04 August 2010

Sustainable Urban Mobility in 2020

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To make the car of the future, we need to make the city of the future, says an MIT designer.

How can you design a city by designing a car? Today’s automobiles are driven by an increasing number of users who live in cities. The United Nations reported in 2007 that migration patterns and population growth have created an equal split between inhabitants of cities and rural areas for the first time in human history. This general trend will continue for the next several decades and will produce a very urbanized world.

In 1950, New York City was the only megacity on the planet, with 10 million occupants. Today, there are 25 megacities that are mostly in developing countries. To verify this trend, we need only to look at the rapid urbanization in China to see the mass migration of the rural poor to urban areas for economic opportunity. Population experts project that most of the urban growth will occur in Asia and Africa for the next several decades. Simultaneously, humanity’s thirst for personal mobility will continue to grow. History shows that, as countries develop economically, so does their use of four-wheeled motorized transportation.

The world’s automobile fleet is currently estimated at 800 million cars that serve the 7.8 billion people living on Planet Earth. In the developed world, roughly seven out of 10 people own a car, whereas in the developing world, it’s two out of 10. The continued economic development of Brazil, Russia, India, and China will fuel the growth of this fleet to more than 1 billion cars by 2020. The continued use of this personal transportation model is simply unsustainable given the combination of energy inefficiency, environmental consequences of fossil-fuel usage, potential disruptions to fuel supplies, urban sprawl created by automobile reliance, and congestion caused by inadequate alternative modes of transport. What we need is to radically rethink the problem by examining not only the automobile itself, but also how it is used in cities (where most of us are currently living).

(World Future Society - WSF)

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