The Driver

Disegno #16 (2017)

Image by Andrew Bush.

“These cars [...] and the highways on which they drive will have in them devices which will correct the faults of human beings as drivers. They will prevent the driver from committing errors. They will prevent him from turning out into traffc except when he should [...] Everything will be designed by engineering, not by legislation, not in piecemeal fashion, but as a complete job.”

This quote, plump and shivering with optimism, is as concise a summary of society’s hopes for driverless technology as I have found. Autonomous cars will be safer than human drivers; autonomous cars will navigate road infrastructure more reliably than human drivers; and autonomous cars will remove the hassles and strains of driving that are principally generated by the distracting emotions, thoughts and general humanity of human drivers. All three factors will blend intersectionally to form a delicious cocktail of pure unadulterated driving, one previously sullied by the grotesque, eshy presence of the all-too-human driver at the core of the otherwise pristine automobile. In so doing, autonomous cars will complete the grand design project that has attached itself to driving since the rst automobiles of the late-19th century – the dream of total mobility, unfettered by the restrictions generated by previous forms of transportation.

Or so runs the logic that has led both traditional car manufacturers and emergent technology corporations to pour money into an industry which, according to a 2017 report from Intel, will be worth $7tn by 2050. The prospect of driverless technology, both economic and ideological, is the future-halcyon that lies behind Tim Cook’s claim that Apple’s autonomous systems-focused Project Titan is “the mother of all AI projects” in which the company is “making a big investment”; behind Google’s Waymo autonomous car company being speculatively valued at $70bn by Morgan Stanley, despite only having been founded in December 2016; and behind Ford’s decision in May 2017 to appoint the head of its driverless cars division, Jim Hackett, as its new chief executive and task him with leading a $1.2bn investment in three Michigan facilities earmarked for production of electric and autonomous vehicles. This followed the company having three months earlier invested $1bn in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company tasked with equipping all future Ford vehicles with driverless technology. If good journalistic practice is to follow the money, economics suggests that the future will be driverless.

I did, however, cheat a little in providing that original quote; I removed all of the dates so as not to tie it to a particular time, although sadly the telltale gendered pronouns wouldn’t come out quite so easily. To come clean, the quote isn’t about contemporary driverless technology at all, but actually comes from the American industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, writing in his 1940 book Magic Motorways. Bel Geddes’s book (and the exhibit which it grew out of – Futurama from the 1939 New York World’s Fair) posited a 1960s USA in which transport infrastructure would be structured around a sophisticated network of automated highways. Automation aside, this ambition largely came to fruition in 1956 when President Eisenhower passed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, a scheme which devoted $24.8bn towards the construction of a nationwide highway network. The America that the Highways Act set in motion was to be a country characterised by effortless mobility, and one in which this mobility was to play a societal role in forging or reinforcing an idealised American national character based around individualism and pioneer spirit: “an America in which people are free,” as Bel Geddes described it in his book 26 years earlier. The same point was made by a somewhat less salubrious individual upon the policy’s announcement. “The road we should take is outlined by the American philosophy of government [...]” stated Vice-President Richard Nixon, “rooted in individual rights and obligations – expressed in maximum opportunity for every individual”.

What will become of this ideal of freedom and mobility should it become automated? It’s a question that is now becoming possible to ask as a matter of fact, rather than simply as a point of speculation. In July 2017, Tesla delivered its first Model 3, the electric car that the brand hopes will see it break into the mainstream (and profitability – Tesla made a net loss of $401.4m in the second quarter of 2017) and of which it has pledged to produce 500,000 units in 2018. The Model 3 features self-driving hardware that is advertised as rendering the driver – pending software validation and regulatory approval – redundant: a lumpen ghost in the machine, effortlessly and non-corporeally directing that machine’s movements in a highway-infused redux of Descartes’s mind-body dualism. “All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go,” reads Tesla’s promotional material, while the company’s CEO Elon Musk is every bit as buoyant in his prediction of the industry’s future.

