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The driverless car "Made in Germany" (MIG), which from the outside looks like a regular Volkswagen Passat with a camera on top, is being put through its paces at Berlin's disused Tempelhof airport, October 13, 2010. German scientists unveiled the latest self-driving car, a phenomenon that its proponents say will sharply reduce accidents, help the environment and transform cities. The car, dubbed the "MIG" by its engineers at Berlin's Free University (FU), uses cameras, laser scanners and satellite navigation to "see" other vehicles and pedestrians and deal with traffic situations.
The past few years have brought big changes to car use and ownership. E-hail services like Lyft and Uber and car share programs like Zipcar have transformed the concept of mobility. Millennials have stopped buying cars, public transportation use is on the rise, e-hail services and car shares are growing exponentially.
It may be easy to flag down a ride on a smartphone or to share a car for only a few hours a week, but are these programs enough to make people rethink car ownership? Are cars a utility, or a pleasure?
For those who enjoy cruising along the freeway with the top down, or strapping a surfboard to the roof and chasing the best waves down PCH, Lyft and Zipcar may never content with car ownership. But for eco-conscious city dwellers with e-resources and viable public transportation or bike services, a car might be less and less important.
Who needs and loves their cars the most? Are e-hail services and car share programs enough to make you reconsider your ride?
Mimi Sheller, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy; Professor of Sociology at Drexel University
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