How car companies and people can make the world better

Cars are some of the biggest dangers to the planet, in terms of the damage they do to the planet. The problem is that people still need cars to get around and for various other tasks. This also poses a problem for manufacturers of cars since they don’t want to be associated with something as horrible as destroying the planet. Thus it is in everyone’s interest to find some kind of alternative, whereby people are still able to travel but cars do not have the same kind of horrible impact on the planet they do right now. Let’s examine what these kinds of interventions are, from the personal and business perspective. That is, what can you as a person who needs transport do and what car companies themselves are doing.

Car companies are making better cars

All sorts of major manufacturers are trying to associate themselves with solutions, not problems. This is particularly the case in light of the recent finding that Volkswagen has been committing serious crimes. As the BBC summarises:

“the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had a… device… in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. The German car giant has since admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.”

This brings enormous shame to the company, its shareholders and ordinary users. Other manufacturers have been vocal in indicating their support for green initiatives. Ford, for example, noted its “commitment to green vehicle technologies will result in improved fuel economy for its customers and reduced CO 2 emissions. Other green efforts will help it minimize its environmental impact through the conservation of energy and a reduction in pollution, while saving the company and customers money.”

That means whether you buy a new or used Ford, you can rest assured knowing the company is making actual efforts toward being better. The overarching point many experts have noted, however, is that simply making better cars is good for everyone. That is, progress is in itself a way to make the planet better. There’s no reason to think caring about the environment can’t be an aspect of progress alongside making cars handling better, its security improved and so on. Consider what was possible already in 2011. As PopSci notes, lots of smart car tech is about measuring a driver’s habits. This can help make the driver better in terms of reaching destinations faster, more efficiently and so on:

“Once a car knows its driver’s own habits, it can incorporate other data from the cloud to make more informed suggestions. If traffic forecasters have enough data, and they have good enough models to interpret it, they should be able to tell you at lunchtime what your 5 p.m. commute home is going to look like. IBM made a smartphone app to do this. IBM says the app can learn a driver’s patterns, predict what the traffic will look like 30 minutes or more in the future, and send the forecast to the driver before he or she gets behind the wheel.”

We already know many major companies are focused on electric cars. The idea here is that by negating petrol or diesel entirely, cars emit zero emissions. Yet, the reality is a bit more complicated. As Scientific American noted: “a conventional Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, which burns gasoline when its batteries are not engaged, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf produce roughly the same amount of greenhouse gas pollution.”

This isn’t encouraging to people hoping for a cleaner future or vehicles to dramatically improve in terms of their damage. Yet, this is what progress looks like. The point being that whatever the end result, manufacturers are certainly on the right path.

What drivers can do

It’s also important for drivers to consider their own responsibility in this. After all, if no one wanted to drive or own a car, the world would not be in the trouble it is in. Yet, the reality is people do need cars. However, the world is shrinking in a number of ways.

First, public transportation all over the world is improving. Cape Town’s MyCiti buses are clean, highly efficient vehicles that offer easy-to-pay methods and go to all sorts of areas around the city and outer areas. This makes it easy for a lot of people to walk a few minutes (thereby getting some exercise!) and wait a little bit for them to travel close to where they need to be. The Gautrain is another implementation that is proving highly successful, showcasing that even in South Africa we have world class public transport.

Second, people don’t need to travel as much to conduct business these days thanks to the internet. Business people can run their entire office from their phones, conduct meetings from their bedroom. Indeed, a Harvard Business Review report even found that business productivity increases when you let people work from home. People working from home means they don’t need to travel, but can still accomplish their tasks. This helps make the world a little bit greener and makes roads less congested.