“My guess is that in probably 10 years it will be very unusual for cars to be built that are not fully autonomous,” Musk reflected when speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai in July. “Getting in a car will be just like getting in an elevator. You just tell it where you want to go and it takes you there with extreme levels of safety, and that will be normal.” In an effort to signify this new normal, in October 2016 Musk announced that by the end of 2017 he planned for an autonomous Tesla vehicle to make a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to New York, all “without the need for a single touch”. Musk’s proposed demonstration will neatly reverse the direction of the historical exemplar of mobility in the United States – the opening up of the American frontier from east coast to west. In his 1893 essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the “real lines of American development, the forces dominating our character, are to be studied in the history of westward expansion.” The question is whether autonomous mobility – wrapped up in Musk’s symbolic eastward return journey – might play the same role in shaping a new social era. “He would be a rash prophet indeed,” wrote Turner, “who should assert that the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider eld for its exercise.”

Most companies share Musk’s enthusiasm for the driverless project, be they US based or otherwise.1 Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Uber, BMW, General Motors and Volvo have all invested in the technology, along with the web services company Baidu, whose Apollo driverless technology project aims to become the “Android of the autonomous driving industry” and has already partnered with Chinese auto companies like Chery, Changan and Great Wall Motors. Ford, eager to gazump Musk’s 10-year prediction, plans to have autonomous vehicles offering ride-sharing by 2021: “No steering wheel. No gas pedals. No brake pedals. A driver will not be required.” Ford’s mission statement, steeped in corporate triumphalism at the eradication of direct human input, promises to bring about the apogee of automobility that Bel Geddes imagined 77 years ago. “Already the automobile has done great things for people,” Bel Geddes eulogised in Magic Motorways. “It has taken man out beyond the small confines of the world in which he used to live [...] Throughout all recorded history, man has made repeated efforts to reach out farther and to communicate with other men more easily and quickly, and these efforts have reached the climax of their success in the 20th century. This freedom of movement makes possible a magnificently full, rich life for the people of our time.”

The problem, as Bel Geddes saw it, was not with cars (“that each year’s car will be better than last year’s model is justified by experience”), but rather with the act of driving itself – both in terms of the infrastructure that supported it and the people who engaged in it: “But how about the driver? Has he too improved in these 30 years of motor-car experience as the car has improved? Not by any means.” The elimination of the driver from the equation of automobility – and therein a fundamental adjustment of what the act of driving actually is – is both the crucial change promised by autonomous technology, as well as the root of the cultural paradox that it promises to bring about. In order to achieve the perceived liberation of the citizenry –and escape the strictures of a world in which travel isn’t “just like getting in an elevator” – society must kill off one of the 20th century’s great ideological engines for individualism.

In 2008, the cultural historical Cotten Seiler published Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America, a book to which this article is indebted. Seiler’s text is a landmark study of automobility’s role in sustaining America’s conception – and more broadly the Western world’s conception – of itself as a society founded upon ideals of freedom and individual identity. Seiler’s argument is wide- ranging and intricate, stretching from 1895 to 1961, but initially hinges upon an analysis of the social impact of Taylorism, the late-19th century scientific management theory founded by Frederick Winslow Taylor that sought to increase productivity through precise delineation, measurement and surveillance of workers’ activities. Taylorism proposed that greater effciency could be found through the subjugation of the individual to the system; workplaces were to be calibrated as precise machines, in which everyone played a quantifiable role (prefacing the actual automation of workplaces and the rise of Fordism). For a nation that had spent much of the 19th century developing individualism as a key tenet of its identity – such that by 1922 the future US President Herbert Hoover could publish a book titled American Individualism, in which he stated “Our individualism is rooted in our very nature” –this presented an existential challenge.

Taylor set out his theory in the 1911 book Principles of Scientific Management, which features a fictional dialogue with Schmidt, a Pennsylvania German pig-iron loader at Bethlehem Steel. In this dialogue, Taylor advises Schmidt on the correct relationship between a worker and their manager. “You know as well as I do, that a high-priced man has to do exactly as he’s told from morning to night,” Taylor tells Schmidt. “Do you understand that? When this man tells you to walk, you walk; when he tells you to sit down, you sit down, and you don’t talk back at him.” The exchange is obnoxious, recasting the employer/employee relationship as that of master and slave, and it is notable as to quite how redolent Taylor’s dialogue is of the period’s treatment of black Americans. Taylor ridicules Schmidt and those he is intended to represent by writing his interjections in dialect (“Vell – did I got $1.85 for loading dot pig iron on dot car to-morrow?”), while justifying their subjugation through appeal to a supposed inferiority: for a “mentally sluggish type as Schmidt”, Taylor deems his condescension “appropriate and not unkind.” The kind of covert racialisation embodied by Taylor’s words – and by proxy the co-option of an ideology in which only certain people are to be granted full social status as individuals or citizens –shows quite how serious a threat to American individualism (or, more accurately, white male individualism) Taylor’s theory had come to represent. “Taylorism’s transformation of the spaces and nature of work salted the earth in which the ideological models of sel ood – the autonomous individual of liberalism and the virtuous citizen of republicanism – were rooted,” notes Seiler in analysis of the theory. “[...] workers were evacuated of their formerly and naturally authoritative, robust, creative, and mobile traits, and reduced to the stereotypical docility, sessility, and subservience of women and slaves.” Taylorism represented such a challenge to individualism that the chocolate manufacturer Edward Cadbury was driven to lament the arrival of a workplace in which “initiative and judgement and freedom of movement are eliminated.”

