AutoNOmobility 2017
The LA Auto Show Reimagined as a Hipster/Tech Haven

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AUTOMOBILITY 2017 Nov 27-30

The LA Auto Show Reimagined as a Hipster/Tech Haven
An LACar editorial by Doug Stokes

… And by “haven” I mean a place where automobiles are seen as third class conveyances to be regularly ridiculed but yet “reimagined” in some auto-driving/flying/talking car that is as all in as “connected” as they think they are … but still (and fully paradoxically) is somehow “off the grid” at the same time.

Everyone, it seems, now wants a piece of the sort of future that bypasses human-operated personal transportation (with the possible exception of inline skates* in Silverlake).

This year the event I called https://automobilityla.com something like a brightly-lit rabbit hole last time around, is planning to step up the speed with a “race” (against time I suppose) to “Design & Develop L.A. into a Smarter City” (capitalization theirs).

Like the GM Styling Contests of old, this seemingly, is a competition among futurists for a complete retool, a clean sheet world where all of the present problems are somehow swept aside and a 15-level motorhighway interchange magically appears just where it was needed most, in Solvang, California (since there’s no need for that sort of traffic exchange in self-sustaining Silverlake or surrounds).

So, the idea here is to present a “Smarter City” … not a better city, not a friendlier city, not a more accommodating city, but a city that is somehow “smarter”.

Perhaps like announcing what level the parking you’ll have the best chance to squeeze your compact car into. Or maybe the city will be able to wake you up on time and, like one of those Japanese commodes, measure and catalog your daily bowel movements … that would be a very helpful for many living in this city (and downright neighborly thing for a “smart city” to do).

A smart city, smart cars, smart watches, smart phones (smart commodes) all have one thing in common: people who are (intentionally and by their own hand) less smart, people who might take joy in something so insignificant as figuring the tip for a restaurant check on paper or in their head. People for whom the term “Smart City” looks to mean: Turn in your driver’s license” for a far more glorious (“right around the corner!”) Utopia where all you need do is simply think about where you’d like to go, click the electrical contacts on the heels of your shoes three times … and you’re there.

By way of a personal confession here, I can barely use the 4-generation cell phone that I have … maybe I’m just jealous of those who can. No … this is about cities here, we’re talking about cities and cars, right? See how they call it at the end of this screed and get back to me.

By now we’ve pretty much seen it all before, peristyles and hemispheres, flying cars, floating cities, windshield wipers that sense that it’s raining (!), rocket belts and jet backpacks, personal subs and blinking robots that cut the lawn and do the dishes dressed like metallic Hazels the housemaid, “lifelike” dolls, secret live-forever formulas, glow-in-the-dark sex partners, coffee machines that use cartridges, instant anything, anytime, anywhere … even color television, and that all-time, all-time favorite: autonomous vehicles that never put a wheel wrong nor run over even the smallest dog that jumps out in front of them.

Tomorrowland’s Monsanto House (“of the future “of course) only lasted for 10 years ‘57-’67 by then the company was on to other products and the future still came as usual but without X-shaped homes made of styrene …

Hitting snake oil and selling it by the cubic gallon is nothing new … We just hear about its benefits to our grey little lives sooner on our surgically-implanted communication devices these days.

What the big peep show (this year as last) strategically located out near the street and away from the automobiles) had to do with: “… the most pressing issues surrounding the future of transportation and mobility” is a great question … and the answer that I got was one that never even began to make sense to me.

“AutoMobility LA is where the new auto industry gets business done, unveils groundbreaking new products and makes strategic announcements in front of media and industry professionals from around the globe.” Those are brave words for a brave new world that we’ve been talking, writing, and guessing about since just about forever. One (impolite) question: er, and that would be whose “new” automotive industry are we discussing here?

There’s a city out there, hundreds of them across county, that need all the help they can get … in fact there’s one that’s only a few meters outside this 4-day, high-tech “World of Wonder” event at the LA Convention Center. I’m not convinced that going full Buck Rodgers will help what I’ve witnessed out there.

