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Will cars eventually vanish off our roads?

Posting in Cities

Are we closer to the end of the automobile era than we realize?

In an interview with Maurie Cohen, an academic who studies how society adapts to different kinds of technology, he explained that these technological shifts usually happen so gradually we don't realize when the end is nigh. In his words; "we're probably closer to the end of the automobility era than we are to its beginning."

Instead of it being a cataclysmic moment, vehicles may simply vanish off our roads when they become irrelevant to modern society -- in the same way that home landlines and black-and-white television sets are disappearing off the map.

See also: Electric buses that charge themselves on the road, an unlikely future

Thanks to rising gas prices, the next generation who can often ill-afford a personal vehicle, and the rise of "carpools" and a heavier reliance on transport in large cities, perhaps in the long-term, cars may simply become economically unaffordable or may transform completely to what we know now.

Hybrid technology, electric vehicles (EVs), changing city infrastructure and the economy all have a part to play. As the Atlantic writes, "Sitting in the present, automobiles are so embedded in society that it’s hard to envision any future without them. But no technology – no matter how essential it seems in its own era -- is ever permanent."

Even though we can't see it yet, the car may not remain a central element in society for much longer. "The replacement of the car is probably out there," Cohen says. "We just don't fully recognize it yet. And people don't have the perspective that extends beyond their own lives. They were born into a society and culture where cars were everywhere, and they can’t envision –- with good reason -– living their lives without a car."

Via: Fast Co.Design

Image credit: Jonathan Kos-Read

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— By on March 28, 2013, 2:14 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure