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5 Centuries after the apocalypse, the city of San Francisco has made humongous leap back towards civilization. Their city has the most advanced medical, nuclear, and engineering technology, and are even starting their own space travel agency, and have sent 3 satellites into orbit. Even though they have all of this technology, they still haven’t tried to reinvent automobiles to use for transportation.

So my question is, is it plausible for the SF-ers to not have automobiles, but still have an advanced civilization?

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  • $\begingroup$ SF is a poor place to launch rockets. Invade south, and launch from SoCal. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 6, 2018 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ That’s were they launch from. They have an embassy in SoCal, and they lets them launch there $\endgroup$
    – Qualos
    Apr 6, 2018 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ By "automobile" I suspect you really mean petrol or diesel driven engine. There are ways to drive a wheeled vehicle without these and you still have an automobile. Please clarify. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2018 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ I mean a regular automobile, I.e. a car powered by oil or electricity $\endgroup$
    – Qualos
    Apr 7, 2018 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ We burned all the easily (and even pretty difficultly) accessible oil. Where are they getting it from? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 7, 2018 at 1:02

3 Answers 3

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There isn't a plausible reason

Yours is an example of what I call a "technology dichotomy." Technology exists that depends on an earlier technology, but that earlier technology doesn't exist. This can't be so.

The technologies you describe depend on ground transportation. You could claim that the city jumped over wheeled, combustion automobiles and went straight to hoover craft or gravitics, but that's just sophistry.

The truth is you must move materials. Raw materials. Manufactured materials. Food, metal, wood, you name it. The amount of goods that demand transport for a high-tech society of any reasonable size (and you'd need tens if not hundreds of thousands minimum to support nuclear power and a space program) is astronomical. And before you had a space program and nuclear power, you had carts, which would lead very naturally to motorized carts (aka, automobiles).

And it's the nature of all things (from evolution to working in an office) to take the path of least resistance. If it's cheaper to build a wheel, you'll use it to pull potatoes, even if you have gravitics.

I'd say you were trying to put the cart before the horse, but in reality, you're trying to put space flight before the cart — and that's impossible.

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  • $\begingroup$ I never said they had hover crafts or gravitics $\endgroup$
    – Qualos
    Apr 6, 2018 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ The @JaycieBeveri answer is the perfect plausible reason. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 6, 2018 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn perfect? They have space flight and nuclear power, but no automatic transmission? Have you ever looked iinto what it takes to feed a city? $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Qualos, No, you didn't. I'm merely using them as examples. How do you intend to feed your city and provide the raw materials for your advanced technology without automobiles? $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Qualos ok, they're a slave society. How does the (agricultural and mineral) fruit of the earth get from the source to the city? (I've got more questions if you say "rail".) $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 7, 2018 at 18:13
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It is San Francisco. They have expanded their cable car system everywhere.

And the wire-pullers' guild is powerful enough to prohibit using an engine to power a wheeled vehicle.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this one. It's similar to the collusion to keep electric cars off the market, and you can expand it to however many guilds/unions are involved in the operation and maintenance of the system. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 17:00
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Have you ever been to San Francisco? It's hilly. I mean, it's renowned-for-being-hilly-hilly. All those steep hills are heck on manual transmissions, and at the beginning of the car era, manual was all anyone had - automatic wasn't invented until 1921.

At this point in time in your story, automatic transmission hasn't been invented. So either they treat cars as a curiosity that's been invented elsewhere, or as an idea that would be impractical in reality.

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    $\begingroup$ An automated transmission is not required to create an automobile. In fact you don't even need selectable gears - that just makes things more efficient for some engines. I have no idea why you think manual transmission is a problem for "hilly" driving - it's done all over the world. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2018 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG - Wouldn't a single gear car still need to... downshift, somehow, to come to a stop? $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - So, you live in a city of almost entirely 20+ percent grade hills, and multiple stoplights up each hill, and the average manual transmission in your city doesn't need repairs sooner in its lifetime than an average manual transmission in a city that's flat? sftravel.com/article/san-francisco’s-hills-their-dizziest San Francisco is punishing on manual transmissions, and that has nothing to do with what I may or may not believe about them. There's no reason to use someone pointing out geographic facts as an opportunity to be snide by taking her statement out of context. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JaycieBeveri: How did the residents of S.F. cope before the invention of automatic gear boxes? You are right that automatics are of course better suited than manual transmissions for urban driving in general; and urban driving plus hilly terrain do indeed induce a tendency for clutches to wear more quickly. But that's not the point; the point is, would a lack of automatic gearboxes preclude the use of automobiles in a hilly city: and the answer is quite obviously no, it wouldn't. They had motor cars in S.F. before automatic gearboxes, and even before the invention of synchronized gearboxes. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 7, 2018 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @JaycieBeveri To stop an a wheeled vehicle you need to apply friction, typically to the driving wheels but it can also be done by directly increasing contact with the ground. The gear you are in has nothing to do with stopping. Gears have to do with slowing down by allowing engine revs to remain optimal while using gearing ratio to reduce the rotational speed of the drive wheel (and of course the opposite). However in first gear (the lowest manual gear) your car will still try to move forward, as it will will in reverse (and most cars have only one reverse gear). Brakes stop you. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2018 at 12:55

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