Discussions Around the Future of Automobility in British Society

Discussions Around the Future of Automobility in British Society


Gillian Harrison, European Commission, Joint Reseach Centre, Institute for Energy and Transport, Craig Morton, Centre for Transport Research, University of Aberdeen, Tom Budd, Centre for Air Transport Management, Cranfield University


This research reports emerging conceptions of the dynamic transition towards low-carbon automobility in the UK, from focus group consultations on technological, commercial and social practises and elucidating possible challenges and policy options.


A mixture of potentially significant changes in technology, commercial structures and social practices are currently entering the automobility system, as a result of changing environmental and economic priorities. These include the diffusion of Electric Vehicles into the national fleet, the increasing patronage of car-sharing Clubs and the suggestive evidence of "Peak Car". Looking beyond the immediate future the introduction of autonomous vehicles may further precipitate a paradigm change in our relationship with the automobile that has developed over the last century to become embedded into British mobility practises, with many knock-on social equity effects. There has been a tendency in both academia and policy-making to investigate these issues independently of one another, overlooking inter-relations and cross-dependencies. The research project outlined in this presentation aims to address this lack of integration by investigating how these issues could combine together and lead to a substantial shift in the manner in which society fuels, owns and makes use of its cars. Of particular interest is how this may feed into concepts of sustainable mobility and social equity.

A series of focus groups were held in the summer of 2014 in the UK in order to attain an improved understanding of how British practitioners, scholars and policy-makers are considering these dynamic issues. Specific attention was given to [1] what the expectations for future change in automobility are, [2] if these changes will likely lead to a transition towards a more environmentally sustainable and socially just system of automobility and [3] the manner in which a transition of this nature could be facilitated. The oral testimony offered during the focus groups has been assessed qualitatively using thematic analysis. In this presentation we read-back to the research community these emerging conceptions of a transition in automobility. A thematic framework was developed bringing to light a wide array of behavioural, technological and policy barriers and enablers, as well as social justice dilemmas, which may make a transition to low-carbon automobility challenging, raising the question of the continued dominant role of the car in British Society.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are purely those of the authors and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission)


Association for European Transport