.” The landline telephone is undergoing that process right now. Your grandmother probably still has one. But did you even bother to call the phone company the last time you moved into a new home? “It’s not as if we all wake up one morning and decide we’re going to get rid of our landlines,” Cohen says, “but they just kind of decay away.

“I think cars will kind of disappear in much the same way.”

With the media reporting that car manufacturers are often manipulating emissions tests to make their products look more efficient, perhaps theirs is just an attempt to delay the inevitable:

Slick tyres are pumped hard to reduce rolling resistance. Brakes are adjusted, or at times even disconnected, to reduce friction. Cracks between body panels and windows are taped up to reduce air resistance. Sometimes they even remove the wing mirrors.

For carmakers, preparing for compulsory fuel efficiency and emissions tests has become a race in its own right, as they set out to make themselves look as clean and as frugal as possible.

"It's lots and lots of small tweaks," according to Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager with pressure group Transport & Environment.

"And they all add up."

All cars sold in the European Union go through official tests that measure fuel consumption and emissions of harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The data is used by:

• regulators who are forever tightening their criteria
• governments for vehicle and road tax purposes
• consumers eager to figure out how thirsty and how dirty their cars really are

In reality, however, the data is seriously and increasingly misleading, largely because the carmakers are getting better and better at manipulating the tests, according to a report by Transport & Environment.

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