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Teslas Aren't the Future (theweek.com)
36 points by fanf2 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments
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Media outlets need to start hiring folks who live outside of a handful of trendy metro areas like New York, San Francisco, or DC (or in this case, Toronto).

It's quite obvious that the author has not spent much time in the types of communities where most people actually live, nor does he seem to have much familiarity with the concept of child rearing.

I'm not going to load my young children and 12 bags of groceries onto some pay-by-the-mile micro scooter. I'm going to use my minivan.

Has the author ever even installed a carseat? If you have children under the age of 10 or 12 then things like Uber, Ridesharing, etc. are pretty much out of the question due to laws around car seats and child safety.

Urban planners have been trying all manner of sticks and carrots (mostly sticks) to get people out of their cars for over 30 years now with very little success, outside of a few very high density older metro areas like London or New York.

Cars are popular because they give people convenience and flexibility that the didn't have before. Very few people are going to give that up voluntarily. This is doubly true when you have children.

If the author is going to pontificate on the future of transportation, he may want to think about the giant chunk of the population living in the suburbs and raising children. Otherwise it's just an article about the future of transportation for childless professionals living in trendy cities built before WWII.


The secret is where you live. If you live in North America you are almost forced to use a car daily. If you live centrally in a small city with good infrastructure, then it's a different story, it gets doable even without Uber, micro scooters and carrying booster seats around.

Your kid should be in a booster by 5 or 6, and then they transition out of that between 8 and 12 (4’9”). Once they are in a booster, you can conceivably carry it around and use a ride share. See https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on...

Buses and trains/trams don’t require child seats, so they can always be used. Some states also exempt taxis and passenger van services.

Uber offered car seats in a few markets once upon a time. Not sure if they still do, or how it would really work considering different kids require different seats.


I don't think it's practical to lug around 2 or 3 boosters. Possible, yes, but a terrible user experience.

If you have 2 or 3 kids, sure, that would suck. Anyways, it is a relevant strategy for us (one kid) when we visit China and a car rental isn’t possible. Of course, they don’t have child seat laws anyways, but that option doesn’t sit well with the wife.

Roughly speaking, the average family has to have about 2 kids or more (to make up for people who choose not to have children).

So the situation of having 2 kids is pretty typical.


The average is 1.9. You are supposed to space them out a bit, however. Also, 20%of all kids are only children, big cities one child is more common (Seattle its 47%).

That's the average per woman, not the average per family (which wouldn't include independent, childless single people).

You can - if the kids carry them. After about 5yo, sufficiently motivated/trained kids can do this.

It's still a pain.


Sounds like a way to build character :) though I can imagine what my now 2 year old would do with that.

He prefers the bus anyways. No need for any seat belt at all.


That's not true worldwide. Booster seats are illegal in Europe, you need a full car seat for children up to 35 kg.

Really? According to this [1], they are allowed after 18kg, and after 22kg, you can even just use a booster pillow.

[1] https://kindertravelguide.com/eu-car-seat-laws/


The laws vary by country - in general the European Commission makes recommendations, then it's up to each country to implement them at a local level.

How does that work? Do you just have to buy a new special car seat that is safe for that weight? Convertibles only go up to 50 or so pounds, and those are for the European NUNAs.

Never mind. According to google, these are what we Americans call “high backed booster seats”.


> or in this case, Toronto

Yeah, roaming around Toronto on a bicycle in summer is fun. In winter? Not so much. (I've done it, when I was younger, poorer and single.)

Riding a bicycle (or scooter/motorcycle) when there's ice/slush on the roads is uncomfortable and dangerous, which unsurprisingly is why very few people commute by bicycle year round in Toronto.

I'll believe governments are actually serious about combating climate change when they start offering serious tax incentives for people to work from home or local co-working spaces.


>It's quite obvious that the author has not spent much time in the types of communities where most people actually live, nor does he seem to have much familiarity with the concept of child rearing.

Urbanisation around the world is rapidly increasing with the formation of urban areas in China or India that might include more than a hundred million people.

It's very ironic that you're accusing the author of not getting out of the city when the rest of the entire world is getting into the city, I'm sorry to say that the American suburbs are not the fulcrum of the world any more. By talking about the future of the American city the author is at least approaching what is going to be the most relevant living arrangement of the future.

And when we're talking about children the Dutch may be of some advice who manage to carry them around just fine. Even in Western Europe which is more comparable to the US, children do not automatically imply the need for a car.


China and India are both building out the suburbs much the same way as the U.S. and Europe did following WWII. Suburbs may be inelegant and tacky to a lot of folks, but they're functional and people seem to like them. The citizens of China and India are no exception.

Suburbs in many countries are where people live if they are too poor to live in the city. This is definitely true in France, it is true in China as well (you live in changping if you can’t afford to live in Beijing).

This is rapidly becoming the case in the US as well.

> healthier cities

> move through cities

> cities populated with these vehicles

This article seems to be forgetting how many people don't live in cities.

> For long distance trips, inclement weather, or for the elderly or disabled, of course cars will still play a role.

In the part of the US I live in, about about 4 continuous months of the year could easily be described as "inclement weather" and many of my coworker's daily commutes would qualify as "long distance trips" (with no mass-transit alternatives). A more traditional vehicle is not an option, it's a requirement, and electric vehicles seem like the most intimidate route to meeting that requirement while reducing the environmental impact.

While I think focusing on alternatives to cars in urban areas is a great idea, and has potentially massive benefits beyond even the obvious environmental impact, any long-term view of the automotive industry has to take into consideration the needs of the roughly 50% of the population that doesn't live in urban centers.


The majority (>60%) of Americans live in cities: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-33....

