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Alternative Automobility Futures

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/10/0630/09/08

The aim of this research project is to construct various alternative post-car futures taking into account prevailing and potential global economic, technological and social trends. Principally we pinpoint and examine six technical-economic, policy and social transformations in a global context that in their dynamic interdependence might tip mobility into a new system of the post-car.

The aim of this research project is to construct various alternative post-car futures taking into account prevailing and potential global economic, technological and social trends. Principally we pinpoint and examine six technical-economic, policy and social transformations in a global context that in their dynamic interdependence might tip mobility into a new system of the post-car. These six key areas are:

1) New Fuel Systems: new fuel systems for cars, vans and buses including batteries, especially lead acid and nickel metal hydride, hybrid cars powered by diesel and batteries, hydrogen or methanol fuel cells, bio-enviro fuel systems.

2) New Materials: various new materials for constructing 'car' bodies, such as nano-carbon hybrids. This may lead to smaller 'micro-cars' of greater durability and strength yet lightweight. New materials also in component parts with the capacity to work with alternative fuel technologies.

3) Smart-Card Technologies:'smart-card' technology that could integrate flows of information from car to home, to bus, to train, to workplace, as well as to consumer sites such as the shop-till or bank. Such vehicles may be increasingly hybridized with the technologies of the mobile - car-drivers and passengers may be personalized with their own communication links and entertainment applications. Thus any vehicle is becoming more of a 'smart home' away from home.

4) De-privatisation Schemes: cars more generally are being de-privatized through car sharing, car clubs and car-hire schemes. This includes prototype projects of car-pooling, e-taxi systems, and electric hire cars. On occasions this de-privatization will involve smart-card technology to book and pay in advance.

5) Transport Policies: transport policy is shifting away from predict-and-provide models based on seeing increased mobility as a desirable good. Increasingly, 'new realist' policies see the expansion of the road network as not neutral but as increasing car-based travel. The focus of policy moves to changing driver behaviour through demand-reduction strategies. The new realism involves many organizations developing alternative mobilities through computer-mediated intermodality and integrated public transport.

6) Communications & Networks:communications and Internet networks are increasingly interconnected with transportation. There is the embedding of information and communication technologies (ICT) into moving objects: mobile phones, PDAs, cars, buses, trains, aircraft and so on. As information is digitized and released from location, so cars, roads and buildings are re-wired to send and receive digital information, as with emerging 'Intelligent Transport Systems'. These emerging technologies are grafting together existing machines to create new hybrid mobilities.