A year ago, journalist Kara Swisher told the New York Times: “Owning a car will soon be like owning a horse—a quaint hobby, an interesting rarity, and a cool thing to take out for a spin on the weekend.” Now with COVID-19 the change seemed to come faster than expected. Is this the opportunity to exchange the normal and start a quaint hobby?
Governments around the world seemed to begin liking the idea. Cities like Milan are working in repurposing the roads to give more space to bikes and pedestrians. COVID-19 pushed New York legislators to open roadways to pedestrians. How long have different organisations around the world lobbied to get more walkways and bike lines but were ignored with a mild smile? Often, we heard the words “this is not possible” – but earth seems to have a different opinion. And suddenly things are possible. Empty roads, fresh air, and a lot of motivation.
Some cities did not need a pandemic to work on their future. Dubai started to pave its way in 2013 with the plan to transform into a smart city using technology and innovation. No paperwork – just blockchain. Only smart mobility which will enable individuals to move around quickly, easily, and safely. Traffic should be brought down with autonomous vehicles, smart infrastructure and reducing the need to travel by providing access to certain services digitally. Some might argue that this is all well and good for new cities which don’t have to struggle with narrow roads and century old habits. But habits can change – rather fast – as we have learned in the last few weeks.
Being asked to stay in our neighbourhood showed us that we can buy a lot of essentials just a few steps from home. The daily commute is currently gone – and for several people for good. How often will we need a car in the future? Can we really bother to buy and maintain our own car and then search for parking each day? Is this luxury really worth it? Why would we want to put all this precious capital into one single item we hardly use and which depreciates so quickly over time?
The cities of today give us already good choices to move around freely, such as car or bike sharing. But is this not a good time to think even a step further and fast forward towards Autonomous Vehicles? Consumers do not need to own a vehicle and face the daily stress to manoeuvre through traffic jams. Instead they can sit back and relax while being chauffeured to their destination – without even having to share the car with a driver. Precious parking could be turned into walkways or bike lines. Last mile deliveries could be done by robots. Social distancing would be much easier.
Cities and towns: sit back and think – then use the momentum and fast forward your community into a future with fresh air, open space and advanced technologies!
My hopes are up: maybe after all a car will really become a quaint hobby rather than a necessity.
Written by Nicoletta Moss
Images: Ridhwan Nordin, Darcey Beau