Key to Seiler and Cadbury’s quotes are their deployment of “sessility” and “freedom of movement” as what was respectively enforced and denied by Taylorism, and it is worth noting how Taylor frames his dialogue with Schmidt in the language of mobility. Under Taylor’s regime, Schmidt seems to be doing little other than constantly either walking or sitting, all performed to a rigorously enforced schedule that – located delightfully beyond the realms of parody – is enforced by “the man”. In this vein, however, a recurrent feature of any discussion of citizenship or individuality is the importance of freedom of movement, both as a value in its own right but also 182 as a physical manifestation of the various freedoms, rights and liberties deemed to attach to such a person. As much as Taylorism created hierarchy between those who were static and those whose status as managers enabled mobility, it’s also true that contemporary societies continue to use movement as a primary form of self-definition and a vehicle for identity politics: hence Donald Trump’s call for “a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries [viz. peoples]” and a July 2017 statement from Theresa May’s o ce that central to Brexit and Britain’s future within Europe would be an acceptance that it “would be wrong [...] to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now.”2

To specifically couch this idea within the context of cars, it is notable that one of the more visceral elements of identity politics in contemporary Saudi Arabia is its ongoing prohibition on women’s right to drive, and concurrent attempts to link this to the physiology of the female reproductive system: “If a woman drives a car,” the Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan argued in 2013, “[...] that could have negative physiological impacts, as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards.” Such statements are repulsive, but unsurprising. Given automobility’s entanglement with issues such as individualism, sessility and personal agency, few areas have been as comprehensively gendered as cars and their surrounding infrastructure. It is telling that the car company Rootes Motors’s decision to use the 1965 San Francisco International Car Show as a showcase for its Lady Imp concept car (a vehicle that came with “a built-in vanity and large [storage unit that] will carry all of Milady’s beauty and hair dressing preparations and paraphernalia. Throw pillows and head rests add comfort [...] Accessories also include a hair dryer, custom matching luggage and many other singularly feminine ‘handies’”) is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gender and cars.3

This connection between movement and identity was taken up by the philosopher Loren E. Lomasky in his 1997 essay ‘Autonomy and Automobility’. “[...] an autonomous being is not simply a locus at which forces collide and which then is moved by them,” wrote Lomasky. “Rather, to be autonomous is, minimally, to be a valuer with ends taken to be good as such, and to have the capacity as an agent to direct oneself to the realization or furtherance of these ends through actions expressly chosen for that purpose.” The decisive part of the argument, however, is what Lomasky states next: “This is what motorists do.” Within the context of an autonomy threatened – and the associated threat of sessility – the car’s effect upon people’s psyches at the start of the 20th century must have been profound, not least in the liberation promised by breakthroughs such as the 1908 arrival of the comparatively mass-market Ford Model T, of which 15 million were built and sold. Certainly, the American philosopher and architecture critic Lewis Mumford was unequivocal in his assessment of automobiles’ impact on society: “he who had one was a king: he could go where he pleased and halt where he pleased; and this machine itself appeared as a compensatory device for enlarging an ego [...] shrunken by our very success in mechanization.”

