Ecocentricity Blog: The Time Traveler's Car

By: John A. Lanier
Sep 18, 2019 9:30 AM ET
Summary: 

Decades from now, I think we’ll all look back on this time in the automotive industry as a turning point. Sure, Tesla might be a big winner looking back, but they won’t be the only ones.

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It’s hard to remember the last time I went to a movie theater. I’m not anti-theater at all, it’s just that I don’t mind waiting six months longer than everyone else to watch a flick. I travel enough that I know the movies I like will eventually end up on the tiny screen in the airplane seat in front of me, and tiny screens ain’t so bad.

Actually, I can recall the last movie I saw in theaters – Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I don’t wait for Star Wars.

Anywho, all of this is to say that I finally watched Avengers: Endgame. Spoiler alert – this blog may not be for you if you haven’t seen it and plan to. I enjoyed the film, but this will be a gripe post. Ready…set…go.

Yet again, a movie makes time travel a core premise of the plot and fails to adequately address the time travel paradox. I’ll do my best to quickly explain the paradox, but apologies in advance if this twists your mind into a knot.

The paradox is that if a person travels backward in time to change the past, any change they cause (i.e. stopping John Wilkes Booth from assassinating President Lincoln) will change the history that led to such person deciding to time travel, negating the causative act that prevented the original reality (i.e. Lincoln being shot) from coming to pass. The double-negative in that last bit of the paradox means that the original reality is all that can exist. Now go get some ibuprofen for that headache; I’ll wait……………….

I’m not saying that the paradox can’t be solved in literature or film; I’m just saying I haven’t seen it elegantly solved yet. Endgame tried, but in my opinion it failed. Take the scene where Captain America fights himself. Why was the present day Captain America surprised when he ran into his former self? That event should have been in his memory, because he was that guy. But alas no, and so once again the paradox saps any enjoyment I can have when watching films dabble with it.

It’s still fun to pretend that time travel can be real though. And in that spirit, I will play along. What if the future leadership of Cox Automotive used time travel to make their recent decision to invest $350 million in Rivian?

I say that because, decades from now, I think we’ll all look back on this time in the automotive industry as a turning point. Companies that bet big on the electric vehicle movement will be seen as prescient, so any time travelers would, if I’m right, be smart to come back to this time. Sure, Tesla might be a big winner looking back, but they won’t be the only ones. For my money, Cox’s big bet on Rivian is smart.

In brief, Rivian is trying to do what Tesla did, but with adventure vehicles. In late 2020, they plan to begin delivering fully-electric pickup trucks and SUVs, with some models topping 400 miles of range. I spent some time poking around the website, and while the offering price (starting at $69,000) is out of our family’s price range, I bet they’ll find robust demand for the vehicles. And hopefully after a successful launch, Rivian will be able to offer vehicles at a lower price point (again, like Tesla).

The time for electric vehicles has come (and with the climate crisis, not a day too soon). Before we know it, the internal combustion engine will be a thing of the past.

Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858