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Tags alternate history , cars

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Old 2nd September 2017, 10:49 AM   #1
sackett
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If There Had Never Been Automobiles

Suppose that Otto and Duryea and Daimler and the others had stood back from their proof-of-concept vehicle and remarked, wiping their hands on oily cotton waste, “Welp. It works, but it’ll never pay if it can’t carry freight.” Then they’d set out to find bigger powerplants (Herr Diesel was doing interesting work about then) and embark on a scaling-up project, and

And the idea of the small private motor vehicle would never have occurred to anybody, and today that cursed thing, the automobile, wouldn’t exist.

I have nothing against trucks and buses, and I think they’d fill their niches, but the vast, unsightly, wasteful infrastructure that has grown around the private car would never be needed, or conceived of, to keep large IC-engined machines on the road.

Imagine a world without cars. How would things be different?
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Old 2nd September 2017, 12:07 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Suppose that Otto and Duryea and Daimler and the others had stood back from their proof-of-concept vehicle and remarked, wiping their hands on oily cotton waste, “Welp. It works, but it’ll never pay if it can’t carry freight.” Then they’d set out to find bigger powerplants (Herr Diesel was doing interesting work about then) and embark on a scaling-up project, and

And the idea of the small private motor vehicle would never have occurred to anybody, and today that cursed thing, the automobile, wouldn’t exist.
.....
It's a silly premise. People have had private transportation in the form of animals and carts for thousands of years. You can read accounts of how hard it was to avoid horse droppings on big city streets pre-1900. Freight was being transported by rail long before anyone developed the first truck. And no one person "invented" the first car. Pretty much as soon as the IC engine was developed, people were trying to design small vehicles around it, and others were using steam engines and battery power.

You may as well ask "Suppose nobody had ever thought of burning oil?" or "Suppose nobody thought people could fly?" or "Suppose no one thought of sending electricity through wires?" That's not what happened.

Last edited by Bob001; 2nd September 2017 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 2nd September 2017, 12:16 PM   #3
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We'd be up to our knees in *********.

ETA: Oops, I thought perhaps the auto-censor would leave the first part of that word, which was "horse".
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Old 2nd September 2017, 02:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Imagine a world without cars. How would things be different?
Well, first thing is, we'd invent cars.

This signature is intended to irradiate people.
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Old 2nd September 2017, 07:52 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
We'd be up to our knees in *********.

ETA: Oops, I thought perhaps the auto-censor would leave the first part of that word, which was "horse".
Try hyphenating...

horse-****
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Old 2nd September 2017, 07:58 PM   #6
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Knightrider, Fast and the Furious, and Mad Max would have been weird...

But in more seriousness I think at the most basic level "automobiles" are just one of those things that were going to happen in some way.

Once concepts like some form of "engine" came about I don't see any possible scenario in which a powered vehicle wasn't going to happen.
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Old 2nd September 2017, 09:24 PM   #7
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We'd all have flying cars instead!
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Old 3rd September 2017, 02:20 AM   #8
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I don't think it's realistic to suppose that trucks would have been developed, but not private cars.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 02:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
Knightrider, Fast and the Furious, and Mad Max would have been weird...

But in more seriousness I think at the most basic level "automobiles" are just one of those things that were going to happen in some way.

Once concepts like some form of "engine" came about I don't see any possible scenario in which a powered vehicle wasn't going to happen.
It would have been Fallout without the Corvega wrecks.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 04:04 AM   #10
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Watch an episode of The Flintstones for your answer.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 05:45 AM   #11
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The bicycle was already a thriving concern at that time, and many of the innovations like the pneumatic tire and paved roads were invented to make travel by bicycle easier to manage.

The "safety" bicycle, the prototype for today's machines, was invented right around the turn of the century.
Not a big step from efficient human-powered transportation to sticking a motor in one.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 07:27 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
The bicycle was already a thriving concern at that time, and many of the innovations like the pneumatic tire and paved roads were invented to make travel by bicycle easier to manage.

The "safety" bicycle, the prototype for today's machines, was invented right around the turn of the century.
Not a big step from efficient human-powered transportation to sticking a motor in one.
Indeed, turn-of-the-century bicycle racer Glenn Curtiss started slapping ICs on two-wheeled vehicles as soon as they became available. POVs were inevitable. I mention Curtiss because he was widely regarded as one of the foremost IC experts in the world.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 07:42 AM   #13
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This doesn't make any sense - what would happen to all the hitchhikers? Would they just stand there, confused?
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Old 3rd September 2017, 06:00 PM   #14
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Maybe someone would have invented electric horses...
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Old 3rd September 2017, 08:48 PM   #15
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A disappointing collection of responses. Can nobody imagine a world without cars? The automobile is a mass transit system (an engineer had to point that out to me), and you could hardly design a worse one: wasteful, disruptive, dangerous, inefficient, and ugly. Surely you can envisage a past, and a present, in which the silliness of the small motor vehicle -- and in the hands of Mr. Average Man! -- would be evident to everyone.

