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4 Reasons for the Death of America’s Car Culture

Auto designs today are a far cry from the raw Shelby Cobra, venomous Dodge Viper, and classic Chevy Corvette — all dynamic designs of their day.

by
Becky Graebner

Bio

February 8, 2013 - 7:00 am

1. The Infiltration of Technology Has Killed the Act of “Driving.”

Americans have evolved from “car people” to “computer-in-the-car people.” The car has become an extension of the computer and, subsequently, has lost some of the characteristics that made it an automobile.

Before computers, drivers had to be in tune with the car, understand its quirk and know how to compensate for them when driving. One had to be aware of tire pressure, oil levels, and any minute differences in handling that might indicate a problem; you also actually had to drive the car. Today, your car notifies you about everything that could possibly go wrong in the engine bay and cabin, and even compensates for you in bad weather or uneven terrain. The driver is merely a warm body sitting in one of its seats. The driver could hardly be called “master and commander” in his own car; the car’s computer knows more about what is going on in and around the vehicle than the driver. Americans enjoy the car beeping in cascading metallic tones, giving light shows on the dashboard, and automatically turning on systems and switching some off, while the driver sits on the hand-stitched-leather perch. The thrill of driving isn’t the draw to cars any longer (technology can now drive for you!); it’s the cool features you can get in the car and the ease of allowing the computer to do everything. Technology is planning a coup d’état against the human driver.

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Just did a timing belt on my 300M. I know, I know, it's a V6. Don't judge me. I got it for $2700 after I blew the tranny in my 5-years-owned 1st gen $600 Neon. I have kids. What's a guy to do?
Anyway, it hit 190,000 miles, so I did the timing belt and water pump. Other than being a V6, it's got decent power and handles like a dream. It's actually FUN to drive, and I keep it purring like the day it drove off the lot. It never ceases to amaze my friends when they hear it run and see the mileage. Once it hits 300k, I'm going to do a drivetrain rebuild, install bifuel natural gas, and then turbocharge it.

Yes, being a gearhead IS a sickness. And it can be more expensive than drugs as a hobby. Don't judge me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not only has technology left the DIYer behind, but it is rapidly leaving the car maintenance/repair market behind. Try taking your 2012 car to a local repair shop when a 'check engine' light comes on.

I love #4 in the article, too. 'Different color'? Barely...most parking lots are a sea of gray, silver, white and black. And most all of them, as was pointed out, look the same. The incredible style of cars like the '57 Bel Air, a '60 Caddy, or a '56 'Vette is gone, as are the colors. It's a sad commentary.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All the things you say are true and at 70 I'm happy enough to have an appliance car - but there are plenty of people, as the comments show, that are into cars and fixing them themselves. I spent some time on the phone with support at my ISP yesterday talking to a Sri Lankan Australian who was saving up to go to the US to spend time among American car enthusiasts. It sure has changed since the 50s but cars still are really important to people.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
it isnt just big cities that are becoming hostile to automobiles. my little burg has completed several "beautification" projects that involve reducing the number of parking spaces, putting in bicycle lanes next to vehicle lanes in 45MPH zones, planting trees (as though we dont have enough already) and installing roundabouts. one of these roundabouts is so tight that school buses and large trucks cannot negotiate it, yet the planners thump themselves on the back in orgies of mutual self-congratulation.
yesterday i saw a suicidal fellow on a recumbent bicycle in the adjacent bike lane. no doubt he believed he was helping the environment, though his imminent demise will more likely provide compost for the recently planted trees.
worst of all, we have a germinating public transit system. recently it was forced to raise the rate to $1.50 per ride due to budget cuts. the local paper was filled with cries of consternation from a panoply of stereotypical victims---dogfood-eating seniors, illegals living in the shadows, and minimum wage-earning working stiffs whose budgets cannot absorb this massive increase. but where are all these riders? most of the buses i see driving around town are empty.
my first car was a datsun 260Z, a perfect silver dream with a hand choke and a tight cockpit. how i loved that car...............

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This needs to be a Whittle video rant
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Miss Graebner's piece illustrates the incompetence of youth. Her "reasons" are fanciful. The single reason is that the Federal government began to dictate to car manufacturers how they had to make cars, and the car manufacturers knuckled under to the government and began to make cars that were essentially all alike. A strong central government will always do this. Thank Abe Lincoln for that, folks.

I was a race car driver until I was 34 years old, and racing has nothing to do with it. You can still race cookie-cutter cars. What do you think NASCAR is all about: Cookie-cutter cars and cookie-cutter rules that eliminate serious competition for the enjoyment of people who think racing is all about wrecks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I disagree about maintenance. My current Honda Accord is easier to work on today than my 1st car, a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle. Between being able to read OBDII codes and all the help available on the internet, troubleshooting is easier and the Honda runs right after the repair is done. Changing fluids is no more difficult. In contrast, I wasted a lot of time replacing worn parts, adjusting timing, cleaning spark plugs, rebuilding the carburetor, chasing down vacuum leaks, etc. on the Chevelle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All summer long in the small town where I reside, the local McDonalds holds a car show in their parking lot one day a week. They even set aside one of those shows for motorcycles. I don't know about the rest of America, but the automobile is still appreciated in my neck of the woods. Makes me wish the comments would allow us to post photos, just so I could share.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Color me JEALOUS.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, now it works. Ok. I have a '64 New Yorker, with a 413. It can do a 180. It has straight pipes, no mufflers, and I can put it any gear I want.

No stupid traction control. 470 lbs of torque. No plastic other than the dashboard. They DO NOT make them like this anymore. The new cars are appliances. They are great appliances. But the have no souls.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why do I all of a sudden have an invalid account? I've been posting comments for two years?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Two days ago I posted comment #32. Today there are 11 comments only and I had to re-register to make this one. I hope PJ Media gets its act together.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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