I think there is one missing piece of the analysis. As drivers in cities have longer and longer commutes, the ability to drive a certain distance is reduced however the length of time that you are driving may stay the same or increase. It would be very interesting to know if the amount of time that drivers spend driving has increased. Many vehicles will now show the average speed of your vehicle in the info section. I have noticed that my average speed has reduced over time due to traffic congestion. It stands to reason that if it takes longer to drive, the opportunity to drive more miles is reduced.
@anon9303122: I too had a long commute at my previous job, about 110 miles round trip. The commute for my present job is only 16 miles round trip and I don't have to use any major highways to get there. (Well, that's almost true. I do have a 1 mile stretch of 'highway' I travel, getting on at one exit and getting off at the next one, but it's barely a highway and more of a two lane bypass around a neighboring town.)
On those days I am dealing only with paperwork I will forego the trip into work and work from home. My vehicle stays parked in the garage and commuting distance is all of 30 feet. My previous job didn't allow that. Actually, no such thing as telecommuting existed at my previous job. Heck, telecommuting didn't even exist, at least not back then.
Both my daughters have chosen to live near work. They don't like long commutes and there are great apartments near work. They are a bit more expensive but they more than pay for the reduced transportation costs. One daughter lives so close to work that it takes her longer to drive than walk. She can work 1-2 hours of overtime and she still gets home before some of her coworkers. For my wife and I it is online shopping. I would guess I get half the items I buy online.
Absolutely. Many things that would have me going on a scavenger hunt via vehicle can now be easily done on line. At least when time is not of the essence.
Another factor that has me driving less is simply the cost of fuel. I'm a cheap bastard. I make a conscious effort to take fewer trips and do more errands per trip.
When I changed jobs 17 years ago, I decided I did not want to spend 8.3% of my life simply getting to and from work, so we made a best effort to be reasonably close to work. My commute is all surface streets just a bit over 5 miles. Roads however are not bicycle friendly and after a few attempts, I decided my life was worth more than a few gallons of gasoline. My Suzuki DR350 does however get 65 mpg (when it's warm enough weather). The Buell Ulysses however only gets in the mid to high thirties, but the smiles per gallon are much higher.
Could another explanation be the wide expansion of our telecommunications infrastructure? With many activites that once required travel to accomplish now capable of being taken care of online, the need to travel has declined. I know that's certainly true in my case. The need for me to travel down to the 'big' city to get goods or sercvices not available in my rural town has dropped considerably.
While not necessarily the major reason for the decline in miles traveled, this must be one contributing factor to it.
There still remains the question of what is causing this decline. I'm not sure I would exaggerate it to the point that the article this piece links to does by saying that, somehow, this is the death of car culture...BUt it's still a decline that remains unexplained. Texting doesn't account for this. Nor does a decline in kids being born--toherwise you'd see similar figures in other industries. Until the question of what is causing a drop in car purchases and car uses is addressed there is no way for automaikers to solve the problem.
Speaking for myself (i'm 58), 7 years ago i dumped my car and 2 years later my motorbike ; i jumped instead on a bike. My only regret? not have done that much earlier. I had enough of the costs and the hassle of owning these two vehicles. Maintenance, insurance costs, parking, fines, traffic jams etc... Cost Of Ownership, something known in IT, is much much too high and today unsustainable. Two out of my three children don't have a car and i'm not encouraging them. Note: riding a bike is not necessary cheap, but it is an absolute pleasure, something i wouldn't have thought before. In a sense, i feel free.
@from_Tokyo, I suspect that the trend in Japan is not just similar but could be more pronounced than the ones I described in this article.
I never thought much of the big vision stuff -- like Toyota's ha:mo -- Japanese companies love to trot out at every tradeshows. But when I started thinking about how we are driving less and owning fewer cars, I suddenly realized dthat Toyota's promo video, as much self-serving as it is, actually makes sense. Carmakers need a plan B.
The days of depending on young generations to snatch up cars (like in 60's) are long gone.
@Bert, I agree your analysis that possibly explains this trend: people are having fewer kids (or having them later) and young people are too busy texting (or my interpretation of this would be that people are in general more satisfied in their virtual world, less interested in actually getting somewhere).
And those factors you brought out are not just applicable to the United States, but in Japan and in Europe, I assume.
As much as I hate the word "mega trends," I think this "mega" trend will have far-reaching implications for electronics products and technologies we develop in the years to come.