1. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Alternate Reality Without Personal Vehicles?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JJ_Maxx, May 10, 2013.

    Would it be too implausible to create the present day without the invention or proliferation of personal vehicles? Like if Henry Ford hadn't invented the Model A or the country went full government-run public transportation.


    In my story, my MC is a lobbyist for personal vehicles. He is meeting heavy resisitance from congress and the current president in trying to legalize cars. The problem is that the general public can't imagine a 2,000 pound hunk of metal travelling 60 miles-per-hour mere feet from another vehicle going in the opposite direction. The feeling is that the average American isn't responsible enough to handle that kind of responsibility.

    Would it be too much to veer off the horse->cart->buggy->car timeline and take it in a different direction?
     
  2. Anthelionryu
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    Anthelionryu Member

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    It wouldn't be too much if you could come up with an alternate, equally plausible time line.

    Things I would consider:
    Aristocrats would probably still have personal transportation regardless of what the rest of the world does. If this alternate reality is based on our present reality then this is a likelihood. And the people in charge have a thing for exempting themselves from the rules imposed on the rest of us.

    You would want to come up with a good reason for why public transportation succeeded. The barriers in this country to its success are many and varied but you have to consider the vast landscape, farm communities, mountain communities. Public transportation has only ever been useful in urban areas so making it the law of the land would have to have some very good reasons.

    You might consider basing it on Tesla's free electricity system. In the real world that failed because he lost his funding when his financiers realized he wanted to give it away. The legends around Tesla are many and have been embellished for stories before so it's definitely a good playground. In your alternate reality, if free electricity had become a reality then electric trollies could have become pervasive throughout the country... potentially even in rural areas. With a robust transportation system in place certainly the government could have been successfully lobbied into outlawing personal vehicles.

    That's my 2 cents. Good luck. :)
     
  3. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Would there even be what we would consider roads to drive them on? There certainly wouldn't be a interstate highway system or bridges and alike to support the use of cars...so what would be the advertising angle? What would be the need a car would fill...?
     
  4. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I think the only obstacle you have to overcome in your time line is small party exploration. Mule drawn carts could easily become mule drawn trains without individual transportation, but they would need a reason to come into being. What is the destination? Why would we need to transport from A to B? How was B discovered?
    Or you could forgo the exploration and have one Pangea city that expanded outwards only as the vertical real estate was saturated. It would only make sense to move as many people at once via giant elevator bus, which of course evolved from the floating pier aqueduct system.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Have you read Robert A. Heinlein's short story "The Roads Must Roll"? Check it out sometime. It deals, in part, with the theme you're describing.
     
  6. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    There were horses before cars. But having mechanical transportation limited to government and mass transport is plausible if you can explain why no-one decided to try.
     
  7. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    What kind of society would be ok with having no means of private, personal transportation? Think about why people like driving. Alone. Then think about a world in which no one has ever wanted to do this. I imagine this population to have extreme herd mentality or completely lack creativity and/or autonomy. This is fine, but it is certainly un-American. These people would never have established the first democratic republic since ancient times, or revolted against the motherland or sought freedom, opportunity, adventure on their own in a completely foreign, potentially dangerous new world. These people are the ones who were too afraid to leave.
     
  8. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    If never given the opportunity to go on a road trip, would the desire still remain?
     
  9. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    There have always been personal vehicles. Horses, donkeys, camels, carts, bicycles, canoes etc.
     
  10. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know about that. People live in major metropolitans across America without owning personal transport. Sure, people in NYC have cars, but there are people without cars too. The city could certainly function without them. I don't see it affecting creativity either. People like to drive for a variety of reasons, like convenience, too.
     
  11. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    I think so. When I drove I loved commuting alone. It was relaxing, even with traffic, and I felt free, able to go anywhere on my own schedule. Now I live in an large metropolitan area where public transportation is prevalent but I still prefer walking or biking, and pretty much everyone I know who can afford one still has a car. It's convenient enough, but I think the desire for personal vehicles is still there in decent supply.

    Maybe if you had a completely urban universe where mass transportation was so efficient and convenient that you would never think to bother with it, or just couldn't because there were no resources, but that seems like futuristic u-/dystopia.

    Kyle, I'm not saying mass transport inherently stifles creativity, I'm saying that a culture that would never want that seems to me like a society with extreme herd mentality, and that mentality impedes creativity, which is going somewhere or doing something new and alone. If people just couldn't have their own vehicles, then it sounds like a repressed place.
     
