I actually have a degree in biology, but I never really did any serious professional work. The knowledge came in handy after I got my engineering degree to do some serious work in the field of medical instrumentation. The reason that I deserted biology is that my brain wasn’t quite wired for biology, and I probably had the wrong temperament to work in that field. I got confused a lot by the complexity and uncertainty that dominates that field. Everything seems to be a matter of statistical spread with little, if any, rigorous definition. A case in point: I ask you to rigorously define “plant” versus “animal.” No challenge there: A plant has chlorophyll and manufactures its food from air and soil nutrients. It is non-mobile and is fixed in its environment. An animal gets its food by feeding on other living organisms and is mobile. BUT then we come across the lowly euglena, and our definition goes right out the window. This single cell organism has chlorophyll to manufacture nutrients and has a flagella whip tail which allows it to be mobile in the water. It is neither a plant nor an animal, but it is a “transplant.” (groan)
Now let’s go to the top of the food chain and consider humans. We are either “male” or “female” (OK you know where this is going). A gene here and there goes missing or is a bummer, and we end up with transgendered individuals who often have a difficult time in society as they do not fit the definitions that we apply to the majority of us. The binary nature of our society requires us to be one thing or another, which leaves the transgendered with a problem as they are outside the definition. Example: What do you put as “sex” on the driver’s license? You might try “once a week if lucky” but a sense of humor is not germane to the legal requirement. “Other” is demeaning, so you are left in a legal vacuum. Obviously, this is a situation with a lot of factors that come into play.
Some of these same factors can come into play regarding automobiles.
THE TRANSPOWERED CAR
Cars used to be easy to define. You had gas or diesel powered cars with Otto cycle engines, and you had a smattering of special purpose electric vehicles powered solely by lead-acid batteries (think golf carts). Now we have all electric cars (e.g. Telsa), hybrid cars that mix and match engines, and electric motors in a bewildering variety. The most common is the Prius, which uses a battery until it runs down, and then it turns on the engine to charge the battery. There are cars that have a motor-generator in line with a conventional engine and drive train. These allow easy stop-start cycles at red lights. Then there are the “plug-in hybrids” that can get recharged from an external power source, but they also have an internal combustion engine. Let’s not forget the mother of electric transportation – the diesel-electric locomotive. It has its counterpart in an automobile.
Now I am rapidly progressing to a point where I am no longer smart enough to work on cars. I just have to stick with my old collector cars and their pure definition. A leaky gas line can be smelled before you have a fire. A catastrophically shorted battery in an EV can cause a major explosion, and a loose wire can kill you by electrocution if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. Even the firemen are scared of them.
A CLASSIFICATION METHOD
In an attempt to bring order out of this chaos, we might copy what the biologist have done and create an abbreviated system based on phylum, family, species and sub-species.
So here is my attempt at automobile taxonomy:
- Phylum: Automobile
- Full electric
- Hybrid electric
- Plug-in hybrid
- You name it
Since cars do not have a gender, even though we may give them endearing names, we do not consider them to be “transgendered,” so we may just have to settle for “transportation.” (groan)
A MEDICAL PARALLEL
Since the Transportation phylum is so diverse, we need specialists to handle routine maintenance, repairs and accident damage. The garage mechanic that can handle any make or model will be as obsolete as the old time family doctor who made house calls. What is now called for is an array of specialists all requiring specialized training. It may even be necessary to hire degreed electrical and mechanical engineers to work in dealerships. (Assuming that there still are dealerships). We might need transportation “hospitals” – large scale organizations that have a diversified staff of experts and highly specialized and expensive equipment where you “admit” your vehicle for service.
There will be AI (artificial intelligence) Specialists to diagnose and to correct software problems related to autonomous driven vehicles. They will be in demand as expert legal witnesses to explain why Mrs. Murphy got knocked for a loop by a driverless vehicle when she came out of the grocery store.
If that is the case, we will need “Transportation Insurance” to cover the cost of service. Insurance will be based on service codes that the center uses to bill the insurance agency. Of course with the implementation of insurance, the cost of service will rise dramatically as it always does when you separate the customer from the provider via the insurance business. Individual transportation will no longer be affordable for the masses.
Unlike humans, the decision to end the life of a terminal vehicle will not be overly complicated and will largely be based on economics and perhaps environmental considerations. The vehicle will be sent to the recycling yard for cannibalization and shredding. There will be no such thing as a “restored” vehicle as the high-tech parts will no longer be available. That LSI chip that cost five dollars when installed will cost several million to put back into production. It’ll be better to just get a new vehicle.
So just like the transgendered individual who has a problem in society, we will end up with transportation anomalies that defy definition and will cause confusion in society. I hope that I am still able to put my old pots on the road and just replace the dead battery when it won’t start. But I am not betting on it.