My assumption, unspoken initially but pretty obvious, is that the world would be better off without the automobile. But I might be wrong about that. Can someone show how bicycles, trolleys, buses, trucks, and trains couldn't improve on the horseless carriage?

For example, how is a town like Amsterdam improved by the cars on its streets?
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Old 3rd September 2017, 08:52 PM   #16
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To imagine a world without cars is to imagine the world before them.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 10:28 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
....
My assumption, unspoken initially but pretty obvious, is that the world would be better off without the automobile. But I might be wrong about that. Can someone show how bicycles, trolleys, buses, trucks, and trains couldn't improve on the horseless carriage?
....
You didn't ask whether public transportation could be improved, whether use of automobiles in urban centers should be discouraged, etc. Your premise was that no one had ever imagined building private automobiles and that the world had developed without them. You don't seem to understand how technology develops and how markets work. Do you think some higher power made many hundreds of millions of consumers around the world buy cars they really didn't want, or what? Do you think there has never been a need for personal transportation, or that the need should only be filled by oxcarts, or what? I repeat, it's a silly premise.
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Old 3rd September 2017, 10:44 PM   #18
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Take an aircondtioned horse drawn sedan to the airport, catching up with work on your laptop along the way.
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Old 4th September 2017, 12:56 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Can someone show how bicycles, trolleys, buses, trucks, and trains couldn't improve on the horseless carriage?
I need to get myself, Mrs Don and around 100kg of assorted "stuff" from my rural home to my father's house which is in a small town around 450km away.

Using a horseless carriage, that journey takes between 4 and 5 hours and can be started at any convenient time. We can travel in comfort, our stuff is safely stored and only needed to be carried to the car once and will be unloaded once.

The alternative would be to get some kind of short-distance transport (we couldn't easily walk with the 100kg of stuff) to travel the 10 km to our nearest station. The rail journey would take around 6 or 7 hours changing at least twice, once to get onto the main line and once to get off the main line - assuming that the Beeching cuts never happened - then we'd still have to find some way to travel that last mile.

Twice the time, several times the inconvenience.

I suppose if there were "podulons" which could take us directly from place A to place B might work but would still require "podulon" infrastructure.

IMO a world without horseless carriages only works if everyone lives in large population centres. When I lived in London in my early 20's it never occurred to me to have a car there, there was no need. Rural areas OTOH don't have anything like the population density to support effective public transport.
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Old 5th September 2017, 06:12 AM   #20
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Agreed...." wasteful, disruptive, dangerous, inefficient, and ugly."

(Well, we'd have to argue with many about the "ugly" bit...Many think various machines are works of art)

But, there are other qualities. Freedom. You can jump in and go where you want, when you want, without needing a schedule, a fixed route, or a pass.

Personal expression. Not so much at the beginning, when horseless carriages were pretty similar, but within a very few years there were dozens of manufacturers and they were producing a wild and creative bunch of machines.

Status. From the very beginning, being able to afford an automobile was a status symbol and even when mass production started churning out relatively cheap and identical vehicles there was a strong market for more expensive luxury items for the elite.

That remains the case to this very day.
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Old 5th September 2017, 07:34 AM   #21
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Been thinking about this more and if automobiles had not been invented then it's likely that most of us would have late-Victorian travelling habits.

Those that can afford the time and cost would be able to travel long distances in relative comfort but day-to-day life for most people would be a local affair. Mrs Don and I may choose to go to the local town to do our shopping but for many people this would be too time consuming and/or difficult and instead would shop in the village.

Our social lives would be much more geographically constrained. We couldn't decide on a whim to travel 20km to go to a local pub or restaurant or even friends for the evening. Visiting friends in Bristol wouldn't be a matter of jumping in the car an being there 30 minutes later. Instead it would be a multi-modal 2-3 hour journey.

We'd be living in an internet-age Larkrise to Candleford
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Old 5th September 2017, 07:51 AM   #22
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I understand your premise but it's a bit of a clumsy way to go about it as seen by the responses. Your premise that someone could invent a bus or truck but not a car is silly and that's what people responded to.

Whether or not demand for personal cars could have been less if public transportation was more prevalent is plausible. However, in the USA there were a couple factors against that. One is the size of the country and how spread out things are. The other is that in a market economy the car makers want to sell as many cars as they can. In the USA they were phenomenally successful at that, in part thanks to the building of roads by various local, state and federal governments.
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Old 6th September 2017, 06:18 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
This doesn't make any sense - what would happen to all the hitchhikers? Would they just stand there, confused?
Dang it, I'm going to miss you.
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Old 6th September 2017, 07:20 PM   #24
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I'm telling you: Electric Horses.

