Pneumatic tires proved to be much lighter, faster, and easier riding than the solid rubber tires, which they soon displaced, and by 1900 several rubber manufacturers were making bicycle and carriage tires a considerable part of their business…In the meantime the automobile was emerging as a practical commercial product. The historical background of this highly complicated triumph of the machine age includes most of the scientific, technical, industrial and commercial developments since the steam engine.
- John Dean Gaffey, The Productivity of Labor in the Rubber Tire Manufacturing Industry, 1940.
Whether it’s made from natural latex or petrochemicals, most of the rubber produced today goes into automobile tires. This has been the case for more than a hundred years. In 1919 roughly 66% of rubber went towards automobile tires; the figure today is around 78%. Because of this, the way that automobiles are engineered, manufactured, and marketed has had a huge effect on the rubber industry.
I have a hard time with cars. Cars stress me out, whether I’m driving one, being driven in one, or just walking past a parking lot. I wish there were, like, way fewer cars, and I don’t really understand why anyone would feel differently. You might see this as naïve; the reasons for cars and car culture are painfully obvious, and the reasons that people give for enjoying their cars (or simply accepting automobiles as a part of normal life) can often be taken at face value. Whether I agree with it or not, there exists a widespread belief that cars provide economic mobility and independence. People enjoy the physical sensation of driving a car, and they enjoy the convenience of moving their belongings without much strain to their bodies. People like the privacy of their cars’ windows, and climate control systems, and stereos, and they enjoy arriving at their destinations feeling relaxed and composed, something that they perceive is enabled by cars. I acknowledge these benefits – and I would prefer to live in a world that offers better alternatives.