So much for the first 100 years. The stories and pictures in this hefty volume are a tapestry of General Motors' first century on the automotive scene.
But what lies ahead as it begins its second century?
Oil, once cheap, now is dear; the landscape, once rural and open, now is urban and crowded. Will gridlock paralyze traffic in overcrowded cities? Will escalating demand for oil trigger chronic shortages? What will the auto industry do to adjust — indeed, to survive? The technology is promising, but the challenges seem perilous. And certainly the government will play a larger role at the beginning of this second century than it did in the first. In this final story, we'll consider some neo-Malthusian theories and GM's more optimistic expectations for the future.
The camera focuses on an intersection outside Tokyo's Shibuya railway station, through which more than 2 million commuters pass every day.
Cars creep along, bumper to bumper. Then the lights change and a huge crowd floods the intersection from every direction — a fast-moving, zigzagging human swarm so large that it obscures the pavement. A couple of marooned vehicles sit helpless amid the throng.
Then the light changes and vehicles resume their snail march. Chris Borroni-Bird turns off the video. "I don't understand how no one was killed," he remarks.
As General Motors' director of advanced technology vehicle concepts, it's Borroni-Bird's job to visualize what the world might look like a couple of decades from now.
He has studied demographic data and talked with experts in a variety of fields, but the video sums it up. Megacities like Tokyo, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo and Mumbai — the world's five most populous urban regions — will dominate the future. Those cities aren't known as car-friendly environments, but the population trends are clear: By 2030, about 60 percent of the world's population and 80 percent of the world's wealth will be concentrated in cities. To prosper, automakers will have to sell cars where the people — and money — are located.
In light of that, Borroni-Bird has a few predictions:
Vehicles will shrink.
Electric cars will claim an urban niche.
Vehicles will communicate with each other like the cells of a very large brain.
Self-propelled vehicles will shuttle passengers from destination to destination like computerized taxis.