Car - the Bigger Picture
New technology challenges us to rethink the car. Battery- or fuel cell powered electric propulsion is just a first step. What is the Bigger Picture in car country? What about end spillage and free up resources on an unprecedented scale?
Detroit vs Bay Area
Since Detroit still tends to think of personal mobility in terms of having four-wheeled metal boxes roll off the assembly line and selling them to the public, new initiatives have mainly gotten off the ground in California, where stricter car laws and regulations and automotive entrepreneurship seem to go together remarkably well. We see Tesla determined to put an end to the burning of fossil fuels to propel cars, Google fanatically working on self-driving pods, and TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) like Uber and Lyft push the shared use of cars by having their owners chauffeur whoever needs a ride.
Is Google already thinking of mind-controlling the car?
Autonomous drive will be of a game-changing influence and importance unseen before, particularly when used in a car-shared capacity. The effects can be that people no longer crave for their own set of wheels, that public transport can be replaced some time in the future, that there will be less need for parking spaces and the present infrastructure more than suffices. Still, we may be a very long way off from fully autonomous cars. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE estimates that it may take decades.
The car, EV or not, faces multiple threats
It looks like Detroit, with its traditional emphasis on the selling of cars that are primarily meant to be enjoyed by their owners, is almost pushed off the chart by the Bay Area onslaught. Detroit's business model of selling as many cars possible, is threatened over a wide front. For the exact same reason Elon Musk says he wants to look into what he calls ‘shared mobility’ and self-driving. He may have more to be concerned of. EV sales may come under pressure because of structurally lower oil prices and governments reassessing the fiscal treatment of EVs. The Netherlands already decided to treat the Model S and Model X as regular automobiles when leased.
End of ‘automotive spillage’
If you examine the schematic overview, you can see that the color-coded aspects are interrelated. Zero emission ain’t enough, energy efficiency is important too. Particularly since the electricity to propel electric cars is often generated in fossil-fueled energy plants. Strap Tesla's standard 500 kg battery pack to a guy in a streamlined suit, for argument’s sake, and he'll be able to travel the U.S. continent, instead of feeling anxious over the 300 mile range in a 2.5 metric ton weighing Model S or Model X. Google hovers above ‘robo-drive’ and ‘shared use’ as it sees them as integral parts. For the same reason Uber hovers above ‘shared use’ and ‘owner-driven’. But as it faces growing criticism by chauffeurs who can barely make ends meet, it plans to invest in robo-driven cars too.
Less is More
The good thing is that energy- and space efficiency have a common denominator. Sleekness offers the possibility to make vehicles substantially lighter, even safer, and to use freeways and parking spaces more efficiently. What’s more, robo drive 'comes natural' to a vehicle that's compact and sleek. When the driver has a feel for a car's outer dimensions, as opposed to driving a big SUV, he/she will feel more at ease when the auto-pilot is switched on. There's also less surface area, less risk to run into other road users, and vice versa. And sleekness makes for a vehicle that can be enjoyed in whole new ways, in manual mode that is. Need more capacity? Borrow, rent, share-use a big car... or pull out whichever cherished four-wheeler you keep in the garage.
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