Hitting the news feeds these days is some pick-up of a new, disturbing trend in the automobile sector.
The Vancouver Star reports the major car manufacturers are now cutting down the variety of motor vehicle models available to the consumer.
As reporter Michael Lewis points out, ten years ago sedans were almost 40 per cent of the American market; SUVs sat in the number two position at 29 per cent, with pick-up trucks at 13 per cent.
That’s all changed.

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If you picked up Friday’s Vancouver Sun, you were treated to a front page advertisement from Hyundai in bold letters proclaiming that the 2018 Sonata was “Safe and Sexy”.
So what exactly does that mean? In the very tiny print, this vehicle is a “top safety pick” IF equipped with autonomous emergency braking AND LED headlights. It has been suggested that up to 80 per cent of low beam headlights might not provide adequate stopping distances at speeds above 40 miles per hour according to the American Automobile Association.  Pedestrian deaths were up nearly 10 per cent in the United States in 2015, but that was largely due to distracted drivers, not dim headlights. As many pedestrians in low light situations will attest, the light bounce of the new LED headlights make visibility extremely difficult when using crosswalks on streets.
 

The  pedestrian beware message is echoed by Mercedes in this 2017  commercial spot below that shows a group of muscle cars ponying up at a pedestrian crosswalk and forcing an unfortunate pedestrian to run fast or risk getting mowed down. It is all part of a campaign to sell vehicles as dominant users of the street and also reminds active transportation users that vehicles still have the last word in any interaction. And it is also a reminder that as autonomous vehicles roll out that it is not just the safety of the vehicle’s occupant that must be paramount, but the safety of the most vulnerable street user that must count too.
 

 
 

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One reigning paradigm of Motordom is that we all buy a car as soon as we can, and just keep on buying every few years for decades.  Much to the profit of those who make cars and related stuff.
But it seems this paradigm is already eroding, and undergoing change.  My suspicion is that even more change is in the works when and if autonomous vehicles (AVs) become a practical and cost-effective reality.  If this does come to pass, it’s likely that the number of active motor vehicles will shrink, and the Ubers of the world will operate large fleets of AV’s at much higher utilization that the single-digit numbers for most currently-owned private cars.   This on-demand mobility looks like it may become the new paradigm.
Thanks to VanCity for this look at car-share (17-page PDF).  It seems that Vancouver is edging towards the new paradigm.
According to VanCity’s survey and research:
Vancouver has more car-sharing vehicles per capita than any other city in N.A. That’s 3000 vehicles, 4.22 per 1000 population.
Why?  Convenience (95% of survey responders); save money (62%); environmental concern (58%).
A surprising finding:  only 44% of younger responders agreed that they liked not owning a vehicle. The report’s authors point to money savings as this group’s main reason for using car-share.
Another:   26% of respondents dumped a private vehicle in favour of car-sharing; and 40% avoided buying one.
Expanding transportation choice (options) is the major benefit the survey’s respondents like.

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Scot adds to the item below with this piece from CTV News – Renting your ride: Airbnb of car rentals comes to B.C.
Turo, which is being touted as the Airbnb of car rentals, has officially launched in B.C. But it could be in for a bumpy ride due to the high cost of insurance. The service lets car owners looking to make some extra cash rent out their personal vehicles. …
Turo is relatively new in Canada, but has been operating in the U.S. for seven years where some car owners there have been able to make some serious cash. … But in Canada things operate a bit differently. Turo works in provinces that have private insurance systems. However, ICBC requires owners in B.C. to buy their own commercial insurance, called U-Drive when they want to rent their personal vehicle. And it’s very expensive. …
In order to get the app launched, the company partnered with smaller independent car rental companies that can afford the higher insurance rates. Of the 70 vehicles for rent on Turo in B.C., only two are currently personal vehicles.
The provincial government says insurance premiums need to reflect risk, but the Attorney General David Eby is willing to listen to Turo’s pitch. “We’re going to start those discussions with the legislators right now,” explained Mathieu. Those changes may take awhile, but the timing could be right since the government is already making changes to open the door to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

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Price Tags is celebrating all things related to the Burrard Bridge and its 21st century transformation. And here is a blast from the past. This gem posted by Vanologue is on  YouTube showing the amateur film made by Vancouverite Sid Groberman  in 1934 of the drive across the Burrard Bridge and a trip to English Bay. You will notice that people are walking across the bridge on both sides, and that there appears to be two lanes of traffic in each direction. And you can park on the bridge to take photos.

Both the downtown and Kitsilano sides of the bridge sport three storey houses, and there is a billboard on the Kitsilano side. The Burrard Bridge was opened on July 1 1932 by then Mayor Louis Taylor. The three million dollar bridge was designed by Sharp and Thompson both graduates of the Architectural Association in London. These two architects also designed the winning master plan for the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey Campus.
There is a lot of folk-lore about the “raised gallery” or apartments above the central piers of the bridge. They was never lived in, but according to documentation from The Vancouver Archives served to hide the steel infrastructure, and provide a formal gesture to the downtown.  G.L. Thornton Sharp of Sharp and Thompson stated. “Both central piers were designed and connected with an overhead gallery across the road. This helped to mask the network of steel in the truss from the two approaches, and has been treated as an entrance gateway to the city.”
Those two busts and the city crest that are on the piers were carved by sculptor Charles Marega, who also sculpted the two lions on the Lions Gate Bridge. The figures are of Captain George Vancouver and Captain Harry Burrard. By the way, Burrard never got close to his namesake bridge~he was on the sailing ship Europa with Vancouver in the West Indies.

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The City has just repaved the road lanes in the 800-block Robson, using asphalt to raise the roadbed to sidewalk level, creating a constant surface for this now car-free plaza.

And yet, pedestrians largely stick to the sidewalks.  That’s the way we’ve been trained since childhood: see asphalt, stay off.  It’s only for cars.
That will likely change when the asphalt is painted another colour, street furniture is replaced, performances and demonstrations occur, and more people use the space.  But even if we’re not quite conscious of it, something will feel not quite right until the surface design of the plaza is reconfigured from the standard road-and-sidewalk layout.

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It’s an industrial complex so big and so pervasive that it’s difficult to see it.  Motordom.
But technological convergence in motordom is upon us, and the changes are likely to be as inevitable as they are profound. People everywhere are prognosticating, planning, buying, selling, investing and teaming up in anticipation.  Something big is underway, and it involves more than engines.
But what will happen in motordom?  Prediction is always hard (if not impossible), but especially in times of disruptive tech change. Attributed to Niels Bohr and Yogi Berra:  “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”.  The best that we mortals might do is to track those who are creating the future.
HERE‘s a broad and long view from the Economist, from the starting point of the internal combustion engine, and it’s likely replacement by the electric engine.

To gauge what lies ahead, think how the internal combustion engine has shaped modern life. The rich world was rebuilt for motor vehicles, with huge investments in road networks and the invention of suburbia, along with shopping malls and drive-through restaurants. Roughly 85% of American workers commute by car. . . .
. . .  Assuming, of course, that people want to own cars at all. Electric propulsion, along with ride-hailing and self-driving technology, could mean that ownership is largely replaced by “transport as a service”, in which fleets of cars offer rides on demand. On the most extreme estimates, that could shrink the industry by as much as 90%.
. . .  Driverless electric cars in the 21st century are likely to improve the world in profound and unexpected ways, just as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines did in the 20th. But it will be a bumpy road. Buckle up.

And then there’s THIS, from the CEO of that insignificant fringe player in motordom — Royal Dutch Shell plc. Thanks to Joe Romm at ThinkProgress.

“The next buy I do is my next car, which will be an electric vehicle,” was Van Beurden’s surprise answer. Shell is Europe’s biggest oil company — indeed, its biggest company of any kind — with $272 billion in revenues last year. . .
In a March speech, Van Beurden said the transition to a low-carbon economy built around renewable electricity and electric cars is “unstoppable.” That month, Shell sold off 90 percent of its Canadian tar sands assets, and in May it launched a new business unit focused on renewables.

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From CBC:

According to a study from RethinkX, an independent think-tank in San Francisco, greater demand for electric cars, coupled with increased demand for ride sharing, will eventually eliminate the need for dealerships altogether.
The authors of the report — technology investor James Arbib and Stanford University economist Tony Seba — aren’t the first to prognosticate the death of dealerships, but it is the speed with which they think it will happen that is notable.
They believe it will occur in the next seven years….
They estimate the tipping point will occur once the electric vehicle battery range surpasses 320 kilometres and electric car prices drop to the $20,000-dollar range. Currently, a low-end electric vehicle costs somewhere in the $30,000 range. …
Automotive experts agree that all roads lead to electric, but the road there could be long and winding.
“There are some serious question marks and a lot of assumptions in the report,” said Dennis DesRosiers, an Ontario-based auto industry analyst.  …  DesRosiers likens this report to the mass optimism around hybrid vehicles. When they were introduced 17 years ago, the thinking was they would account for half of the cars sold by 2020.
“The reality is, after 17 years, they account for less than one per cent, with sales in the last four years going down,”  DesRosiers said.
That’s why he doesn’t think dealerships will soon join the list of businesses lost to advancing technology, like video rental stores. …
Arbib and Seba are nonetheless confident of their forecast, and believe that changing attitudes to car ownership will ultimately imperil dealerships.
Again, it all comes down to economics. According to their report, “Using transport as a service will be four to 10 times cheaper per mile than buying a new car, and two to four times cheaper than operating an existing paid-off vehicle by 2020.”
It will basically be cheaper to ride-share than keep a car (or two) in your garage.

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