Sin City

A few years ago I had the privilege of participating in a project about future urban transport called SEVS (Safe Efficient Vehicle Solutions). One of the findings was that the car has three guardian angels in Sweden, i.e. needs people claim they need a car for. It is (1) driving small children to day-care, (2) taking waste to the recycling facility and (c) managing your vacation home. Commuting however, was not so high on the list and the number of car-pools is raising in Sweden.

One of the main features of the project was a scenario planning exercise using two dimensions: proactive political control vs passive politicians and radical change among consumers regarding transportation patterns and lifestyle vs no changes from today. This resulted in four scenarios: Eco Political, Incremental Development, Eco Individual and Radicalism in Harmony. My guess is what we see right now is more of Incremental Development, since the political focus right now in Europe is on managing the migrant situation rather than thinking about the environment and how to create a competitive advantage through sustainable technology. One dark horse is of course the low prices for oil and gas, while renewable energy solutions are really catching up especially after the support from politicians who want to get rid of our dependence on carbon-based import.
From Tällberg 2016
I'm ashamed to admit that I have a luxury car. It's a small KIA and I don't use it very often, especially not to work since the bus service is excellent. However, it provides me freedom from having to plan when to rent a car when I need to transport bulky items for the garden or going on a spontaneous trip somewhere nice. Although I'm very fond of my little car, I would very much like to have a Tesla instead. Or in addition. Even though I'm not totally convinced that all Elon Musks plans are good or possible, I think he's onto something really nifty: making sustainability fashionable and cool.

In the IT industry there is a saying "turning a bug into a feature". I think a similar spin is the foundation for Sin Cars, since I'm not sure that their mission statement "To make unique sport and racing car according to the latest technologies of the motorsport industry" is focusing that much on sustainability issues. But I can't deny that their cars look really hot.

In 2008, polluting was included in the new list of deadly sins by the Vatican  (although it seems like the old one is kept, and the new one being an addition, bummer).  One of Musks predictions is that we'll see more of self-driving cars (getting him into trouble with his best customers who really love to drive rather than focus on mere transport). Recently, Volvo Cars presented their plans for the
Drive Me pilot program aiming at putting 100 self-driving XC90 crossovers on Swedish streets by 2017. The Volvo Group is a step ahead, since the first truck platoon left Gothenburg already left Gothenburg on its way to Rotterdam as part of the European Truck Platooning Challenge.
From Laem Mae Phim 2012
In order to sin, you must have both intent and also be aware of that you are sinning. In spite of all the hype around artificial intelligence (again), I don't claim that cars can sin, even if they are autonomous. Perhaps it's a question best left to the insurance companies' legal departments. However, it is clear to me that some manufacturers make cars that afford sin, at least the human kind. If everyone could afford (in the monetary sense) a Tesla, would we end up with a Sin City? Perhaps that is a scenario worth exploring.

1 comment:

jeppen said...

Yes, everybody wants a Tesla. Poor as I am, I got a Leaf for now. =) I don't think I understand the four scenarios, really, but it seems we are in for some major disruptions, even if politicians do little more than establish autonomous cars-friendly regulatory frameworks. The days of widespread private car ownership should be numbered as we shift from owning and driving cars to paying for transportation as a service only.

For sure this will provide great benefits, but still a mixed blessing. We'll see kids tap their smartphones to grab an autonomous taxi, instead of biking, for instance. And when we don't need to drive ourselves, we can take more and longer trips, including longer commutes. On the upside, car pooling will probably be commonplace as the taxis will pick up people along the way (a car can easily have multiple separated cabins). And of course, we won't have to have garages and all the car-related tools and chemicals at home.

Electric drive too is a mixed blessing. It enables us to run on low-carbon energy sources, but at the same time, it frees us from using the somewhat scarce and expensive fossil which is oil, and enables us to use much cheaper and more abundant coal. We could conceivably go either way, but we can be fairly sure that it will, in the end, lead to more car transport. Perhaps Sin City is really driven by Jevons' Paradox?