For one example of how the traditional automobile could become obsolete in the not-too-distant future, look at the self-driving car that Google developed last year. It was able to drive thousands of miles on the streets and highways of California with minimal human intervention. It's not yet ready to take away the human controls entirely, or to be released to the public...but GM and Honda have both targeted 2017 as a release date for self-driving cars. Even if they're a few years off, it's definitely coming in the near future.
How will this change society? It will eliminate the need for personal automobile ownership for the vast majority of people. The main reason that people choose to own cars instead of taking public transit is because of the convenience of door-to-door transportation. You get in the car at your house and go exactly where you need to go, whereas you can't do that with a city bus or a train or a metro. Once cars are able to drive themselves, you'll be able to get that kind of convenience WITHOUT owning a car. You could just summon the nearest car with a smartphone app, and it would come pick you up. This would allow for much more efficient transportation, since our personal cars tend to sit unused for over 90% of the day.
Fewer cars would greatly improve environmental efficiency. Aside from the expected upgrades in hydrogen/electric cars and batteries, fewer cars would mean that less real estate would need to be used as parking lots or highways, and could be left to nature (or used to develop cities more efficiently, thereby reducing sprawl). Additionally, cars will soon be able to communicate with one another and warn each other of traffic jams, thereby reducing traffic congestion, which is a major source of environmental inefficiency. Combine this with the self-driving aspect, and cars would be able to arrange themselves in highway traffic patterns that minimize the amount of energy needed to produce themselves forward, much like racecar drivers do.
This is just one vision for how emerging transportation technologies will soon be able to dramatically improve our environment and our lives. I'm sure there are plenty of other innovations that people haven't even thought of yet.
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Practical? For in-city driving, absolutely. The battery capacity requirements for such a thing aren't nearly as high. As someone else mentioned, battery technology is improving rapidly. I bet by 2050 Europeans will be laughing that they ever drove gasoline-powered cars in the first place. (for personal transportation anyway. I suspect heavy trucks/machinery will remain diesel powered for a much longer time)
America, not quite as sure. It's a pretty sprawled out country.
Last edited by Deuce; 03-28-11 at 09:34 PM.
One of you will end up here next!
That's going to be cheaper, how?
I was interested to see the accident rate and any correlation that could be made with the number of cars on the road but I for the life of me can't find good reliable reports from the same years. At Road casualties in Great Britain: main results It would appear as if casualties have actually gone down since 2002. (only lists 02-07) It does seem, though, through my searches that congestion in UK (and London specifically) has in fact risen, although. This congestion has led to the Congestion Charge Zone (a toll road in central and western London.
London congestion charge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This research leads me to believe that the number of accidents does not seem to be directly correlated to the congestion. This does not however mean that congestion is not a serious problem. It seems to me like something with the infrastructure needs to be redone but unfortunately, as it has been pointed out, European cities are not exactly planned upon major highway systems.
At this point the choices become:
1) Somehow improve the infrastructure to handle more traffic
2) Somehow remove vehicles from the roadways
3) Keep things the same and see the problem grow
I don't know if the push to ban fuel based (very important) cars off the road will help with congestion as we simply cannot know what infrastructure and technology will be like in 2050. I do however, support green technology. It is essential to our future and the future off our children to come. Whether or not government mandate is the way to fix this problem is quite frankly impossible to predict, but if it helps make the push to cleaner, cheaper, more efficient energy sign me up!