So we’re well into 2016 – well past the deadline set by Marty McFly – and we still don’t have flying cars. And I think I know the reason... Darwin.
Not the city, although, let’s be honest, their contributions to transport technology start and end with beercan boats. No, the reason is Darwinism. Evolution. Or more specifically, devolution.
For the first six or seven decades of the auto industry, cars got constantly faster, more capable, and… well, cooler. And the driving public evolved with them, cheerfully driving faster and further every year, even when it meant being fired through the windscreen during every minor bingle.
Now modern cars have more computing power and more high-tech materials than the Eagle Lander that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. But most drivers are less competent, and have less understanding of how a car works, than ever before. Because they don’t need to.
Cars are evolving faster than the drivers who control them. The modern driver is like a Space Odyssey ape-man pawing at a high-tech monolith he isn’t sophisticated enough to understand. And instead of pushing forward the boundaries of what cars can do – aka flying cars – auto makers just make it easier for drivers to do as little as possible.
For the slowly devolving masses, car makers now give a man a fish, instead of teaching him how to fish; so instead of flying cars, we get self-parking cars, radar-lane-assist cars, and yes, soon enough, driverless cars.
Even modern day renegades aren’t immune: Ferrari’s Side-Slip Control software drifts for you. Automatic opposite lock? It’s like inventing a bungee-jumping mannequin you push off the bridge while you stay at the top in a safety harness.
“Oh, but flying cars would be so dangerous,” moans the nanny brigade. If the hand-wringers had been around in the 20s, speedometers would still top out at 35km/h, because driving at 110km/h is too dangerous. Back then, engineers focused on how to make cars faster, not safer, even if that meant going over a speedhump too fast would spear the steering column through your sternum. (Just kidding. They didn’t have speedhumps back then. They had the Mille Miglia.)
If those engineers were here now, and had access to CAD, and windtunnels, and carbonfibre monocoques, and hybrid KERS units… well, the LaFerrari would be able to fly. You know why the aeronautical industry went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in just 66 years? Because the pearl-clutchers don’t fly planes.
So if we want flying cars – and let’s be honest, we do – what’s the answer? This is going to sound harsh, but bear with me.
Since cars are evolving faster than drivers, we need to reintroduce the motivating force of evolution. We need to bring Darwinism back into motoring.
If the evolution of humanity had been focused on protecting the feeble and the lazy at the expense of the daring and the strong, we’d all still be drawing antelopes on the walls of caves. No more coddling the weak. I say, give everyone a 205 GTi, watch them oversteer into a tree, and let God sort ’em out.
The unrestricted speed zone outside Alice Springs – surprise surprise – reduced accidents despite the moans of the motoring anti-Darwinists. Why not introduce it everywhere, and let the fittest survive? (Not literally the fittest, though, or I’m screwed.)
And while the feeble are going the way of the dodo, at the other end of the evolutionary scale, you have the eagle: not anxious meat-cushions relying on the absence of risk to keep them alive, but self-sufficient alphas, masters of their environment.
In motoring terms, we’re talking about drivers who can reverse park. Keep in their own lane. And quite possibly do their own damn side slip control. You, in other words.
Instead of living in a world where an army of meek dodos have not only inherited the earth, but have started suggesting that birds don’t need wings anyway, we could go back to an age of breaking boundaries and going further… higher. And you know what that means. We, the evolved alpha birds, get to do what we were born to do: fly.