Before the days of GPS, we crossed the country with a Rand McNally and a good supply of highlighter pens.
Tech giants and automakers have been teaching robots to drive.
Robot-controlled cars have already logged millions of miles. These technological marvels promise cleaner air, smoother traffic, and tens of thousands of lives saved. But even if robots turn into responsible drivers, are we ready to be a nation of passengers?
In Are We There Yet?, Dan Albert combines historical scholarship with personal narrative to explore how car culture has suffused America’s DNA. The plain, old-fashioned, human-driven car built our economy, won our wars, and shaped our democratic creed as it moved us about. Drivers ed made teenagers into citizens; auto repair made boys into men.
With fewer young people learning to drive, the rise of ride hailing, and electric motors replacing gasoline engines, the American automobile may have reached the end of the road. When the robots take over the driver’s seat, what’s to become of us?
Are We There Yet? carries us from muddy tracks to superhighways, from horseless buggies to driverless electric vehicles. Like any good road trip, it’s an adventure so fun you don’t even notice how much you’ve learned along the way.
Are We There Yet? The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless
“An extremely engaging work of narrative nonfiction… His prose is witty and smart, self-effacing and erudite.”
—Jim Hahn, Univ. Lib., Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, Library Journal
“No matter what the future holds, you’ll be better prepared to understand, engage with and even shape it after you read Are We There Yet?than you were before.”
—Edward Niedermeyer, The Drive
“From the ‘in honor and in loving memory of’ dedication at the beginning to the final car crash at the end, Albert never loses his clever, addictively readable voice.”
—Jeva Lange, “The Best Summer Books of 2019,” The Week
“He takes readers on a fascinating journey covering a lot of ground. An exceptional work of scholarship.”
—Kirkus Starred Review
“A smart, well-written look at the subject, full of insights…”
—Jason Fogelson, Forbes
“The classic title hints at this witty take on the history, and future, of the American automobile.”
—“20 Hot Titles for Summer” Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post Dispatch
“Dan Albert is a unique voice in American letters — a historian of the car and its culture with a driver’s passion and a sense of the absurd. His wise, funny, erudite tour of the American car and road is part memoir, part history, part polemic. All of it is necessary. It’s like taking a long drive through the twentieth century with someone who can actually identify the sights.”
—Keith Gessen, author of A Terrible Country
“Written in a witty and infectious style, Are We There Yet? is a briskly paced guided tour of the economic, political, geographic, environmental, and aspirational influences cars have had on Americans, and vice versa. Dan Albert makes this history interesting and relevant in its own right while showing how it bears directly on the most recent automotive frontier: the much-anticipated driverless car. He reminds us how fundamentally intertwined the automobile, the built environment, and human nature have been, and that they will remain so for the foreseeable future.”
—Kevin L. Borg, author of Auto Mechanics: Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America
“From Henry Ford to Elon Musk, from seat belts to self-driving cars, Dan Albert takes us on a kaleidoscopic tour of the automobile’s evolution, showing us how the future of transportation cannot be understood without investigating the past.”
—Nathan Bomey, author of Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back
This is a perfect narrative for gearheads, but those who spend time behind the wheel will also surely enjoy the ride.
The Great American Road Trip, 1992
Dan and Melissa cross 25 states on the (long) way from Maryland to Michigan
Everyone said driving through Kansas would be boring, but we found it unforgettable. So much nothing. Expectantly gazing through the windshield to the vanishing point. The engine note held forever.
By the time we reached the Pacific ocean, the musky scent of kangaroo rat no longer emanated from the air vents. But the Road Vermin (RVs) remained.
The last photo of the Saab, still in good health. A few years later it would meet its demise in Brooklyn, a Swedish debutant gone to the big city for fame and fortune only to end up dead in the gutter with a needle in her arm.