The World that Chose the Machine: an evolutionary view of the technological race in the automobile history

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2013)


The lock-out of a carbon dependent technology of transportation requires the full understanding of the factors which caused the lock-in at the turn of the 20th century. Literature review of the explanations to the prevailing of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) technology over its steam and electric competitors are classified in sociological view, economic view and technical view, and argued unsatisfactory. An evolutionary view based on Darwin’s variety generation, struggle for existence, coevolution and natural selection is offered as a better explanation. This study uses a historical methodology to analyse and interpret narrative sources. Evidence suggests that the different technologies were not “better” or “worse” per se, but environmental changes transformed technological varieties into advantages or disadvantages in the technological race, selecting a prevailing standard.

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