Covering the 2012 New York International Auto Show brought into focus the glacial rate of change the auto industry has evolved over the last 20 years. I remember as a teenager I would dream about the automobiles of the 21st century. In my mind’s eye, they were highly futuristic flying machines with astounding technical wizardry. Fast forward to the present and what I discovered in 2012 were stylishly crafted machines which for the most part are still utilizing an iteration of the internal combustion engine created in the early 20th century.
Based purely on the two decade timeline I eluded to previously, gas mileage ratings for many cars has crept up only a mere 2 to 3 miles per gallon. Something seemed terribly askew. With all the satellite radio integration, GPS technology, front and rear object detection, stability control, heads up displays, and other high tech gadgetry now integrated into automobiles, why is there a lack of innovation in one of the most crucial components of any vehicle, the engine?
Many factors fall into play such as the vested interest of oil companies and component makers to protect their financial interests by way of political influence. Any change in infrastructure to accommodate new technologies powering non-fossil fuel based automobiles has been handily blocked for many decades. It’s understandable since a new direction would translate into the demise of entrenched industries and the elimination of millions of jobs. The transition to alternative energy resources therefore has been slow going and will continue to be so until fossil fuels are depleted. In other words, your children’s grandchildren will most likely still be pumping gas into their cars.
Still, in this year’s show there were more electric vehicles vying for the hearts and minds of consumers. Every major auto maker had at least one electric vehicle. Most notably, exotic super cars produced by Fisker, Tesla, and others have avoided the awkward eco-friendly appearance and performance of vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and instead opted for sexy lines as well as seriously impressive driving tech specs to lure potential buyers. Even the DeLorean best known as Doc Brown’s car in the movie “Back to the Future” has been converted into an electric vehicle. Interestingly, fuel cell vehicles were not represented at all at the auto show.
Overall, the cars and trucks for the 2013 model year are safer, better built, and incrementally more fuel efficient. You’ll find dynamic design and a myriad of upgrade tech options. Looking ahead to the future, I am optimistic that innovation will breed a more competitive landscape for alternative fuel vehicles. And who knows, we may yet see a day when the breakthroughs of science fiction become a reality.
What do you think?
Below are images and videos from the 2012 New York International Auto Show: