Book Review: Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving by Peter Norton

Cover of the book Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving by Peter Norton
Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving
by Peter Norton
Island, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on September 1, 2021.

Autonomous vehicles promise to eliminate congestion on our roadways, reduce traffic accidents to near zero, and end greenhouse gas pollution. But as Norton points out, we’ve heard these promises before, many times. Car manufacturers have been proclaiming solutions to traffic problems since the 1930s, always by adding more roads and putting more cars on them. Autonorama is a deep dive into the history of our car dependency and the ways automotive manufacturers have strung along American consumers with promises of “just over the horizon” solutions to the problems cars themselves have caused. Norton argues the goal of car manufacturers has never been to satisfy mobility needs but to promote ever-increasing car dependency: Charles Ketterings’ famous maxim to keep the customer dissatisfied. Autonomous vehicles offer more of the same: empty promises of imminent solutions which can only increase our dependence on cars. Car dependency itself is the problem and cars can’t solve that. This is a bracing challenge to the dogma of autonomous vehicle enthusiasts and a clarion call for more varied and humane mobility solutions.

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