What’s wrong with cars?

One of the key themes of The Melbourne Urbanist is the need to price road space. Cars will be with us in one form or another for a long time yet, whether we like it or not. Autonomous travel provides enormous benefits but cars also have a dark side, so they can’t just be ignored.

I’m therefore pleased that Bern Grush from Skymeter, a Toronto company specialising in road use metering technology, has given me permission to publish the stylishly written Preface from his forthcoming book, (tentatively titled) Overcoming Global Gridlock.

The book is about the need for road pricing and how it can be achieved. Here he lays out the issues and challenges with the car. But a warning – this is not the standard anti-car diatribe you’ve read countless times before. He’s actually pro-car although, as he puts it, in a balanced way. Read on:

Overcoming Global Gridlock – Preface

“We have reached a crisis point with cars and trucks. We face mounting congestion. We need to reduce both emissions and oil consumption pretty much everywhere. In many countries funding for road building and maintenance is becoming ever harder to sustain.  All the while, demand for personal mobility and goods movement continues to expand. And there is little to indicate many people are willing to give up the private vehicle.

If the autonomous vehicle has so many problems stacked against it, but demand for it is increasing, you can see that something has to give. This is predicted for the coming decade or two.

Cars are important to us. Judging by their use and abuse, the mile-for-mile preference we have for them over other forms of mobility, the growth in their numbers, the increasing number of vehicle miles travelled each year and a hundred other indicators, it is the car we are addicted to rather than oil.  Oil is just one symptom. Most of the sustainability problem as it is now will survive the end of oil.

We can list a lot of bad things about our cars, but there are also a lot of good things.  Perhaps the good outweighs the bad – I, for one, think that it does. There are a lot of reasons we have so many cars and there are many solutions offered to deal with their overwhelming ubiquity. We needn’t review those things here. You already have an opinion. You already like or dislike cars. I am probably unable to change your mind. You already have a car (or two) or wish you had one. Or perhaps you have even managed to get rid of yours. Or not yet. Read the rest of this entry »