Anyone attending the 2014 New York Auto Show at the Jacobs Javits Convention Center will be greeted by hundreds of gleaming, exciting, and exquisite looking automobiles. Yet these same attendees will be hard pressed to find any futuristic offerings. Auto manufacturers have opted to feature refinement of exterior styling as well as improving efficiency of the early 20th century technology based gas combustion engine. The auto industry’s emphasis on evolution rather than innovation reflects a pragmatic cost conscious approach to car manufacturing which generally frowns upon risk taking. Even the highly touted new all-electric BMW i3 merely achieves a modest range of 80 to 100 miles. We are witnessing the automotive era of playing it safe.
Growing up as a child of the 1980s I often wondered what cars would look like in the 21st century. Still, I never considered car engines of the future would largely remain powered by fossil fuels. Currently in the United States, niche car companies such as Tesla have shown promise with their critically acclaimed all-electric vehicles but external forces such as the oil industry hold tremendous political influence. The necessary infrastructure changes to successfully implement an accessible network of nationwide charging stations has little to no political support as of 2014. Complacency looms large with no foreseeable catalyst for change in sight. Estimates of the remaining world’s oil supply range from 90 to 140 years.
The subject of Autonomous cars often enters the discussion when one speaks about the future of the auto industry. Computer intelligence continues to increase exponentially. The integration of artificial intelligence coupled with a networked system (hello skynet!) could actually make the premise of autonomous vehicles viable. I would just hate to be a passenger enrolled in the early adopter trial phase. In addition, I think too much reliance on a flawless electronic grid would leave the masses vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse attacks from rogue individuals or nations.
Without question, the New York Auto Show remains a huge attraction with consumers. Certainly the American love affair with cars has not diminished. But in 2014, the crowds are drawn to auto industry events more for nostalgia’s sake rather than the “Wow factor” of mind blowing innovation. For kids growing up today, one has to wonder if they’ll dream of remarkable future vehicles coming to fruition or whether these ambitious endeavors will be relegated to the realm of science fiction.
What do you think?
Check out our Facebook image gallery of automobiles from the 2014 New York Auto Show: