As the past and future collide during the 2015 edition of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it’s nice to signal the fact that it’s also the 30th straight car show.
With memorable editions – such as the exuberant 2000 edition – the first of the 21st Century – or the sharply contrasting 2009 edition, when General Motors and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse can be seen throughout its history, the 2015 one marks a tidal wave. It’s a clash of titans, as the Detroit auto show usually reflects the transformation and path of an industry that tends to shape economies and define cultural status for many nations – especially the mighty United States. This year we’re faced with not one, but three distinct and often complementing revolutions: the propulsion, connectivity and autonomy revolutions. The first has to do with the next propulsion mode that would power the future cars – the internal combustion engine has to withstand the assault of alternative technologies, including hybrids, battery-powered electrics or hydrogen fuel cells. Even if the gas prices continue their descent and even though consumers don’t seem to be interested so much in the latter, the governments continue to use them as a way of taming the global pollution problem.
Next up are the technological revolutions that link the automotive world to practically every other technological sector. The connectivity revolution is one without any victims, as it brings Internet services, from satellite navigation systems to advanced telecommunications, into the vehicles. The other one has one victim – the pleasure of driving. That means autonomous cars will bring the option of either partially or totally defecting from the wheel as the car can drive itself to the destination.