Vignette three is a hot mess future. If we are divided and fail to rise to this challenge, will transportation go off the rails?
I think that the class implications of this, if not addressed, could be awful. Everything I saw in my book, “The Coming of Neo Feudalism,” is now accelerating. For instance, you have this 25% to 35% of the economy that can work from home. They are in some senses insulated. There are extra costs, but they’re using less gas and they’re driving their cars less. What I hear from people in the neighborhoods is their fear is that all the locally-owned businesses, the small local landlords, those people are just going to get wiped out. And Wall Street is going to come in and just buy what’s left so that the middle class will continue to decline. In terms of transportation, the classes that are hurt worst are what I call the yeomanry, the small businesses and then the serfs, who are at the bottom and in many cases are not able to work at home. They face a big risk from the pandemic, but also greater risk of losing their jobs. Because people don’t want to take the train or the subway, the kind of people who will be working in cities like New York are going to be the best paid people because you’re not going to be able to afford to keep in middle management, which was already leaving anyway.
Author, urban theorist
Due to the failure to achieve widespread testing, people stop traveling and only do so by personal car or short distances by bike. Airlines fail and are nationalized. Public transit is shut down until the virus abates. As they insulate, people are afraid of outsiders traveling in. This kills travel and tourism, furthering the economic slump. It also encourages residents of high-income blue states to agitate to stop funding transportation projects for red states (mostly highways and under-utilized transit links) indirectly through the federal government.
The slump destroys employment in the transportation sector, forcing major bankruptcies. This also cuts the lifeline to rural America, severing flights, trains, bus service and more. Rural America enters a deeper depression, even as urban America begins to stabilize. Amazon pushes hard to switch en masse to drone delivery over human-powered delivery, resulting in job losses. A deadlocked U.S. government can’t agree on stimulus. Transportation agencies and companies can’t make it and shut down, leaving cars as the only viable means of long-distance transportation.
Author, futurist, technology leader
The dystopian narrative of fear, ambiguity, and lack of a possible cure has made consumers more reluctant to use any sharing-economy services. Starting with car sharing, several other sharing-economy services, like scooters and bikes, that have been integrated into the experiences of the city, collapse. The car has become one of the few safe places for consumers. Increasing reliance on the automobile (and RVs) for transportation and travel significantly increase carbon emissions. The “new normal” erases all the positive consumer behavior changes regarding sustainability practices in the last decades. The increasing automation redefines automobiles as the economic agent that earns, spends and saves money. Cars take over transportation roles and robots take over delivery responsibilities. The collapsing of the sharing economy leaves the “human” as an agent out of this emerging and automation-driven economy. People are only allowed to travel if the nanochip implemented underneath their skin clears the security protocols and health criteria that are implemented, enforced, and governed by World Health Organization.
Senior trend strategist, Mintel
Despite attempts to spur consumer demand with manufacturer, dealer and governmental incentives, consumers in this scenario are not able to purchase vehicles due to loss of jobs, loss of savings/investments or unwillingness to spend on big-ticket items. Vehicle production grinds to a pace not seen since the Great Recession. Supply chains are disrupted because several medium- to large-size suppliers go out of business, cross-border trade is seen as unpatriotic, and each automotive plant forces suppliers to be geographically close to them and adhere to strict guidelines on preventing infection within their component plants. Consumers focus on the importance of durability in vehicles and opt to spend their money on maintenance and repair of their vehicles, and spend limited funds on connectivity and entertainment upgrades to their vehicle, rather than buying a new vehicle. Dealers focus on repairs and maintenance of multiple makes, not just their franchise relationship brands, in order to survive and third-party mechanic shops spring up with more national chains getting involved in automotive repair and maintenance. Due to low gas costs and pandemic-related fear of flying, road trips take on increased popularity, offset somewhat because the increased age of vehicles discourages excessively long road trips.
Ipsos US Automotive Quality Practice Leader
Manufacturers decrease investment in electric vehicle development, knowing that consumers are not prepared to pay for new vehicles due to economic reasons and the low price of gas. Investments in autonomous driving technology also decreases since OEMs no longer have resources for this and consumers are not willing to pay extra for such features. Technology that was to come out in the next three years is delayed by over five years, since sensor suppliers, software development and AI companies don’t have resources or manpower to complete development. Some of the smaller manufacturers consolidate or are bought out in order to survive through this downturn. Auto-finance companies, in an effort to increase vehicles sales will decrease the 720 “excellent” FICO auto score rating required for a good car purchase interest rate to 680 “good” FICO auto score rating. This helps slow the fall in sales, but does not stop the decline even among these consumers. Multi-purpose utility vehicles, such as SUVs and crew cap pickups continue to increase their market share at the expense of large sedans and sports coupes. However, their actual sales volumes will still decrease in absolute numbers.
Senior vice president, Ipsos Automotive Advisory