June 8, 2022

Opinion: As automotive technology advances, who gets left behind?

In 1908, Henry Ford unveiled the Model T. It was not the first mass-produced car, but after adopting many cost-cutting strategies, it was able to lower its price so that many people could afford it. .

It eventually sold 15 million copies, effectively putting the whole nation on wheels with people switching from horse-drawn carriages to horse-less carriages. And now, more than a century later, we are on the cusp of another transformation, as automakers work on electric vehicles (EVs) and self-driving autonomous vehicles.

Of course, even when the Model T fell to $ 260, not everyone could afford to buy a new car. It still does, no matter how hard car companies set their “easy bi-monthly payments.” But as we move towards electric and autonomous vehicles, how many people are at risk of being left behind and in several ways?

The cheapest electric vehicle in Canada is priced at almost $ 37,500 before taxes and fees. Even if this is lowered with the available government incentives, many gasoline vehicles cost much less.

The price of electric vehicles will eventually come down with volume production, but they’re still in the chicken-and-egg stage: a lot of people don’t buy them because they’re too expensive, and they’re too expensive. because there are not enough people. buy them. Some automakers are joining forces to help share the cost of development and parts, but we are a long way from electric vehicles as a lower-cost vehicle choice.

Resale value is also going to play a role, as battery longevity is always a wildcard. This residual value is often an important purchasing consideration, and some may be hesitant whether their new EV will have a lower return at the time of trade-in. A lower resale value will make it easier to buy a used electric vehicle, but if the battery becomes problematic as it ages, it could overwhelm an owner with repair costs.

Some people are also at risk of being left behind because of where they live. Lack of public charging infrastructure is a problem, but many people charge home when the car is seated anyway. To do this, you need an outlet – primarily available to people living in single-family homes with walkways or in new condos built with chargers. People who have to park on the street or who live in older apartment buildings do not have this luxury. Charging at work may be an option for some, but not all businesses will have sufficient facilities.

Along with electric vehicles, companies are also working on autonomous vehicles. They promise a world where we will all sit and enjoy the ride, but there will be a social cost to this added convenience for some.

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to speed up some traffic because, in theory, they will be able to drive faster and closer to each other without crashing. Shared ownership could keep them moving longer each day, as most vehicles spend the vast majority of their time parked and take up valuable space.

But even if the cars drive themselves, it’s likely that one thing won’t change: Most trips in private, self-driving vehicles will involve a single occupant. They will always be as inefficient for the movement of people and traffic jams will always exist. Self-driving vehicles with a driver will be even worse, just as those with a driver are now, with each paid trip preceded by an unnecessary empty trip as the car drives to its customer.

A truly “green” transportation network, using as few resources as possible, is inherently an impractical network that relies primarily on public transit, not point-to-point travel.

When it comes time to quit, workers are transported with other colleagues to a station and board a commuter train. At the other end, another shuttle is filling up with passengers all going to the same neighborhood stop. From there, these commuters use what’s known as “last mile” transportation, which can include carpooling, biking or scooter, or walking home.

It is in theory. But as long as we have urban sprawl, Canadian winters, and people who have the money to own a private vehicle, that’s not going to happen.

Of course, many low-income people are already used to it. They take the bus for hours every day because they cannot afford to live in the areas where they work. If they have a car, it could be taped and hoped it continues until next week. And as the industry rushes toward electrification and self-reliance, they’ll be the ones who will fall further behind.

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