The future of automobile society: A socio-technical transitions perspective

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Automobile society has been triumphant for a century. While this success is often ascribed to entrepreneurial tenacity and indefatigable demand, it is more correctly credited to auspicious political, economic and cultural trends. The macro-scale factors responsible for the entrenchment of automobility in developed countries are now moving in reverse direction. A socio-technical transitions perspective emphasises how declining industrial influence, stagnating wages, growing income inequality, increasing vehicle operating costs and changing sociodemographics are now undermining the foundations of automobile society. Three expressions of this process are considered: claims that transport planners are engaged in a 'war' against the automobile, emergent evidence that vehicle use is reaching saturation (the so-called 'peak car' phenomenon) and apparent disinclination of youth to embrace automobile-oriented lifestyles. Although these developments suggest some instability in the socio-technical system, the lock-in of key features and the paucity of practicable alternatives suggest that declarations of a pending transition are premature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalTechnology Analysis and Strategic Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


  • Generation Y
  • Net Generation
  • demotorisation
  • iPhone
  • mobility futures
  • smartphone
  • transition management


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