This point is seized upon by Seiler, who sees driving as not only a means by which society sought to regain an autonomy believed lost with the 20th century’s rise of industrialisation and mechanisation, but also a vehicle by which the American people were able to continue to lay claim to the de ant individualism that they viewed as distinctive of their national character. “To middle-class and working-class white men, driving appeared able to deliver an analogue of the sovereign selfhood attenuated by Taylorization and bureaucratic regimentation, and to masculinize consumer identity more generally,” notes Seiler. “For women, immigrants, and people of color, groups whose automobility would be as contested as their fitness for citizenship, the driver’s seat beckoned as the crucible of that fitness and as the vantage of the American-in-full. In the United States at the turn of the century, driving a car promised not only transportation, but transformation.”

While motoring changed dramatically over the course of the 20th century, the notion of driving as a transformative act that offered an outlet for individualism – remained remarkably consistent. It was the figure of the driver whom the futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti labelled in 1909 as one of “the living men on earth” and who alone might access “a new beauty: the beauty of speed”; the act of driving that Jack Kerouac exalted in 1951 as “our one noble function of the time”; and the infrastructure of driving which Jean Baudrillard said was capable of teaching you “[all] you need to know about American society” in his 1988 book America. In part, this cultural resonance can be traced back to the Cold War, when automobility emerged as a propaganda vehicle for the assertion of American individualism over Soviet collectivism; despite having been approved as a public works priority in 1944, the Highways Act was not passed until 1956 – the same year that its proponents added the word “Defense” to its title. Quickly, the sense of automobility as a bastion of American life against the threat of Communism spread.

The 1957 Armed Forces Information Film Red Nightmare – alternatively titled Freedom and You – closes, for instance, with an aerial shot of a highway upon which phalanxes of cars are moving in both directions. The aesthetic uniformity of traffic on a highway (and any acknowledgement that a highway is a highly regulated space) was apparently lost on the filmmakers, although perhaps the allure of the automobile as the perfect motif of liberty was simply too easy a symbol to exploit: after all, swaths of Americans travelling vast distances in the splendid isolation of their automobiles must have smacked of individualism.

“In Red Nightmare, as in so much postwar art and culture,” Seiler notes, “automobility provided the crucial illustration of American freedom.” Whether the automobile ever actually lived up to these ideals remains doubtful, but nonetheless, cars represented the kind of story that America (and the rest of the Western world) wished to tell about itself, wherein the autonomy and individualism symbolised by automobility – some quivering of supposed national character – might be allowed to uctuate between reality and quasi-foundation myth. It is this balancing act between reality and cultural narrative that the motoring journalist John Jerome captured in his 1972 book The Death of the Automobile. “The basis for the appeal of the private automobile has always been a kind of mystically perceived total freedom,” noted Jerome. “In practice, it is the freedom to go wherever one wants to go (wherever the roads go, which opens up another sociological can of worms), whenever one desires to go (whenever the car is ready, when one has paid the price in preparation and maintenance, in taxation and legal quali cation, whenever one has the wherewithal to feed the machine), at whatever rate one desires to go (assuming the tra c will allow, that congestion eases – and at rates up to but not beyond the arbitrary standards established to protect one from the dangers of excessive use of his own freedom).”

In large part, this cultural resonance of automobiles – and the conjoining willing suspension of disbelief over quite how regulated driving actually is as an activity – seems hooked to the figure of the driver themself. Essential to automobility is the sense that a car is not only a design object or product, but also an enabler of self-directed activity. Even a passing acquaintance with automobile adverts conforms the status of the car as a product – “Alfa Romeo. Beauty is not enough”; “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”; “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” – but automobility nonetheless reaches beyond brute consumerism. “Automobility is not just something for which people in their ingenuity or idiosyncrasy might happen to hanker, as they have for Nehru jackets, disco music, hula hoops, crack cocaine, pet rocks, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, Madonna, and ‘How many ____ does it take to change a lightbulb?’ jokes,” argues Lomasky. “Rather, automobile transport is a good for people in virtue of its intrinsic features. Because automobility is a mode of extending the scope and magnitude of self-direction, it is worthwhile.” In one sense, Lomasky unduly privileges the car over other objects given that all consumer products, to some extent, enable extension of self-direction. A blender enables clear self-directed activity – blending; a computer mouse – clicking; a fidget spinner – fidgeting. What is distinctive about cars however, is that their associated activity is deemed culturally worthwhile and plays a notable role in the formation of identity. The 20th century may have been a century of consumerism, but the forms in which that consumerism came to cement itself within culture were not without limits: there are reasons as to why we’ve ended up as a society of drivers as opposed to a society of blenders or fidgeters.

