Skip to content

CEE Seminar: Peter Norton, University of Virginia

Title: "Autonorama: Perpetuating Car Dependency the Smart Way."

Sustainability demands innovation, but we’ve been sold high-tech novelty instead. “Innovation,” once a synonym of “improvisation,” has been reduced to high-tech novelty. For 80 years such techno-futurism has been a dangerous distraction. In urban mobility most recent high-tech innovation has been committed, ironically, to perpetuating the car dependency we inherited from the twentieth century. The approach is justified on the grounds of misleading versions of history that characterize car dependency as inevitable. High-tech car dependency cannot be equitable, healthful, sustainable, efficient, or affordable. Real urban mobility innovation will require reinventing innovation. We already have everything we need. A complete innovation palette includes high tech, zero tech, and everything between. We can take advantage of users’ intelligence instead of striving to engineer it out. We can learn from history instead of disdaining it. With full-spectrum innovation, we can do today, at far less cost, what the techno-futurists have promised to deliver for unlimited cost at an ever-receding future date.

Peter Norton is associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, where he teaches history of technology, social dimensions of engineering, research, and professional ethics. He is the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City (MIT Press). His article “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street,” published in Technology and Culture, won the Abbott Payson Usher Prize of the Society for the History of Technology. He has published work in transportation history and policy, traffic safety, and autonomous vehicles. He is a member of the University of Virginia’s Center for Transportation Studies. Norton is a winner of the Hartfield-Jefferson Scholars Teaching Prize and of the Trigon Engineering Society’s Hutchinson Award “for dedication and excellence in teaching."

Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 3:40pm to 4:55pm

John D. Tickle Engineering Building, 405
851 Neyland Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations




Current Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public


CEE Seminar, CEE Spring 2020

Civil and Environmental Engineering
Google Calendar iCal Outlook

Recent Activity