Cars Are Dinosaurs And Electric Dinosaurs Won't Help

We need to completely rethink transportation, not just electrify it

Cars are heavily armored, highly dangerous beasts. They move more of themselves than us, and kill more people than any other predator. They consume huge amounts of resources to just exist, and the roads and parking they demand both destroy and heat cities. Slightly improving cars is not going to do shit for our climate. We need to drop a meteor on them and evolve.

Electric cars are, in fact, a false hope. They're the idea that we can have our cake and eat it too, and we just can't. We're having a planetary heart attack right now. We need to put down the fucking cake and eat whole-wheat bread and exercise. We need livable, walkable cities, efficient public transport and lightly armored, safe, and efficient vehicles for private transport. Vehicles like this:

Via BBC Sinhala

This kid Sunderalingam Piranavan is more innovative than Elon Musk because he's figured out how to move a person with solar power without stuffing them into a 3000 kg battering-ram of steel. What he's done here is modified a classic form of Asian transport, the tuk-tuk, by making it completely solar powered. At a commercial level, these vehicles have already been made electric at scale by Mahindra:

The Mahindra Treo range of electric trishaws

Even unelectric, this vehicles are still way better than cars because they're not moving literally tons of metal around. The beauty of these vehicles is that the accomplish the functionality of 95% of human car trips without all the added weight and danger.

But wait, you'll say, these things look dangerous as shit. But that's because you're used to an environment full of heavily-armored dinosaurs. Our soft mammalian ancestors looked dumb as shit around dinosaurs, but after the meteor it was chill. Remember that I'm not proposing electric dinosaurs, I'm proposing the meteor.

The fact is that personal vehicles have now become as big as fucking World War II tanks. We cannot reform this. Use this shit on your farm if you want, but the idea that you have the right to drive this anywhere you want is just madness. My father-in-law has a tractor but he doesn't take it out for groceries. We live in a society.

via Andy Arthur via Vice

In a context where people aren't driving fucking tanks it suddenly makes sense to travel in lightly-armored vehicles. The average speed in cities is actually quite low, and safety isn't just about the people inside, it's about the people you hit.

I've been hit by a trishaw and I broke the trishaw more than it broke me. I stiff-armed it like a football player and my arm just popped out the plastic side window and the centimeter-thick metal frame just knocked me over on my butt. I got up angry but unharmed. Meanwhile I've been hit by a car and it broke my wrist. If you get hit by today's trucks they completely obliterate your internal organs. This shit is safe only in the sense that driving a tank is safe. It's a warzone for everyone outside.

For higher-speed inter-city travel you shouldn't be driving your armored living room around anyways, take a shared bus or train. The allure of self-driving cars is that you can watch TV in your personal death machine and this is just sociopathic. You can watch TV in a fucking train already. Do that.

An electric car is like a dinosaur with hair. Cool, but not going to survive climate catastrophe

This is what I mean. We are pursuing a bad idea to its illogical extreme. Cars, highways, roads, privatizing movement, this was all a bad idea. Electrifying this bad idea is like putting hair on dinosaurs. A) it's fucking stupid and B) it doesn't address the climate problem we have at all.

As these dudes at Oxford say, the focus on electric cars is actually slowing the fight against climate change. It's really as if dinosaurs are debating mullets vs. bangs while the meteor has already made them completely redundant.

From an Oxford report" Obsessing over electric cars is impeding the race to net zero: More active travel is essential.

The fact is that we have to rethink transport completely, not just electrify the dinosaurs. Hence it's not even about the trishaw as a vehicle, though that's important (I've written about that before). We need to fundamentally rethink transport and reorient it around human beings.

Imagine There's No Cars

Today we live surrounded by metal rivers of death and consider this normal. We destroy the places we're in so that other people can pass through them. Over 1.3 million of us die this way and tens of millions are injured and we just think this normal. It also sucks. More roads create more traffic, it's called induced demand. Self-driving cars will just induce more demand, they'll make more traffic. The problem isn't whether a car is self-driving or electric, the problem is cars. It's like we're in the 1900s and everyone's talking about horses that fart less. We must completely reimagine transport centered around human beings.

It's Easy If You Try

Thanks to Fuckupalypse-2020 I experienced this world briefly. Maybe you did do. During lockdown nobody could go anywhere, just for walks around the block. I was walking with my children on the street and I could let go of their hands, we didn't need to scuttle along the edge of the road where all the dogs pee. For those months my toddlers just played on the street without the fear of vehicles that can't even see them half the time.

The average blind spot of an American truck is an entire preschool class

Our children deserve better than this. Our planet deserves better than this. This is no way to live. We need a meteor of imaginative thinking to put these metal dinosaurs out of their misery. Climate catastrophe isn't some little problem that's going to be solved by a little tinkering. We have to fundamentally evolve or die.

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