‘Those travelling along country roads at night should send up a rocket every mile and then wait 10 minutes for the road to clear.’
That was the decree when cars were first introduced to Pennsylvania. The Farmer’s Anti Automobile Association went on to order that:
‘…if a motorist sees a horse coming down the road, the driver must pull off to the side of the road and cover his vehicle with canvas. If the horse is still scared the driver must get out of his car and take it apart until the horse isn’t scared any more.’
It seems the US has a history of crazy regulations - even today, restrictions and laws are being put in place to protect the status quo. As a manufacturer Tesla are everything but standard - raising the bar for high-performance electric cars. Despite that, it’s currently illegal for Tesla to sell cars directly to buyers in Texas, Arizona and New Jersey - there are also restrictions as to how many vehicles they’re allow to sell; in a year in Maryland and Virginia - it’s just 150.
In these restricted states you can now visit what is effectively a Tesla ‘Gallery’ - a place where salespeople can’t sell, can’t tell you what a car costs or even advise you how to purchase one. Never a business to be bound by limits Tesla adapted. Right now, you can visit their website, pick out whatever combination of features you like, and then order your car as if it were a Macbook.
It didn’t come as a massive surprise that the car dealers in the US raised more than their eyebrows, Tesla’s open ecommerce approach may be aligned with consumer ideals but not the automotive industry’s interest, all $676 billion of it. Even more worryingly for those averse to this type of innovation, Tesla have now looked at their supply chain too - well there’s no point in being restricted by limited stock when you can build a Gigafactory.
Yep, it seems States in the US have once again been sent scrambling - raising barriers and adapting existing laws in an attempt to ‘protect’ their dealerships. Why bother? Dealerships will inevitably disappear anyway - you will simply book a test drive online and a car will pick you up.
“Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death.” Alabama
Governments, big business and the uninformed always default to restrict the inevitable, imposing draconian laws which become irrelevant before they are even passed. With the pace of innovation so fast now, legislation cannot keep up.
“It is considered an offense to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.” Alaska
Look at the restrictions on Drones. You can currently take personal footage of you and your mates shooting down a mountain and post it on YouTube… cool. But using a drone to help find avalanche victims in conjunction with The State Department - oh hang on - no, that’s illegal. In fact, Governors in the state of Oregon want to make illegal for anyone to even own a flying camera. In Santa Monica you can’t fly anything - at all - not even a toy plane in your backyard.
“It is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police before entering the town.” Washington
Even when not looking at new, “disruptive” tech, the rules are crazy. Currently it is still illegal for an American to unlock their smartphone. A minor-misdemeanor you think - nope, up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
And then there’s good old Bitcoin. Sure Russia is attempting to ban its use. China claims it’s already banned it. Germany has declared that it’s not legal tender. Even Apple removed the Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain from its App Store - the last remaining Bitcoin wallet available for iOS devices, without warning. Clearly Apple has ambitions of developing its own virtual currency. Of course Governments don’t want to endorse it, especially the Chinese, as they rely on the ability to half the value of our money by printing more of it.
It’s not just the US. Us Brits have a chequered history of weird and wonderful regulations too. We all went crazy for floral pattern clothes and soft furnishing in the 1800s - which led to Chintz being banned throughout the Kingdom for fear that the it would cripple the English and French Mills that couldn’t make it - of course people found the loopholes…
So like Polaroids position on digital photography, or Blockbusters refusing to buy Netflix for $50m, or Sony’s 99% market share with the Walkman before the iPod - history proves that disruption can be slowed, but it can’t be stopped. Those in positions of power have two options - they can embrace, push and cater for it - or hope that legislation can preserve their industry while the lawyer fees drain their balance sheets.
“Riding a merry-go-round on Sundays is considered a crime.” Idaho