Transportation didn’t change much for most of the two millennia after the Romans revolutionized land travel with their network of flat, straight roads. Elaborate carriages and Conestoga wagons might have looked strange to a Roman charioteer, but he would have understood their function instantly. The nineteenth century saw the development and proliferation of railroads, the first major reduction in transport friction. Even today, the comparatively low physical friction of steel wheels on steel track makes traditional rail transport a cost-effective freight alternative.
But, the automobile changed everything. Cars didn’t have to be fed and didn’t generate manure. Over time, they became more efficient and reliable, ...