"(C)ars in their present form are no more a permanent fixture of our built environment than were the oxcart, the chariot, or the horse and buggy. We happen to live in the historical apogee of the internal-combustion automobile, but even the smallest degree of historical perspective makes plain that it's merely a temporary visitor -- and an increasingly troublesome one -- on planet Earth.
Now, for those staunch car defenders getting ready to fire off e-mails calling me a deluded idealist, a car hater or a clueless academic -- don't bother. The fact is I've been an incurable gearhead since childhood. I can still happily spend a long evening jabbering about cam grinds and axle ratios with my car-crazy buddies, and I still own a number of Detroit's most venerable old gas guzzlers in honor of a grand old era that's now passed into history. If anything, though, this personal obsession makes it all the more obvious to me that our autocentric society, and the vast traffic and petroleum supply infrastructure that goes along with it, will one day be no more than a curiosity to future historians.