This essay deals with one of the main effects the competition between road and rail had on the capacity for innovation in the Italian railway sector, considering the technological development that led to the birth of light railcars with internal combustion engine (the so called "littorine") and the role played in this process by Alberto Laviosa, an Italian entrepreneur and inventor who worked on several projects aimed at hybridizing the road transport means with the railway ones. The spread of littorine was the result of the encounter of two energy paradigms, on the one hand the declining one based on steam and on the other the rising one based on oil. These paradigms, however, did not just imply different cultural technologies, they also reflected different cultural attitudes. The author therefore adopts a complex research strategy, connecting technological changes with a broader economical, political and social context.
Keywords: History of transportation, railcars, technological innovation, Laviosa, road, railway.