  12. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could set it in a world where they actually figured out the 'travel by tubes' thing. It would give a 1950's sci-fi feel, as opposed to a steam punk or Victorian feel. (Man, I'd love to travel by tubes.)

    Fair enough.
     
  13. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    That sounds awesome! Futurama for the win!
     
  14. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Right. But if you (or anyone) never had a car, those feelings would not exist. It is also fun to take a horse out by yourself, but JJ did not say we could not have horses. I think what is going to have to be omitted in order to prevent the evolution of personal transportation is the sense of individuality. People would have to have more of an ant colony way of life.
     
  15. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    If we hypothetically frame the discussion on board a large space station, the concept of no personal transport becomes expected. Given that, I think such a world is possible.
     
  16. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    If you are simply positing a present day without personal vehicles, I would find it hard to believe. Mechanized personal transportation became an inevitability when the steam engine was perfected. The internal combustion engine was a logical next step. Automobiles were being developed in other countries besides the United States and Henry Ford's principle innovation was the modern assembly line. Plus so much of the building of modern civilization is based on the ability for entities to arbitrarily move construction material and labor from one place to another, not to mention rural dwellers and modern farming. It would be hard to imagine public transportation being able to fulfill these needs.

    As squishytheduck said, we would have to have a completely different kind of government that would try to outlaw the innovation which would ultimately come from members of a society like ours. You wouldn't have a president and congress and supreme court. You would have something very similar to the Third Reich.

    Perhaps you would could introduce some other factor into the equation that would drastically change history early in the current timeline. Maybe no fossil fuels and then a new source of fuel is discovered? Or there are small amounts of iron available and so its use would be limited until some other alloy is discovered and then personal vehicles become possible? Or some other reason that would abruptly make modern personal travel possible for the first time. I just don't think that a government like ours could or would prevent personal vehicles from becoming a reality.
     
  17. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    What if the government claimed ownership of all roads and everything that drives on them. So to use your car, you have to sell it to the government and rent back from them to use it.
     
  18. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's what I've been saying.
     
  19. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Ah... fascism.
     
  20. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    So, in order to make this idea work there'd need to be a plausible explanation of how this lifestyle came about in the first place Then. Though, it still comes down to how well the story is written, no matter what the original idea may have been.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why are you asking this?

    It's plausible if you MAKE it plausible. Believe in it, and make your readers believe. That's your job, as a writer.
     
  22. zaphod
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    zaphod Member

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    Would private transportation have to be strictly banned, or just regulated and not deliberately encouraged?

    For an alternative scenario, starting in the 1880s

    Regulation of the Railroad industry is blocked, strikes by train workers are broken, trains are cheaper to run.
    The US focuses less on developing a global oil economy in the 1900s because the coal industry stops them. Instead there is massive switzerland-style electrification.
    The Supreme Court rules in favor of the factory developer in the Euclid vs. Ambler case that enables municipal zoning(and suburbia)
    Robert Moses run over by a bus, Jane Jacobs first female mayor of NYC
    FDR's New Deal Federal Housing Authority and various things to encourage a homeowner society is never passed, again this kills suburbia in the cradle
    Interstate highway system is limited to being an actual defense project, private turnpikes emerge instead.

    I am imagining an alternative US which from the outset is somehow more plutocratic(big established railroad and coal interests blocking public investment in oil, roads, no aid to homeowners or highway public works in the depression), but also more progressive(activists don't like the negative impacts and accidents cars cause).

    and...

    To be completely fair, if cars were only invented today and yet we had knowledge of all their pros and cons, I would fully expect for them to be harder to get...
     
  23. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This. As always this!


    There is no reason you can't make it happen. Set up a world where it makes sense not to have personal mechanical vehicles. Make it more convenient, make it impossible, make it more fun. Whatever route you take you can make it happen if you put enough thought into it! :)
     
  24. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The reason to ask if it's implausible is to learn other reasons that you may not have thought of so you can address those issues while 'making it work'. It's a perfectly valid and sensible question.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A stray comment on this: If personal vehicles were invented today, I suspect that they wouldn't necessarily be two thousand pounds, metal, etc. And the roads wouldn't necessarily look like our roads, and so on - I could, for example, imagine tracks and sensors that, barring mechanical failure, ensure no collisions. We're pretty much stuck with the technology that the original cars started with, because we have so much inertia due to the existing bazillions of cars. If we started fresh, I suspect that we'd create something very different.
     

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