When we talk about transportation of the future, autonomous cars and electrical vehicles are often talked about as if just switching from a diesel car to a Tesla or Renault Zoe is the answer. It is not. The problem isn’t only the fuel that is needed to use our current forms of transportation. Their availability to the masses and the numbers used are another issue. Our goal should be to lower the number of cars needed and offer better and cleverer ways of transportation.
A few years ago, I read a book about the future and what needs to change so we can live in a greener world. In one chapter, the authors talked about how in my country, Germany, only 1,46 people are sitting in a car. In most cars, five people could be seated at the same time. First, I didn’t think that was possible, so I started to pay attention. And then I couldn’t unsee it. Whenever I’m out now I watch cars passing by and I count the people in a car. Most of the time there’s just one person in there. What a waste! Not only does that mean that there are more cars on the road than are strictly necessary, but it also increases the time of traffic jams and of course emissions.
People living in rural areas need alternatives to cars
Car sharing and shuttle buses are already available, however, a lot of people don’t use them. However, there is always a difference in whether you like in an urban area or the suburbs. People living in cities always argue that those of us who live in the countryside should just “use our bikes more often”. Great idea, Chad, but did you ever think about rainy days or doing grocery shopping after work? “Well then use public transportation”, you might say. In my own humble experience of being a village kid myself, all I can add is: what public transportation!? Even living in such a developed country like Germany, our public transport is shitty. Especially when you’re living in a rural area. Buses heading out of the village to the next town? Good luck during the week and on the weekend – just not possible. For people in rural areas, owning a car – many times each person living in the household owning a car – is vital. We don’t have other – especially greener – options available to us. This needs to change.
If we want to have more eco-friendly transportation, we need better transportation infrastructure, so people can get rid of their cars or maybe only owning one per household. Have you ever seen pictures or videos from people in the Netherlands? They have amazing infrastructure for bikes. Because they put bikers first and cars second. We need bicycle highways, not motorways. Options for people living in rural areas to use reliable public transportation. Several startups are currently working on autonomous electrical shuttle buses to bring people from point A to B and C. Shuttles are great, because they can transport more people in them than a single car can. Equipped with Wi-Fi and comfortable seating they are even better than your car. Also, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot in our ever-growing cities.
Green long-distance travel
Need to travel long distance? What better way than to use trains, buses and hopefully in the nearby future: planes that fly thanks to hydrogen- or solar-powered engines. To get all those green alternatives, we need new infrastructure to put them out on our streets, train tracks and up in the air. Transforming what we already have is one of the first steps we have to take. Of course, we have to keep in mind that there is no one-shoe-fits-all approach possible to get the best results. Buenos Aires needs a different model compared to Tokyo, Oslo isn’t Cape Town. People living in a city don’t have the same needs as people living in the suburbs.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but my utopian street wouldn’t have a car lane anymore. I want trees and other plants lining sidewalks. In the middle, let there be bike lanes and maybe tracks for trams and underground subways for long-distance travel and bad weather days when you don’t want to head out with the bike. Or we could use Ottobahn, which are engineering an emission-free and fully autonomous transportation system above today’s traffic. Gondolas, which can be ordered from home and used for public transportation or cargo delivery. Add to that e-scooters and e-bikes powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and our transportation looks amazing. At least in my utopian dreams.