Are We There Yet? The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless

Norton. Jun. 2019. 304p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780393292749. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393292756. TECH
Albert, a writer for n+1 magazine, has constructed an idiosyncratic historical narrative of American car culture and its technological underpinnings. His prose is witty and smart, self-effacing and erudite. Readers are taken on a historical tour of the emergence of car culture, from its unregulated and underappreciated beginnings in the early 20th century. For example, we learn early on that the nascent development of the internal combustion engine was not a sure thing; that in fact there were potential alternatives to this now standard engine. In addition to steam power engines, there were early efforts at electric vehicle development in the early 1900s, far earlier than the contemporary wave of Tesla cars. Albert’s narrative is entertaining and informative, and it effectively spans the intersection of people and technologies with American culture and business history. This work also considers the modern question of driverless vehicles for readers who are interested in more contemporary car culture questions.
VERDICT An extremely engaging work of narrative nonfiction for those who enjoy popular historical and technology reads.
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