Opinion: As automotive technology advances, who is being 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, he was able to bring its price down so that many people could afford it. to allow.

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

Of course, even when the Model T dropped to $260, not everyone could afford a new car. That’s still the case, no matter how hard automakers set their “easy bi-weekly payments.” But as we move towards electric and autonomous vehicles, how many people are at risk of being left behind and in many ways?

The cheapest EV in Canada is priced at nearly $37,500 before taxes and fees. Even if this is reduced through available government incentives, many gasoline-powered vehicles cost significantly less.

Electric vehicles will eventually come down in price with volume production, but they’re still at the chicken-and-egg stage: a lot of people aren’t buying 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’re a long way from having EVs 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 purchase consideration, and some may be hesitant if their new EV will perform less when traded 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 at home when the car is sitting anyway. To do that, you need an outlet — mostly available to people living in single-family homes with driveways or new-build condos with chargers. People who have to park on the street or live in older apartment buildings don’t have that luxury. Charging at work might be an option for some, but not all businesses will have sufficient facilities either.

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

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

But even if the cars drive themselves, one thing is likely not to change: most journeys in private autonomous vehicles will involve only one occupant. They will still be just as inefficient for moving people and traffic jams will still exist. Self-driving transport vehicles will be even worse, just as those with drivers currently are, with every paid ride preceded by an unnecessary void as the car drives to its customer.

A truly “green” transportation network, using the fewest resources, is inherently an inconvenient network that relies primarily on mass transit, not point-to-point journeys.

At departure time, the workers are transported with other colleagues to a station and board a commuter train. At the other end, another shuttle fills up with passengers who all go to the same neighborhood stop. From there, these commuters use what is known as “last mile” transportation, which can include carpooling, riding a bike or scooter, or walking home.

It’s 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 down and hoped it will move on to next week. And as the industry rushes towards electrification and autonomy, they are the ones who will be left even more behind.


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Deana N. Guinn