… Bob Dylan wrote a world’s worth of great poetry, and the late Phil Ochs lost it because he didn’t think that he could keep up. But sometimes the truth, the idea, only needs a few lines of verse.

Last year, here at the first iteration of AutoMobility, above all the electronic din, flashing lights, glib talk, the stylish clothes, tennis shoes, and garish hawking I closed my eyes and heard Ochs singing this:

Don’t you think it’s time that we were leaving?
For another chance, another place to start
Desperate ones that went across the ocean
And they wondered how it would all turn out.
If you have to beg or steal or borrow
Welcome to Los Angeles, City of Tomorrow

They landed on the coldest of the colonies
But still they wanted better than the rich
They built highways on the houses of the homesteads
It happened that way moving west.
If you have to beg or steal or borrow
Welcome to Los Angeles, City of Tomorrow

So this is where the Renaissance has led to
And we will be the only ones to know
So take a drive and breathe the air of ashes
That is, if you need a place to go
If you have to beg or steal or borrow
Welcome to Los Angeles, City of Tomorrow
City of Tomorrow, City of Tomorrow

The connected city of tomorrow will need far more than just connected cars, it will forever be on the horizon, just over the next hill, around the next curve, right at the end of that amazing technocratic rainbow, and … when we finally get there and we will (for sure this time!) all be far happier than we are now.

Again, there’s a difference between being a skeptic and being an out and out Luddite … My sense of all the “connectivity” talk is that it’s a good way to sell stuff, expensive stuff … and what’s not OK about that?

OK … Here’s how THEY actually explain it: “Founded in 1907, the Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the season each year. In 2016, the show’s Press & Trade Days merged with the Connected Car Expo (CCE) to become AutoMobility LATM, the industry’s first trade show converging the technology and automotive industries to launch new products and technologies and to discuss the most pressing issues surrounding the future of transportation and mobility … AutoMobility LA is where the new auto industry gets business done, unveils groundbreaking new products and makes strategic announcements in front of media and industry professionals from around the globe.”

Your call on what it means to you…

11.22.17 … and in other “MOBILITY” news:

This morning’s LA Times has a story about Elon Musk wanting to bore a 12-foot diameter tunnel from his home in Bel Air to his office in Hawthorne wherein a “capsule carrying eight to 16 people”…“could reach speeds of 130 mile per hour.”

The most exciting part of Musk’s announcement was that, “… the tunnel would allow travel from Westwood to LAX in six minutes.”

Of course, it goes without saying that the chronically underserved citizens of Westwood have long needed that sort of convenience … they’ve missed very important flights to very important places right and left.

But, while we’re waiting for this part of the future to come true, I must say that picking a seriously innocuous company name is always a good idea particularly when touting a project like this so that folks in, say Pomona (or Pacoima), won’t get all antsy and start questioning Mister Musk and company when their six minutes-to-LAX tube will be completed.

You guessed it: The Boring Co. (Honest!).

… Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, he’s boring.

And, just in passing, Musk’s other business venture, Tesla Motors, a week ago announced a 250 mile-per-hour, two-seat, sports/runabout. THAT should really get us mobilized.

AND one more Times…

11.23.17 This AM’s paper (front page, just above the fold): “Robotic cars may ignite a political revolt”. Subtitled: As government clears path for driverless vehicles, trucking jobs could be wiped out.

CONNECTED MOBILITY SHOULD WORK BOTH WAYS … AT THIS POINT IT REMINDS ME OF “THE WONDER OF ATOMIC ENERGY” PHASE OF THE 50’s WHEN EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE REALLY GREAT BECAUSE IT WAS RUNNING ON THORIUM AND EVERYONE LIVED TO 100.

I’m totally out of clever closing lines here, I did not attend every AutoMobility conference last year and have little interest and virtually no intention to attend any this year, even though I know that some of the people who I’ve condemned and made fun of above here have good intentions. Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m just not connecting, or maybe I’ve been shown a future that seems exclude more than it includes.
It’ll all come out in the wash one way of the other … There’s just not a lot more to say. Doug Stokes, Editor

*OK. that’s about as close to a “Blade Runner” reference as we’re going to get here.

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