Then you could hitch a wagon to them and ride in comfort. Eventually they would be manufactured already attached to the wagon. Then people would want faster and faster electric horse wagons and they would replace the legs with wheels...

Ultimately there would be a huge network of carriageways and service stations, traffic jams and massive road fatalities etc. People would be trying to build hypotheticals about how great the world could be if no one had ever invented electric horses...
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Old 6th September 2017, 07:42 PM   #25
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Much of our farming is dependent on machines with internal combustion engines. The farming would need so many horses that half the land would go to raising hay.
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Old 7th September 2017, 02:55 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Tero View Post
Much of our farming is dependent on machines with internal combustion engines. The farming would need so many horses that half the land would go to raising hay.
There are a couple of solutions in the hypothetical....

Even in Victorian times there were stationary engines to power ploughs and other agricultural equipment. These could be refined and so on.

The machines could be powered from another source, electricity or steam.

They could be like busses, an exception to the "no cars" rule.
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Old 7th September 2017, 03:18 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
A disappointing collection of responses. Can nobody imagine a world without cars? The automobile is a mass transit system (an engineer had to point that out to me), and you could hardly design a worse one: wasteful, disruptive, dangerous, inefficient, and ugly. Surely you can envisage a past, and a present, in which the silliness of the small motor vehicle -- and in the hands of Mr. Average Man! -- would be evident to everyone.

My assumption, unspoken initially but pretty obvious, is that the world would be better off without the automobile. But I might be wrong about that. Can someone show how bicycles, trolleys, buses, trucks, and trains couldn't improve on the horseless carriage?

For example, how is a town like Amsterdam improved by the cars on its streets?
Trucks, horse drawn carriages, bicycles, busses and so on all need roads/streets so even taking the car away we'd still have to have pretty much the same infrastructure we need to today.

Just looking at one necessity - food - that still needs to get to individual homes. Would everything come via delivery truck to your doorstep? If it did then you'd need the same road outside your house as you have today. If not then people will still need to transport their food from a supermarket to their home. To increase public transport to deal with people needing a door to door system would be immensely wasteful. Of course it would also necessitate shopping going back to what you personally can manage to carry, so weekly shopping goes out the window and someone in a household will be having to shop 3 or more times a week.

And as others have said given engines in trucks etc. I really can't see how you could avoid smaller poweredpersonal vehicles being developed
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Old 7th September 2017, 03:24 AM   #28
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If public transport was always going to be obsolete, why did the automobile industry have to work so very hard to sabotage it?
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Old 7th September 2017, 04:37 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
If public transport was always going to be obsolete, why did the automobile industry have to work so very hard to sabotage it?
Not following you?
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Old 7th September 2017, 05:21 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Not following you?

Sorry, pressed post halfway through and then wandered off like a tool.

Some of it's conspiracy, some of it's confirmed. The automobile industry, in order to move people off public transport* and onto roads** is reported to have purchased, and run into the ground, public transport industries.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genera...car_conspiracy





*All of which has to be funded by the provider

**The creation of roads can be abdicated to the government.
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Old 7th September 2017, 05:45 AM   #31
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Public transport is one thing, but it'll never be as cool with da ladies as your own muscle car, right?

"Yeah, you go take her on the bus, Jerome. Enjoy. Come on, Suzie, hop in. We're outta here!"


Humanity is very good at providing individual-sized production of desirable stuff. Water distribution? Eh, a well will do. Water waste sewers? Nah, a septic field will do. Natural gas piping to the house? Meh, a tank of fuel oil in back filled up once a year gets the job done. Electrica...nah, a small generator works.

Heck, I hear photo cells are all the rage on your roof today! And there's even this newfangled thing called fireplace for those in desperate need. Or, if you're really advanced, well, you aren't the only potbellied thing sitting around!
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Old 7th September 2017, 06:20 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
If public transport was always going to be obsolete, why did the automobile industry have to work so very hard to sabotage it?
Public transport works very well for transporting people within and between urban environments. It works a lot well in sparsely populated areas. It would be interesting to see how mass transport would have developed in Los Angeles without General Motors' involvement - indeed how Los Angeles itself would have developed.

In many cities (London included) the commuting costs of those who use public transport are subsidised by those who do not. On one hand this is a sensible move to keep the wheels of industry turning but on the other it encourages people to live a long way from where they work safe in the knowledge that they can commute time and cost effectively instead of living closer to work or more actively exploring the options for remote working. It also means that jobs can increasingly be concentrated in certain areas with all that entails in terms of (un)affordable housing and quality of life.

Truly, IMO, a double-edged sword.
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Old 7th September 2017, 11:34 AM   #33
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Odd, how difficult it seems to be for many people to picture life without private cars. Maybe the idea frightens them.

