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The End of Car Culture, by Elisabeth Rosenthal

Stashed in: Young Americans, Teh Internets, America!, America, Self-driving Cars, My Cold Dead Fingers

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Elisabeth Rosenthal writes:

America’s love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling. When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company.  As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.


If the pattern persists — and many sociologists believe it will — it will have beneficial implications for carbon emissions and the environment, since transportation is the second largest source of America’s emissions, just behind power plants. But it could have negative implications for the car industry. Indeed, companies like Ford and Mercedes are already rebranding themselves “mobility” companies with a broader product range beyond the personal vehicle.


A study last year found that driving by young people decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009. The millennials don’t value cars and car ownership, they value technology — they care about what kinds of devices you own, Ms. Sheller said. The percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the availability of the Internet, Mr. Sivak’s research has found. Specifically, why spend an hour driving to work when you could take the bus or train and be online?

The Internet is killing cars.

Why drive when you can be online instead?

What does the global picture look like?  Are Americans ahead of the curve, with emerging markets a few decades behind?

What's funny is that emerging markets are see a car as a means of upward mobility.

On the other hand, they don't see DRIVING as necessary.

If Google can make cheap self-driving cars available soon enough, they could do to drive-able cars what wireless carriers did to landline telecoms in the developing world: completely leapfrog them!

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