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published: 01-06-2011

Automobility in Transition?

Is the existing system of automobility in transition or not? Owning a car used to be a dream of nearly every citizen. Today, a car is more a means of transportation, although people still have a special relationship with it. This study focuses on automobility: its rise, its effects on society, changes within automobility, the process of mutual adaptation. The attention to co-evolution and adaptation is relevant because more and more car use is running up against its limits. The convenience or advantages of car-driving are increasingly overshadowed by its various nuisances (traffic jams, noise, air pollution, erosion of urban quality). In the short term, no major changes in automobility are to be expected, as governments continue to facilitate car use and car owners are unwilling to choose alternative modes of transport. But in the long term, cars will be used more selectively. 

The success of the Prius demonstrates that there is a future for electrical or hybrid cars. High speed trains, light rail and public bike schemes which are currently serving public transport users (and are consequently growing) can be expected to increasingly draw car users. Pressures on car mobility and the availability of convenient, customized mobility services will change mobility. The number of individuals who in each situation take mobility decisions based on the then available transport options will go up.

The effects of these various developments in the short run are marginal and local. But in the long run we expect to see changes not only in cars but also in car use. These conclusions are brought out by different types of analysis: on innovations, spatial planning, infrastructure provision and management, governance, cultural change. This book is unique because different kinds of expertise are brought together, as part of a historical analysis looking at co-evolution. This is also the strength of the transition perspective: to make visible niche and regime developments and processes of change at the landscape level, in their mutual coherence.