One thing that’s been mentioned here in the past, and that’s sort of come up again in the utility/transit discussion is that things like auto electrification might be difficult to do on a grand, economy-wide scale. Running electrical capacity to every parking spot in the land would be feasible, but not particularly easy.
Which isn’t to say it won’t happen. But what might more reasonably happen first is the electrification of car-sharing services, particularly those focused on short trips. Then the plugs need only be put in the service lots, and consumers are spared the need to constantly fret about handling the charging. You’d probably want to contract with a tow company for the occasional dead battery, but that’s no big deal.
But what car-sharing services have in common with the cell-phone model of auto-ownership is that they both focus on cars as a means rather than an end. Some drivers have always had a personal connection with their cars, and in the age of the monster SUV, cars became living rooms on wheels, but fundamentally cars are just about getting from place to place. As cool as owning your own flashy set of wheels can be, it’s very convenient to outsource most of the hassles of ownership to a car-sharing service–the maintenance, the cleaning, the parking, and so on.
A number of futurists have suggested that the trend toward impersonal autos is likely to continue. Drivers already have less control over their cars than ever before, and as technology and on-board navigation improve we’ll have less and less to do with the actual operation of our vehicles. At some point, if you’re not actually driving, and if it’s pretty easy to outsource the unpleasant stuff via flexible car-sharing, and if you don’t need the bells and whistles in a car because you have your own personal onboard computer iDevice, having a personal automobile doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And “automobile” ceases to be all that different from “transit.”
In other words, technology is likely to blur the lines between transit and driving, and make both greener and more flexible.