The story of America’s built environment over the past century is largely a story of how we’ve accommodated the automobile. Cars have ever-increasingly shaped our cities, our homes and our foreign policy. We devote 40 percent of our urban areas to cars, in the form of roads and parking lots. In some cities the number is as high as 60 percent. Our traffic laws nominally grant pedestrians the right of way, but it’s obvious that, for traffic engineers, cars are the real priority. And of course our insatiable national thirst for petroleum, which shapes so much of our foreign policy, is in large part due to our beloved automobiles.
Thankfully, if current developments are any indication, we’re finally reaching the beginning of the end of our auto-obsessed age. That’s not to say that cars are going away soon, if ever, nor even that they’ll look very different. But internally, they’re going to be as different from today’s noisy, fume-spewing machines as a digital watch is from Big Ben.