One of the recent big transportation stories in Seattle concerns the city's first automated parking garage. The garage lives beneath Spire, a 41-story tower just for those with the means (the 5%) to live comfortably in luxury. (The Spire cost $350 million to build.)
Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times' transportation reporter, writes:
Spire residents [will] leave their cars at one of three elevators, then tap a key card. A red dolly under the car sprouts steel tines to lift the car a few inches. The elevator then descends like a trap door. Once the car is lowered into the garage, it’s shuttled to another dolly that moves it to a parking place. Multiple dollies on rails transfer cars across 266 stalls in levels B2 to B9.This robot, we are told, is popular in dense places such as Tokyo and New York City. It's also being promoted as friendly to the environment because it's electrical and does not require energy inputs such as ventilation and lights. In this story, the robots will save us.
But what the Spire tells us is that cars are still in the future.
“There’s a lot of talk about cars going away. I don’t buy it.” This is Paul Menzies speaking. He's the CEO of the company, Laconia, that owns the capital that made the 343-unit building on Denny Way a reality. Apparently, his self-understanding has him tuned to the future, but he's actually stuck in the past. The past is all that keeps this future of cars going and going.
In Robert Heinlein's 1941 novel, Methuselah's Children,, you will find this passage (or past future):
Mary had no intention of letting anyone know where she was going. Outside her friend's apartment she dropped down a bounce tube to the basement, claimed her car from the robopark, guided it up the ramp and set the controls for North Shore. The car waited for a break in the traffic, then dived into the high-speed stream and hurried north. Mary settled back for a nap.
The robopark is also featured in the first act of the 2004 movie I, Robot, which is set in a year that will certainly see very little ice on the North Pole, 2035, and that stars a robot-hating Will Smith.
What all of this makes clear is the nature of the future. It's not something you go to in time. It is instead better seen as something that comes to and shapes the present you're in. If you place cars in that future, then you will indeed see today's roboparks sprouting below luxury towers. The future is not a fantastical dimension. It is as real as a heart attack or the smoke of wildfires. If you want to see a present that is consistent with the reality of global warming, then you must claim and change the future.