Residents throughout Ellis County came out to Getzendaner Park on Saturday afternoon to explore the past and learn about the future of automotive innovation. The Waxahachie Chautauqua Preservation Society hosted its annual assembly with this year’s theme entitled “Car Crazy.”

 “We have antique cars in the park, and in the auditorium we have a program featuring various speakers and debate clubs that have come to talk about the future of cars,” Chautauqua Preservation Society Ex-officio board member George Cole said. “The reception has been good from the audience. We are really pleased with the turnout and the support that the community has given us.”

Cole said the event kicked off on Friday night with the showing of the Pixar film “Cars.” The preservation society showed the film in the park and drew a lot of families out for the event, Cole said.

Opening up the auditorium on Saturday was keynote speaker Dr. Ed Seymour, who talked about the future of transportation and the futuristic technology we have today. Seymour works for the Texas Transportation Institute, which helps to figure out what the transportation needs of tomorrow will be and how to be ready for them.  

Before the invention of the automobile at the turn of the century, Seymour said a growing concern throughout the country was the accumulation of horse manure. The invention of the automobile later on helped to remedy that problem.    

Seymour said now technology has advanced automotive design so much that auto manufactures such as Nissan have announced that in seven years they will be selling self-driving cars.

One of the more famous self-divining cars is the car used by Google. These vehicles called Google Chauffeurs have driven almost 500,000 miles without an accident, Seymour said.

Seymour said self-driving vehicles would impact society as a whole from people’s personal lives to how business is conducted. People who no longer have to drive that 45-minute commute can use that time to prepare for a meeting or to finish a report.

While a fully automated car that is available to the public is several years away, Seymour noted that there are several innovations on the road that enable self-driving cars.

Seymour went on to talk about the specifics of each of these technologies.

Another “Car Crazy” presentation held in a tent next to the Chautauqua auditorium was on the 10 greatest car scenes in movie history. Christopher Kelly, a film critic for Texas Monthly, included “Back to the Future,” “The French Connection,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Road Warrior” and “Bonnie and Clyde” in his top 10, with “Thelma & Louise” taking the no. 1 spot.

Kelly said these films define the place of the automobile in American cinema through the past centaury and have had a tremendous impact in popular culture. These films also help to explore the possibilities cars unlock, places you can go, romance, freedom and fantasy.

Parked at Getzendaner adjacent to the auditorium were classic cars from Midlothian Classic Wheels and the Dallas Model A Club. Guests also had the opportunity to learn from watching a pin striping demonstration from Carl’s Custom Cars or listening to see the Texas A&M University Debate Team discuss the pros and cons of self-driving cars.

History came alive in the park as actor and scholar Hank Fincken gave a portrayal of Henry Ford.

Waxahachie Daily Light Editor Neal White, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist who has covered the automotive industry for more than 25 years, gave a presentation about alternative fuels for automobiles – one of his favorite subjects.

White said a lot of the alterative fuel vehicles, which auto manufactures are looking at and exploring today, were being considered 100 years ago.

White said due to government Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards put in place by President Jimmy Carter’s administration in the 1970s, automakers had to start considering the mile per gallon rating of the vehicles they produced.

These regulations sparked the forward-thinking fuel-efficient designs that are a reality today. As engineers reach the maximum fuel efficiency of the internal combustion engine, auto industry leaders have turned to other fuels and engine designs.

White discussed the various types of alternative fuels and designs such as hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas, electricity and ethanol or biofuels. He explained that what drives the production of these vehicles is the demand from consumers.

Despite the rain that interrupted the late afternoon outdoor presentations, some guests took shelter and continued to enjoy the assemblies’ attractions into the evening.

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