Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver

As a little diversion, we suggest our readers might like to look at Kevin Cameron´s thoughts about the future of the internal combustion engine, published in Car & Driver magazine a day or two ago.

1992 Buick Roadmaster
1992 Buick Roadmaster

There are a views in the article you could take issue with but it´s an interesting American view on the IC engine´s future. I would argue that Cameron discounts the importance of government legislation and he assumes that the externalities of the IC engine (i.e. the costs everyone else pays for its use that are not factored into the sales price) will not be one day accounted for. I would suggest that the days of the IC engine are numbered though whether this is because there is a) a switch to electric motors b) a switch away from personal transportation or c) global climate disaster that destroys the economic base upon which the IC-engine is predicated is not for us to discuss today.

His headline message is this: “Americans need their cars in order to live and work – that´s the world we´ve built.” That, I would propose, is a convoluted way of saying “That´s the way it is”. I always say, no, that´s the way we made it and we can change if there is a will.

On a point of detail, Cameron confuses the reason for the 1960s clearances of old urban areas. Both in Europe and the US there was extensive rebuilding and the construction of public housing. None of my research shows this was based on the understanding that public transport would be used. Le Corbusier whose Radiant City concept inspired most of the high-rise towers-in-parkland design assumed the private car was the way forward.

Incidentally, Car & Driver is a website that DTW can recommend. In classic American style, there are instrumented tests of new vehicles along with carefully crafted comments and features. I would even go so far as to to suggest a subscription to the printed version is something anyone with an interest in cars might consider.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver”

  1. I subscribed many, many years ago and viewed it rather as a transatlantic version of Car Magazine. However I’d heard discouraging things of it in recent years. I must find out for myself and try Car & Driver again.

  2. It’s a well written piece, and the sort of thing that we in the UK might once have read in the pages of The World’s Best Car Magazine, but no longer. It does however display the logic that most enthusiasts use despite themselves, which is working from the desired conclusion backwards. The conclusion of course is that the autonomous, self-controlled, reciprocating, petrol-engined car is still with us and will be for the immediate future. Yes, we all want to hear that and, because of that, we and the author conveniently skip around the flaws in the argument – for example just because he points out that no-one has actually produced one of those glib, quotable laws saying that the cost of technology decreases in inverse proportion to the increase of people’s desire for it, that is just proof of lack of a glib law, not proof of the fact it isn’t true. Technology does get cheaper – just look at that 10 year old and rather mediocre £1,000 LCD TV hanging off my wall at home.

    His conclusion isn’t unreasonable since people have cried Wolf about the ICE’s demise for as long as I remember, but radical changes are no longer a pipe dream. Also, be careful what you wish for. Although streamed motorways are relatively straightforward, it will be probably a long time before any self-driving system allows you to be punted around country lanes whilst you sit watching classic episodes of Top Gear, but it won’t be long before you are so closely monitored, and your vehicle’s behaviour so prescribed that your driver’s seat will become just a frustrating workstation for a most menial and unrewarding task.

  3. I felt he was arguing that changing things is much too hard so let´s leave it as it is. That argument can be used everywhere and at all times. It´s not an argument really but a piece of rhetoric. His view was also very North American. And I think he´s missed some trends which point in the direction of, at least, a diminished importance for self-propelled private cars. Those are migration in to city centres, the reduction in the proportion of under 25´s holding licenses and lastly, the apparent diminishing interest people are having in private transportation per se.
    Personally I hold an opinion on care not too far in style from that held by the demented loons who like owning and shooting guns. That is, I like cars but not what people do with them. Or, it´s not cars that mess up our cities and environment but the people driving them. Yes, I know: cognitive dissonance of the first order. I notice that so long as cities were not adapted to cars, things were crowded and smelly but far from unfixable (just ban the cars). But as soon as we started pushing everything apart so as to accomodate cars it all went wrong. I don´t think any sane person likes anything designed by civil engineers since 1945. That the general view that car-based life is quite ghastly (it offers a solution to the problem caused by using a car) might mean that before the climate apocalypse we might call it a day on cars but start with dismissing the ICE. Just so long as I get to keep my one in my garage for high days and holidays, mind.

    And yes, why on earth don´t the major British magazines ever ask people for think-pieces like this one? It´s lucky we have DTW.

  4. At the risk of appearing naive, I ask the no doubt often asked question over the last few generations. ‘How close are we to the replacement of the ICE by an entirely electronic power unit?’
    I know we are very slowly getting there with technologies such as electronic ignition, spacial radars, driver behavior sensors, self-parking cars, etc.
    Perhaps, one day! It’s a pity I probably won’t be around to see it.

  5. Hmmm. The answer might be that the IC might be a minority power unit in two decades. It depends on how quickly legislators act to nudge the change and on oil prices. Manufacturers are not going to act on their own.

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