Monday, October 11, 2021

A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next (Tom Standage)

Motion and movement have propelled us from a hunting and gathering populace to one that lives in major cities, can travel around the world in a matter of days, or have goods shipped to us through the power of our phones. From the first wheels several thousand years ago to the advent of travel by chariot, carriage and car, motion and movement have helped humanity develop, prosper, and arguably wreak havoc on others and on our environment.

Tom Standage’s A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next, explores the evolution of transportation and how it has impacted us over the millenia and offers a projection of what Standage sees in its future. A chunk of focus is on the automobile and how much upheaval it unfurled on society. Automobiles were not popular with all initially, and the rules enforcing automotive travel took decades to standardize with the noted variance of driving on the left versus the right side of the road. However, cars changed how the world was administered and how cities were laid out. 

While many urbanites feel that the current modes of transportation are not sustainable for the long haul, there are questions on how those modes change going forward. Standage closes out his book by talking about those likely changes - autonomous vehicles, ride sharing, electric bike and scooter sharing, and other methods. While the car may not fully go away, and Standage does not argue that the car will become obsolete, he does argue that how we commute and where we commute will very likely do so. Some of that is due to the impacts of COVID and realizing that work from home in part or in full is a viable option, and much of it is due to the impacts of technology on transportation.