Theses Master's

Peak Car and the Future of Urban Mobility. Exploring 21st century urban trends and their implications for the automotive industry.

Grimm, Franziska

For many decades, car manufacturers, urban planners and large parts of society saw the automobile as an integral part of modern life and it was the preferred mobility option for many people. It symbolized freedom, independence and liberation and has frequently been seen as a status symbol. Motorized vehicle travel has grown steadily over the past century but now has started to peak in most developed countries. Demographic changes and an ageing society, the rise of information and communication technologies, changing urban spatial patterns and increased urbanization, changing consumer preferences and fundamental shifts in urban social lifestyles are reducing demand for automobile travel. The question for the automotive industry therefore increasingly becomes one of defining its future role in the 21st century urban transportation.

This thesis aimed to explore current urban trends influencing our urban transportation systems. While current mobility issues were briefly looked at, the focus was on understanding urban trends influencing passenger transportation in developed countries. Recent answers and growth strategies of the car industry were mirrored against those trends to find potential shortcomings and mismatches. The research revealed that there is a certain disconnect between the urban trends and how car manufacturers are seeing and responding to the trends. Most of the urban trends described in this thesis were taken into consideration by the car manufacturers in some way. However, in most cases there has been a focus on a technological fix of the challenges and though there are certainly many synergies and advantages to explore through the employment of new technologies, it is most likely not the only answer. The car manufacturers seem to be whistling past the grave yard and are stuck in their need to defend the technologies they have invested in so much.

The thesis concludes with implications for the automotive industry as well as urban planners and policy makers and how they can respond to these changing urban trends. The author encourages a more multi-modal approach for our future urban transportation systems as well as more cooperative out-of-the-box thinking by both – private and public sectors.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 22, 2015