Dominant among these may have been the idea that driving simply represented the right kind of consumerism for a society wedded to individualism and suspicious of any form of collectivism. “In one sense [in 20th-century America] citizenship was con ated with owning; in another, the essential practice of the citizen was that of choosing,” states Seiler. Consumerism invites the formation of character through shopping – professing that the individual is blessed with near limitless choice to shape themselves in the marketplace – but its tendency towards herd-like mentality is well documented, as is the role of standardisation and mass production in forging the 20th-century commercial landscape. For a social and economic order that professes the importance of individual choice, consumerism encourages curiously collectivist tendencies. Ditto, advertising’s capacity to shape consumer behaviour is a di cult t with any ideology professing to maintain the “rugged individualism” exalted by Hoover and his ilk. “[...] the act of choosing, if the consumer was to be heroized, had to carry with it a political valence; it had to be represented as an exercise in sovereignty rather than the e ect of manipulation,” notes Seiler. “This gure [...] merged the expressive individual of the marketplace with the autonomous individual of republican political culture, o ering reassurance that a subjectivity distinguished by self-determination had survived the transition from the old to the new regime of accumulation.

It was a social self, but it looked like a sovereign self. Its characteristics were mobility and choice; and its embodiment was the driver.” If the driver was a form adopted by the individual in the face of consumerism, does this cocooning effect still hold today? In September 2016, the design writer Stephen Bayley offered this quote to 032c magazine on the imminent appearance of automated vehicles. “The autonomous car is probably coming – there are considerable technological and legal di culties, but when that arrives, the sordid, hot, dirty, dangerous romance of a car will be over [...] it might have practical benefits, particularly if you’re blind drunk, but it is not going to be an expression of your personality, your status, or your yearnings.” While autonomous cars may help in cutting the figure of 1.3 million people who die every year in car crashes – in January 2016, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute published a study that found the crash rate for self-driving cars was 3.2 crashes per million miles, compared to the US national average of 4.2 accidents per million miles4 – writers like Bayley believe that they will also signal the demise of the automobile as a forge for personal identity. It is a sacrifice that the car companies, based upon their investment in the technology, believe society is willing to make. There are likely multiple reasons for this, although the explanation that seems most persuasive from a cultural perspective is that we are simply no longer a society of drivers, or at least not in the sense in which we have been in the past. While we may not have become a society of blenders or fidgeters either, we have turned into a society of clickers.

In his 2017 essay ‘Reasons for Corbyn’, published in the London Review of Books, the political economist William Davies reflected on the role of the internet in our society. “The internet turns up a perpetual series of anniversaries, disparate moments from disparate epochs,” wrote Davies, “and presents them all as equivalent and accessible in the here and now.” Davies also cited the cultural theorist Mark Fisher’s 2014 book Ghosts of My Life, in which Fisher observed that “In 1981, the 1960s seemed much further away than they do today. Since then, cultural time has folded back on itself, and the impression of linear development has given way to a strange simultaneity.”

Certainly, the arrival of the internet and the proliferation of digital space has triggered a radical shift in the way in which we conceive of mobility. Digital traversal is not only far more e ective at collapsing spatial distance than the car – we speak with people around the world through Skype, have access to images from continents away, and receive a steady stream of instantaneous global breaking news as and when we desire it5 – but it is also capable of crossing temporal space too: “That which happened 40 years ago is as accessible as that which happened 40 minutes ago, or that which is happening now [...] it has become clear that the internet is less significant as a means of publishing than a means of archiving,” argues Davies. In the world of the internet, everything is flattened and non-linear – it exists as a timeless archive through which you can travel instantaneously via a click of a mouse – but it has also become a digital analogue of our transport infrastructure, infused with the optimism of mobility. We surf the web through search engines, all served up with a vocabulary that promises a rich broth of personal autonomy blitzed with limitless travel. Mozilla Firefox promises “your web, the way you like it”, Apple’s Safari is explicitly encoded with the notion of journey within its title, while between 1994 and 2013, Microsoft’s corporate identity was based around asking customers “Where do you want to go today?”

