Posted by mrhorrible on:
Once upon a time, there was the open road, the hum of the powerful motor, and the
wind in your face. Your sweetheart sitting next to you, her hair wrapped in a scarf, admiring the scenery as it flew by.
Once upon a time, there were drive-ins, where you could sit in your car and watch a movie, sip a Coke, and maybe even neck. Yes, that was a long time ago. Before all cars had bucket seats. Ah, the bench seat, where some of us received and gave their first kiss! Talk about nostalgia!
Once upon a time, a car was a symbol of freedom, getting away from it
all, the romantic illusion that we were free to go anywhere we wanted
when we wanted. Once, there was a dream called "the song of the open road".
Then fluid mechanics appeared, and everything changed, except for our
This is because we lost sight of the fact that cars are meant for one thing: to get us from one place to another.
Unfortunately, something intruded in our automobile dream; it's called an increase in population. When you have a lot of people trying to get somewhere, it means a lot of cars on the road. And as soon as you have many cars, being an individual doesn't count anymore. When there is traffic, all of the cars on the road start to behave like a fluid in a tube.
Let's look at fluid mechanics for a moment; there is no way that a molecule of fluid is going to "get ahead" of the other molecules. All the fluid goes pretty much at the same speed. Oh, you can weave in and out of traffic, but in the end, even in a journey of 50 miles, it will only get you there about a minute faster than someone who just goes along with the traffic, and it will increase your risk of accidents, which, by the way, kill about 40,000 people a year here in the United States.
And then there's speed limits; most of the time, it's 65 miles an hour, with rare exceptions. That means that if you go much faster than ambient speed, you're liable to get a speeding ticket, and even more liable now that municipalities are running out of money and need the money that speeding tickets provide.
I look at the speedometer in my daughter's Toyota Corolla, and and it goes up to 110 miles an hour. Now I want to ask you; when was the last time you drove 110 miles an hour? For me, it was never. Oh, I have gone up to 100 miles an hour, for a minute or so, but I don't stay at that speed; it's pretty much a guarantee of getting a ticket. In Europe, it's even worse; they have very accurate cameras on the freeways that nail you if you're going even a mile over the speed limit. You notice the flash behind you, and next thing you know you've got a letter in the mail... not a letter you want to get, because it means you have to pay money.
So here's how fluid mechanic works: all the liquid in the tube pretty much goes at the same speed. Some of the liquid on the sides of the tube, just like cars in the slow lane, goes a little slower, but if you think you're going to go 110 miles an hour, you're dreaming. You're dreaming the automobile dream, that wonderful dream that all the automakers and petroleum companies want you to dream: That you still have autonomy in your car, that you can go really fast, that having a fast car is going to make your life exciting, and it's going to make you attractive to the opposite sex if you are a man, and just as powerful as a man if you're a woman.
It's b******t; if you really believe that, you've bought the advertiser's line. You deserve a Corvette, you deserve to have a car that burns way more gas than it has to to get you where you're going, just for the image. Because, really, there is no "going fast", except on some speedway in Indianapolis. These days, with all the cars that are on the road, the idea of a "sports car" is ludicrous. Where are you going to go?
A few years ago in Rome, I saw a Lamborghini come out of a garage and go down the street. There was the scream of this high revving engine, and then the car stopped because there was another car in the road, just behind another car, and another, and another... Traffic would move, the scream of the engine would start again, and then stop almost immediately. Another car in the road. So much for the Lamborghini. and that's pretty much where we are. We've been sold this illusion for so long that maybe some of us actually believe it. We must; people are still buying Corvettes.
This is the first diary in a series on automobiles and the illusion of "driving". Have a wonderful day, and don't get stuck in traffic!