I call that odd because the world without cars was, in my lifetime, still within living memory. Further, some of you younger gobblers may well live to see a world in which private autos are vanishing or even gone.

The automobile as a mass transit system suffers from inflexibility, not at the unimportant level of the individual owner (although people trying to evacuate from a disaster area might, sitting parked on a clogged freeway, reconsider even that), but on a larger scale. The passenger car as we’ve contrived it is of little use for serious haulage, even when governments try to commandeer them.

What got me thinking (okay, speculating) about cars and what they do to the world was trying to estimate the millions of hectares of land used up by highways, interchanges, parking lots, and garages, all of them necessary to handle car traffic. Yes, I know, trucks and busses need roads too, and other paved infrastructure. But because of their inherent efficiency, their flexibility in fact, they’ll use up far less real estate. As for rural passengers, heck, who says a bus line has to be a public utility? If the farmers (and yes, worriers, there’ll still be tractors and combines) need bus service, somebody will come along to provide it.

Ditto with rail, which of course must have right of way, and that means land use. But surely high-volume, in-demand rail can be accommodated more economically than the helter-skelter flow of passenger cars. (One idea I had was vertical double-tracking: one track at ground level and the other one elevated, in places where land is valuable. Hey, beats trenching out eight-lane autobahns!)

Without private cars, cities would be more compact, and suburbs, if any, would be more nucleated – which is simply saying more compact. Intra- and interurban rail existed long before cars, exists now, and will continue to exist. I remember how pleasant it was to take the tram, yes, a tootling little trolley, from Delft to Scheviningen, through the trees sometimes. Remarkable how carefree life can be with no damn car to worry about.

See my location? Motor City? A product of the private car and its proliferation. It’s not the awful place outsiders insist on picturing – but ‘Troit keeps pouring out automobiles, and never seems to look any better for it.
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Old 7th September 2017, 11:41 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Well, first thing is, we'd invent cars.
Perfect response.
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Old 7th September 2017, 12:26 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Odd, how difficult it seems to be for many people to picture life without private cars. Maybe the idea frightens them.

I call that odd because the world without cars was, in my lifetime, still within living memory.
Maybe it's frightening. I doubt it, though. As you say, there was a world without cars not too long ago. And what did those people do? They invented cars. They knew what it was like to live without cars. They knew how to get around. They knew how to make things work. They knew how to live without cars. And as soon as the people of that world had a choice... They chose cars.
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Old 7th September 2017, 12:28 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Odd, how difficult it seems to be for many people to picture life without private cars. Maybe the idea frightens them.

I call that odd because the world without cars was, in my lifetime, still within living memory.
Maybe it's frightening. I doubt it, though. As you say, there was a world without cars not too long ago. And what did those people do? They invented cars. They knew what it was like to live without cars. They knew how to get around. They knew how to make things work. They knew how to live without cars. And as soon as the people of that world had a choice... They chose cars.

I don't think it's fear that keeps us from going back to a world without cars. I think it's agreement with our ancestors, who saw cars as a step forward into a better world.
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Old 7th September 2017, 12:47 PM   #37
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The idea of being without doesn't frighten me. It just seems unrealistic at least in my life time of another 20-30 years.

The automobile had a massive social impact. It meant you did not have to live close to where you worked.

Even if you have good mass transit that reaches out, one has to get to the depot/station to get on that mass transit. Without cars, that's just substituting one city for another.
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Old 7th September 2017, 03:05 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Trucks, horse drawn carriages, bicycles, busses and so on all need roads/streets so even taking the car away we'd still have to have pretty much the same infrastructure we need to today.
Roman armies need roads to move about. That's were you got that infrastructure in the first place.
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Old 7th September 2017, 03:46 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Odd, how difficult it seems to be for many people to picture life without private cars. Maybe the idea frightens them.

I call that odd because the world without cars was, in my lifetime, still within living memory. Further, some of you younger gobblers may well live to see a world in which private autos are vanishing or even gone.
...

Then you should have a care old-timer, and keep in mind what happened to our Joey when he touched that third-rail known as... private automobile ownership.




Oh, and... you're being delusional
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Old 7th September 2017, 06:32 PM   #40
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I make my living in the Hot Rod industry, it's utterly unimaginable to try and think of a world without cars. That'd be more like a nightmare, like that twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith, where he finally gets the chance to do nothing but read and then he breaks his glasses.
Why not just go back to the age of the plague as well?
That's seems to be one of the reasons different forms of transport were invented, a lot of people had other places to go. Over time, as information was shared at a greater rate our knowledge grew exponentially. We made machines, vehicles and communication devices, which in time evolved to the present state. Shared information led to cures and vaccines, and from such, billions of lives have been saved.
Sure, we've also vastly improved how to wage war as well, but I think overall the pros heavily outweigh the cons.
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