Freeway, crossroads or cul-de-sac : the crisis of personal mobility

Bailey, Peter J. C. and Anthony, Peter (1999) Freeway, crossroads or cul-de-sac : the crisis of personal mobility. Masters thesis, Lancaster University.

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This dissertation has two main objectives, to build a social history of the car and its industry from invention to the present and to develop future scenarios, using insights gained from published views of the industry, its 'insiders' and 'outsiders', lobbies and regulators. An underlying theme is one of economic and organisational growth with its tendency to consolidate, complicate and fragment with maturity. Also, the car's success has had other chronic side-effects - waste-creation, pollution, and traffic congestion. These factors have become progressively apparent to the car's 'enemies' and have started to leave their mark on the automotive world through increasing lobbying and regulation. The car's allies are now accepting that something must give - though the protection of personal 'automobility' is rigourously defended. A 'time line' of the car and industry has been created, built around five automotive 'generations' from 1900 to c2020. The generational model is adopted from William Strauss and Neil Howe's 'The Fourth Turning' (op cit 1997). The character of each automotive generation is formed around pseudo-seasonal 'turning points' - from the winter 'crisis' of the horse when Ford's Model 'T' gained ascendancy over the 'craft' of the 'horseless carriage', to a spring 'high' which saw the ascendant GM of Sloan ignite mass consumption following the crisis of the Depression. Subsequently, 'summer' matured with mass customisation leading to the current 'awakening' of an entropic 'autumnal' generation where manufacturer numbers and 'real' product differentiation shrinks, whilst 'virtual' product and service diversity grows bewilderingly and the problems of large scale personal mobility assert themselves. Such diversity and declining disparity hides the underlying threat of decimation of the breed - akin to Stephen Jay Gould's nature of history (op cit 1989). Finally, the paper looks at what may happen in the next destructive 'winter' generation - critically examining the views of environmental lobbies, regulators, the industry and its 'gurus' and developing a personal view of an automobility future developed from two emerging themes - the unraveling of scale and the unraveling of ownership.

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17 Jul 2019 11:30
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11 Apr 2024 23:28