The use of private cars in cities, devotion or addiction?

Intelligent cities, autonomous cars, smart individual transport capsules, centralized traffic systems. For almost two decades the visions of the future city announced radical transformation of urban mobility with a surprising thing in common: the drastic reduction in the use of private cars . Planners, architects and sociologists opt for models more efficient city, and person-centered while technological innovations enable shared forms of transport, such as car sharing unthinkable a few years ago.

However, it is possible that the main battle for the transformation of urban mobility is not free in the streets of our cities, but inside our heads. In them a century of automobile has left so deep cultural traces in our collective imagination that one wonders private car is an addiction?

Biographies of mobility and neuroscience: the complex process of choosing mobility

In some stages of life we ​​use more public transport, in other want or need to use the private sector.

As much as it’s a very seductive image key marketing, the big choices in transportation and mobility not made in the morning while preparing breakfast. These decisions are taken slowly over long periods of our life and under the influence of many factors: where the studies performed, when and how we emancipate our work, family formation. Maybe in some stages use more public transport (during our studies …) while the private car is our preferred choice in others (the early life of our children).

hyundai-i20-active-india-6 The result of this series of elections throughout life is what we call “Biography of mobility.” Two years ago the study of Sirun Beige and Kay Axhausen on how to develop these processes left an interesting fact: within age between 20 and 40 years our main “vital” elections in mobility are formed . Passed the threshold of 40 (coinciding with a period that is often characterized by some stability in our lives) changes in the preferred means are scarce, and only rebounding on the threshold of 65, when retirement change our habits of life so that also affects our “menu of transportation.”

Does this mean that at some point in our lives when “we choose” the means of transport? In a way yes, because we weigh different options to rationally, especially in the case of private cars, make use in “automatic” . A recent article neuroscientist analysis applies to a mobility surveys conducted in the United States discusses how the “automatic habit” of using the car behaves in our brains, with surprising results.


The use of private cars could be on the level of physical addictions according to some studies.

In The compulsive habit of cars Yalatchkov, Naumer and Plyushteva argue that once established the habit of using the private car, this decision moves from areas of the brain where the discussion is managed complex to others in which the response is direct and causal. To choose between several options with their pros and cons, we turn to the formula “= car movement” .

According to the authors, when an election is moved to these areas becomes very resistant to any kind of change since the brain tends to ignore all drawbacks product of that association of ideas, large or expensive they are. That is, the brain behaves toward the habit as an addiction, ignoring the negative effects it has on our daily life as, for example, with the snuff.


The automobile spell

They say “leave the car” is almost as difficult as quitting smoking.

is no coincidence that the use of private cars is a habit of leaving almost as complicated as the snuff . Both are icons of a consumer society that the mid-twentieth century built his own iconography from pagan concepts such as self-satisfaction and the image we project to the outside. The film, advertising and mass media spread around the world the illusion of “ American way of life ” raising these commodities to the category of cultural icons.

The snuff, as demonstrated later, incorporates chemical elements designed to create addiction in our brain but how does the car to change our behavior? Through a mix of design and directed to the driver’s mind cultural references. The car is an element designed to make the driver feel special and unique , unlike, for example, a subway car.

Audi_R8_2015_DM_galeria_circuito_41 In our car we always have a seat placed to our liking, we hear our own music and not the passenger side, down the window if it is hot or put the heating if cold. The car is, so to speak, a “moving room”, a private space that allows us to bring our home to destination where we go . Why car makers put special attention to the senses of the driver: all the elements where we lay hands (steering wheel, knobs, handles …) are carefully designed to have a comforting touch, sound is specially tuned and even the characteristic smell cars is calculated by specific departments.

Car makers put special efforts to delight our senses.

Against this, the public transport provides large-scale benefits such as environmental sustainability, but can not compete in individual satisfaction of the senses with a private car. Shortage of space, invasion of privacy, depersonalization, discomfort … multiplied several times if you have physical challenges or simply carrying a baby with his car.

Audi_r8_LMX_2015_prueba_mapdm_33 Therefore car manufacturers put a special emphasis on attracting younger audiences because once you have acquired the habit of the car is very difficult to get rid of him to move to safe public transport issues force majeure so dictate. The generations who lived through the golden age of cheap oil and “freedom on wheels” have supported a ‘car culture “for over half a century that even led to the dismantling of public transport networks as the tram. Does it happen that it still?

The reduction in private car is not a technological issue, it is cultural. And cultural changes do not occur in the overnight.

In the last decade the possession of car or driving license among young people is on a gradual decline. In the company of megacities the car seems to have lost its advantages and charm against devices like Smartphone or Tablets in combination with public transport have changed the mobility unit “vehicle” to “high”. Both the US and the EU the number of kilometers traveled per person per year is stagnating and rate of cars per 1,000 inhabitants recorded almost no growth in a decade and a half . It seems as if a new generation were “leaving the car” like years ago began to “leave the snuff.”

atascos-bill-ford However the center of the world are the US and the EU . Other countries like China or India today live an explosion of private car ownership per capita whose rates are growing at astronomical speed. Both countries not only add 2,700 million, but its cultural influence in the world is growing. Are we facing a surge in private car culture in the coming decades, driven by Asian countries? Surely not the same way you lived in the 50s of last century with the American dominance, but probably with a dynamic that makes it difficult to reduce the rate of private cars in developed countries in the next generation.

This article originally appeared in the Curved magazine 1. Curved number is available at the kiosk iTunes or the Android Play Store, along with twelve other magazines created by Mediazines.


Leave a Comment