The autonomy of people

“Technology changes all the time; human nature, hardly ever.”

Evgeny Morozov

Figure 1 - "Technology changes all the time; human nature, hardly ever." Evgeny Morozov.

The future of transportation will certainly involve increased public transport and autonomous cars.

  • Does this mean that in the years to come, many people will not own a car, or even know how to drive?
  • What kind of transportation choices will people be making in 5, 10 or even 25 years from now?

In the first article in our series about the future of parking we looked at the autonomy of cars. In this article, we consider the autonomy of people.

People will still want to travel by car

Since the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line in Detroit, cars have transformed our lives, our environment and our society. They have given people independence and the freedom to travel. Sometimes for pleasure, but mainly to travel to work, bring the children to their schools and activities, and to go shopping. Being able to drive – and having a car readily available – is part of what makes people autonomous.

Figure 2 - The autonomy of people. Cars give people independence and the freedom of travel.

Cars are the major source of mobility

It’s a fact: cars are the number one source of mobility in our modern civilisation, and they are the most flexible form of transport we have. The average European uses their car to travel about 13,000 km each year. And people use cars for more than 70% of their journeys – even for short errands that could easily be done by bicycle or foot.

Mobility will become increasingly important

Being able to travel conveniently will become increasingly important as distances between home, work, shopping, leisure amenities and schools and colleges increase. Without suitable personal mobility, full participation in social and economic life will become difficult, particularly for those who live in remote areas, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Being mobile gives people choices. It gives them independence.

Cars are not just a means of transport

Being able to drive and owning a car are more than just a means of transport. Our economy is centred around the car, and they are even an important source of revenue for governments. If you ask people how they prefer to travel, they will say ‘by car’ because it is:

  • easy and convenient;
  • quicker;
  • more comfortable;
  • cheaper.

People also consider the car as personal space. They can use it to catch up with the world via the radio, make phone calls confidentially, listen to their own choice of music, and simply spend time alone – something that is increasingly sparse in our busy and connected lives.

People have an underlying belief that it’s their right to be comfortable, protected and autonomously mobile in our modern society. This is understandable as so many demands are made of us in everyday life. Driving your own car is an opportunity for solitude and personal time.

People will want to have a choice

Of course, there are many aspects about the driving experience that can be improved by automation. All motorists have embraced cruise control, ABS, air conditioning and in-car navigation, for example.

But we’re human, and our attention span may not last the full length of a journey. We can get distracted or become incapable of reacting in that split-second to brake and avoid a collision.

Figure 3 - Some degree of automation, to help autonomous people to drive safely.

People will welcome some degree of automation that will help them drive more safely.

  • But will they be happy if travelling in an autonomous car is slower than driving themselves? As this is what will happen in heavily congested urban areas.
  • Will they take the wheel to take a short cut, because it’s in their own interest? People want to be in control, they want to be autonomous.

Acceptance - the only barrier that matters

The greatest opportunity isn’t fully autonomous cars. It’s the range of products and services that surround semi-autonomous vehicles, embracing the autonomy of people. The key to general acceptance — the only barrier that matters — is to develop technologies that help people drive while allowing them maintain control, or at least a sense of control.

At Q-Park, we embrace the autonomy of people. We service their freedom and mobility needs with a portfolio of sustainable solutions in urban areas. We enable individual mobility through easy access to shops, work, friends and leisure amenities.

In the near future, at least, people will still own cars – autonomous or not. This means that they will need a place to park.

We will be there for them.

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