In this day and age it is almost inconceivable to imagine a world without “the car” or other motorised transport. It is hard to believe that the car was only invented in the late 1880’s and even harder to accept that motorised transport has only been common place for the last 80 years.
During this time, society has moved at a tremendous pace, which has led to the introduction of health and safety legislation that now controls all aspects of our day to day lives. It is therefore interesting to ponder what would happen if the car had been invented today.
Let’s imagine that the automobile did not exist and that an inventor puts forward a proposal, suggesting that it would be a good idea to create a machine that has four wheels, controlled manually by someone, who for the purposes of this article will be referred to as the driver.
In order for the machine to work a large (typically 40 litre) tank of highly flammable liquid would be strapped to the underside of the vehicle and this liquid would then be ignited and pumped through an engine placed in front of the driver, in order to propel the machine forward.
The proposal would need to suggest that the flow of flammable liquid would be controlled at the whim of the driver via a pedal mechanism allowing the speed of the vehicle to be increased or decreased as required.
In order to mitigate the risks associated with the idea the proposal would suggest that rules would be put in place stating that the maximum speed that the machine would be permitted to travel and guidelines would need to be developed stating safe speed limits on each stretch of tarmac (roads) that the vehicle used.
In reality, however, nothing but the power of the engine would prevent the vehicle going far faster potentially reaching speeds of over 130 miles per hour in standard automobiles, but potentially far faster in some models.
Assuming this concept, by some miracle, was approved and allowed to go ahead, consider if you will how an inventor could sell the concept of producing 30 million of these machines and then allowing them to be used on roads travelling at these high speeds in opposite directions.
To push the boundary further is it conceivable that the idea of a motorway would be accepted; a road which is specifically designed to allow these machines to travel at high speeds and facilitate the concept of vehicles overtaking one another when a driver feels another driver isn’t travelling fast enough.
This description sounds almost farcical given that in today’s society it is necessary to do a risk assessment for the most mundane task. It seems ludicrous that such a dangerous proposition would ever be permitted to go further than planning stages, if indeed it was ever given any serious consideration.
This opens up a related debate as to whether modern health and safety principles are stifling innovation and creativity. Had the car first been proposed post millennium it is unlikely that it would have ever been allowed to go ahead; it is therefore conceivable that great inventions that could revolutionise the human race are being prevented due to bureaucracy, which, is not proportionate to the potential risks of the task, problem, or idea.
The argument can be applied in principle to many innovations that have allowed man kind to develop over the millennia, including electricity, nuclear power, and coal mining.
This article serves as a warning to society that our history is based on innovation and growth and in the modern world it would appear there is a real danger of stifling that innovation which could jeopardise progression and lead to a society that forgets how to innovate.