Individual self driving cars are not the new freedom

I see the number of smart brains dedicated to create autonomous vehicles. The biggest arguments I hear behind the billions spent in this development that it will supposidly make travel safer once all vehicles are autonomous.

Meanwhile the Earth is on fire. People are getting poorer which means it’s a lot more difficult to afford cars. Even if these vehicles are going to be electric some days a lot of current development is done on regular gasoline cars. Ford, GM and other automotive makers are starting to sell the dream that eventually one day you are going to need a self driving car and won’t have a choice on the matter. On a 2019 interview, John Rich,the operations chief of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, described that the

“thing that worries (him) the least in this world is decreasing demand for cars,” because “we will exhaust and crush a car every four years in this business.” (John Rich, Ford, 2019)

But can he be wrong ?

A new generation of North American don’t own a car or have even have a driving license. In 2017 in the US, only 25% of 16 years old had their driving license, a significant drop from nearly half in 1983. They simply don’t see the use of a car as a necessity.

At 27 years old, I also have never owned a car and have relied on public transportation all my life to get around. I have lived in dense and more rural areas in France and Canada, and have witnessed first hand how transit can be convenient and affordable.

The idea that having a car rhymes with personal freedom is outdated. It was sold to you with the primary purpose of consumerism.

To me having access to a public transportation system that gets you to places safely and at a reasonable cost while minimizing the impact on the environment is freedom. Knowing I always have an option available that will take me to the places I need to go to is freedom. Investing the money I would have lost in a car for greater purposes is freedom. It’s knowing that my actions contribute to reducing the impact of transportation on GHG emissions. Autonomous public transportation certainly has qualities, but I don’t understand why Ford and GM and other big corporations would keep on selling the need own a personal car that would drive itself. I certainly see the need for increased shared mobility.

I look forward to the day public transportation system will efficiently be put in place in rural areas too. Options such as car sharing or purchasing a fleet as a community are viable options to get around between towns. More sharing, less individualism is what we need.

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