With All We Know About Cars, Can Car Enthusiasm be Defended?

Should we have to?

Monday Question
China Photos/Warner Bros./Alain LE BOT/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Cars are fun, even the shitty ones—sometimes especially the shitty ones—and sometimes they're even amazing. Track days and driving schools are so exciting I still can't believe they're legal and affordable and not just a hobby for oligarchs, like yachting or politics. The best racing is as thrilling a sport as any other in the world. Plus, cars run the world through a very specific lens and reflect back to us what we care about as a society; old cars are a time capsule and new cars both a mirror and a bellwether (for example, cars make it clear that in the 1970s Americans cared about fuel economy and things the color of mustard, while right now we love technology, prefer power to driving feel, and still think there's limitless space on the globe and we're each personally entitled to a whole bunch of it.) What's not to love about cars?

Ah, right: all that other stuff.

The harder you take a look at cars, the more ridiculous they seem. Cars kill and maim a massive number of people every year. Like, a ridiculous number, and new reports suggest that the past 12 months have seen a dramatic rise in auto deaths.

A car is also expensive; as a consumer purchase, it's second only to a home in terms of cost. Cars run on melted dinosaurs and they fart poison, and even the cleanest ones are basically an environmental face-punch, from conception to death. You can see why basically no science-fiction writers keep cars around as the main form of conveyance in a fantasy-future: they seem like a loud, dirty, dangerous stopgap between horses and, well, something better.

We're seeing a huge shift in the car world right now. Autonomy, ride-sharing services, alternative fuels, electrification—hell, Top Gear doesn't even have Clarkson, Hammond, and May involved anymore. Some people are using this to toll the death knell for the car; we're not so sure it's come to that, yet. But it does beg the question: can a civic-minded, responsible, caring person not only defend the idea of the car, but profess unabashed love for its overuse? Is there a nuanced position between "autonomous, shared EVs or bust!" and "you can pry this belching V-8 out of my cold, dead hands!"?

How much can we defend the auto enthusiast position? How much should we?