Buy­ing a new car? It may be your last

What does fewer cars on the road mean to our com­mu­nity?

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - RICK COURT Rick Court drives an Ital­ian sports car which he will only give up driv­ing when they pry the steer­ing wheel from his cold, dead hands.

The lease on my SUV was com­ing up so I re­cently made the rounds of lo­cal deal­er­ships to “kick the tires” on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent makes and mod­els. The big­gest chal­lenge wasn’t choos­ing the right car — it gen­er­ally was lo­cat­ing a park­ing spot in a dealer lot crammed with ve­hi­cles for sale. Or per­haps find­ing a sales­per­son truly in­ter­ested in help­ing me or at the very least fol­low­ing up on the prom­ises he made.

But that’s not what I’m writ­ing about. (I’ll save my cus­tomer ser­vice rant for an­other day).

Even­tu­ally I chose a car with all the fea­tures and styling I was look­ing for sup­ported by a sales­per­son who knew her prod­uct and seemed to gen­uinely care about her cus­tomers. I ac­cepted a killer fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive that ba­si­cally led to me buy­ing the car over five years in­stead of leas­ing over a shorter pe­riod. I don’t nor­mally keep cars that long and I made sure my new ve­hi­cle had all the lat­est safety and con­ve­nience fea­tures like blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, for­ward col­li­sion avoid­ance, more cam­eras than the front of the White House, etc. I cer­tainly didn’t want my new car to be ob­so­lete be­fore I’d fin­ished pay­ing for it.

As I proudly left the dealer lot in my shiny new SUV I had a very sober­ing thought — Did I just buy my last car?

I’m early 60s, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and eat rea­son­ably healthy so it’s not my own mor­tal­ity that con­cerns me. Hell, my mother’s in her 80s and she just bought a new car. There is no rea­son to think that I shouldn’t be driv­ing for decades to come.

Ex­cept for my own ob­so­les­cence as a driver.

This sum­mer Ford an­nounced that they will be of­fer­ing fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles by 2021. Sim­i­lar an­nounce­ments were made by Volk­swa­gen, Gen­eral Mo­tors, Toy­ota — the list goes on — with vary­ing time­lines. By fully au­ton­o­mous they mean no steer­ing wheel, no ped­als — no need for a driver at all. We all know that Elon Musk of Tesla has seen the fu­ture and it isn’t just elec­tric — it’s driver­less and it’s around the corner.

Uber is pre­dict­ing its en­tire fleet will be driver­less one day and “the ser­vice will then be so in­ex­pen­sive and ubiq­ui­tous that car own­er­ship will be ob­so­lete.” (Paul God­din in Mo­bil­ity Lab — Au­gust 18, 2015).

John Zim­mer, co-founder of Lyft ride shar­ing ser­vice said in his es­say The Third Trans­porta­tion Revo­lu­tion that “by 2025, pri­vate car own­er­ship will all but end in ma­jor U.S. cities.”

I’ve been driv­ing for al­most 50 years (yikes!) and con­sider my­self a car guy. Am I go­ing to miss driv­ing? Road trips with the fam­ily to Florida, the guys to golf in Muskoka or just a nice Sun­day drive on a fall day …

Ab­so­lutely, but con­sider the pos­i­tives — no in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums, main­te­nance, gas, fi­nanc­ing and park­ing charges mean more cash sticks to me even af­ter pay­ing for the en­vi­sioned ride shar­ing ser­vices. How about less stress from not get­ting stuck in traf­fic, hav­ing to find a park­ing spot, car break­downs or worst case — ac­ci­dents? How about an end to drunk driv­ing?

And what does fewer cars on the road mean to our com­mu­nity? Park­ing lots can be re­pur­posed to green space or other uses. Con­sider the Lime Ridge Mall with half the park­ing spots — an enor­mous amount of land would be freed up just in that one lo­ca­tion. The same for McMaster Univer­sity.

Smoother traf­fic flow means less pol­lu­tion. Pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists will be safer. The city can be given back to peo­ple, not cars.

It wasn’t long ago that this dis­cus­sion would be con­sid­ered Or­wellian but it is quickly be­com­ing our re­al­ity.

I’m pretty sure I bought my last car. We’ll soon see.

Pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists will be safer. The city can be given back to peo­ple, not cars

TONY AVELAR, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Google’s self-driv­ing car. The ad­vent of the driver­less car may mean the end of pri­vate car own­er­ship.

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