It should be hardly surprising that our cars are becoming more like computers given that we live in a world in which mobility has been thoroughly adopted and adapted by the digital sphere. While autonomous cars may not yet be mainstream reality, we have already been culturally primed for the idea that automatic travel to a restaurant is really only a hair’s breadth away from a Hey, Siri request for restaurant locations. “One can hear,” notes Seiller, “in the promises of unlimited mobility and endless opportunities for the individual to rede ne himself that imbue the internet with utopian power, echoes of the champions of the automobile circa 1910 and 1955 [...] As work deskills and the workplace becomes even less hospitable to the demonstration of autonomy, technologies of the self – fostering virtual rather than physical mobility – once again provide a ‘ x’ for subjectivity and other solid things that melt into air.”

As to how genuine the mobility provided by the internet will prove to be remains to be seen. In October 2016, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked search engines for their role in enforcing entrenched opinion by tailoring their results to an individual’s personal tastes: “Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they can shrink our expanse of information. The big internet platforms, through their algorithms, have become an eye of a needle which diverse media must pass through.” Similarly, in June 2015, the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. published data showing that 61 per cent of millennials source news through Facebook, a platform that frequently serves as an echo chamber for social and political opinion. It all adds up to a situation in which online movement becomes so tailored to our existing beliefs that any exposure to information that might challenge these beliefs becomes increasingly unlikely. “We thought that the internet was going to connect us all together,” said the internet activist Eli Pariser in a 2010 interview with “As a young geek in rural Maine, I got excited about the Internet because it seemed that I could be connected to the world. What it’s looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves.”

But it is the sense of absolute freedom of motion – even a circular motion that leads nowhere – which gives the medium its power. So too with autonomous cars. While the physical process of driving may be lost in this process of automation, the promise of choice and sense of authority enabled by travel is correspondingly exaggerated – the car becomes a quasi-intelligent being, ready and willing to respond to our every whim. “Our goal,” states Waymo’s website, “is to build a safer driver,” and the company clearly conceives of the role of the driver as having shifted from the human being to the car, with agency now residing not so much within the action of driving, but rather within the intention of the person being driven. In his 1973 book Ecology as Politics, the sociologist André Gorz noted that “unlike all previous owners of a means of locomotion, the motorist’s relationship to his or her vehicle was to be that of user and consumer – and not owner and master.” With the rise of the autonomous car, however, this dichotomy seems to dissolve: consumerism and smart technologies have reached a stage at which consumption generates feelings of autonomy and individuality precisely through the level of power – and corresponding freedom from toil – that it facilitates in a user. To paraphrase the Nobel Prize winner Christian Lous Lange, “Technology is a useful servant”.

  1. Such are the effects of globalisation and the dominance of American culture, that a certain slipperiness around the term “American” means it sometimes oozes out from within sharp geographical borders. In the phrasing of Le Monde, “Nous sommes tous Américains” – at least in the Western world.

  2. At the time of writing this article, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was marked by a car ramming a group of anti-far-right protesters, killing one person and injuring another 19. It was the latest incident in what has become a recurring use of the automobile in contemporary societies: its deployment as a weapon in terrorist attacks. Even before the attack in Charlottesville, however, the rally had seemed dominated by ideas of mobility. A column of neo-facist demonstrators – wielding burning torches and chanting “Blood and soil” and “You will not replace us” – marched on counter-protestors, encircling them to prevent their escape. The incident was an example of the far-right mobilising in opposition to social mobility, and in support of a desire for societal stasis: the ludicrous and grotesque idea that America is a white society and ought to be preserved as such. Inherent within this kind of racist ideology seems to be the idea that one group’s mobility is premised on another group’s corresponding sessility. This is, quite patently, incorrect.

  3. For those interested, Rootes also showed the Lord Imp, which was delightfully billed as “FOR MEN ONLY: Designed specifically for men, the new Lord Imp has features such as ship-to-shore radio, a marine compass, ship’s bell, air horns and portable bar.”

  4. In May 2016, Joshua Brown became the first person to die because of an error on the part of an autonomous vehicle when his Tesla Model S drove into an 18-wheel truck. In a blog post entitled ‘Tragic Loss’, Tesla stated that “This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles.”

  5. By contrast, in 1999 a UK-based family of five, the Naismiths, decided to quit their jobs, sell their house, and drive to Australia. The trip took 10 months. “We tried to split up the journey as much as possible, and we shared the driving,” noted Graham Naismith. “But sometimes there were long spells in the car”.