A environment designed and built to make car-ownership a requirement (your word) has massive ecological and sociological downsides, and we should be doing what we can to shift away from it.


Phoenix is the 5th most populous city in the US and spans 517 square miles. The Phoenix Metro area spans over 14,000 square miles. Good luck navigating that on your scooter - especially with kids or cargo.

"Cities" don't necessarily mean "densely-packed sardine cans where people conduct their entire lives within a 2 mile radius of home".


In the last 5 years how many times did you have to travel 100 miles in a day. For most people it would be less then 5. Cars are mostly wasteful where you use energy to move few tons when actually want to move just 100-200kg.

Me personally? Quite a few. Work is 43 miles each way. My mom's 53 miles away. Not that unusual for Phoenix residents, particularly those who live out in the suburbs where housing is more affordable. Weekend activities are frequently 20-30+ miles from home.

That article says the average population density of cities is ~1,500 per square mile. NYC has a population density of ~27,000 people per square mile. There's a huge gap in the viability of foregoing a car between cities of those densities. A large portion of the US's cities are a LONG way from being able to go car-free.

> Four places in Alaska are among the nation’s largest in land area, such as Sitka city and borough, which consists of 2,870.4 square miles of land and has 3.1 people per square mile

That percentage is quite inflated though because they're using the legal definition of "city." Where I live just recently incorporated and is now a "city" but that doesn't mean people aren't still commuting 20+ miles to work in the winter.

That being said, I could easily imagine 40%-50% of people living in dense urban areas either now or in the near future, but there are always going to be a significant portion of people who don't. Given that, the article's premise that the future of transportation is just "personal electric vehicles like e-bikes, scooters, or micro-cars" makes little sense, even if these can replace traditional cars in dense urban settings, there are still going to be a huge number of people who will need a more traditional sized/styled vehicle. That being the case, traditionally sized electric (or other non-fossil fuel) vehicles (such as Teslas) need to be part of the future of transportation if we want to reduce the overall negative impacts we have on the environment.

I would also disagree that there are more "sociological downsides" to living outside of dense urban environments (there are pros and cons to each), but that feels like an entirely separate debate. =]


The article argues that the "simpler" solution is better – but surely the simpler solution is having better cars than convincing everyone to take a scooter or a bike, which have big drawbacks in many common scenarios.

I also support denser city living, with walkability (and scootability and bikeability) between work, home, shops, and everything else. Let's get that started and start our cities evolving to support that as soon as possible.

However, it seems like everybody has forgotten that cars (especially if you aren't the one driving) are really a quite good user experience, and that's why people prefer them.


We're not about to raze suburban cities to the ground, so electric cars are a good in-between.

This is the right way to think about it. EVs are a transitional technology. They allow us to maintain the current lifestyle choices while simultaneously empowering the reduction of reliance on fossil fuels. One can make no further statements without venturing into speculation on potential "best" futures that many find objectionable.

I'd personally like to see a future in which housing in cities is much denser, public transportation much better and private automobiles are considered a nuisance to be born by the relatively few who need them. But, even though most people consider that an extreme position, there are a lot of ideas that are commonplace today that were previously considered extreme.


I don't see suburban areas ever becoming truly mass transit viable.

I DO see a future where the benefits of living in denser-packed cities outpace the downsides, encouraging more and more of the US population to live in areas that are (or become) population dense enough for car-free lifestyles to be viable.


There are plenty of parts of London (typically zone 3 and out) which is full of low rise single family homes. The transit links in most of these areas are good enough that you can easily get by without a car (even as a family, although of course it would be easier by car). At least by my definition these would be a "suburban area".

An example I’ve used to some effect is payment systems. How we pay for stuff has changed tremendously, and more and more business is done through Venmo/Cash/Apple Pay/NFC/etc. But that transition needed some major infrastructure: first direct transfers through payment systems (eg debit/credit cards) then electronic payment systems. I see transit similarly, and electric cars are like credit cards - a technology that enables a transition.

There is no reason not to consider getting better mass transit into suburbs, along with densification of suburbs and other land use changes.

Some simple alterations to zoning/planning regulations would lead to more mixed residential/commercial uses even in already-existing developments. And that would make working and commuting locally _within_ the suburbs themselves more feasible.

Put it this way, if we were to take all the _private_ capital being invested in advanced automobiles, self-driving tech, etc. and somehow have that invested in _public_ infrastructure -- the cost effectiveness of mass transit into suburbs would look entirely different.

I think this is hard for North Americans to really imagine, because it just runs contrary to all senses of pragmatism, not to mention a general ideological adherence to private enterprise as primary driver of development. But there are definitely places in Europe and Asia where this has been to some degree the case. On my last trip to visit family in Germany we were able to get out into very rural areas, villages, natural areas, etc. completely on public transit.


The cost-benefit ratio of pushing mass transit out to suburbs just isn't there. They are separate cities, so you can't just say the metropolis should foot the bill (despite being the recipient of their work), you can't get the suburban cities to pay for it, since it's beyond what they can realistically foot.

The infrastructure isn't there, and putting it in in 2019 is financially untenable.


Yeah, the carbon cost of abandoning the suburbs and building enough apartment units for everyone there is rarely considered when people say we have to abandon all cars.

People are going to abandon a $200k investment to pay high rent in a city? Because if everyone has to leave the suburbs, no one will buy those houses.

I fully support increasing urbanization, but hate for electric cars (because it's not the "perfect" solution: public transit) like this is not well thought through.


Better public transportation plus biking/walking/skating can handle the lion's share of this.

He's suggesting e-bikes which won't go fast enough to get you where you're going, not to mention that there's very little infrastructure support for biking.

E-motorcyles maybe, but they're not comfortable at all.

MicroCars (they already exist in india: The Tata) are completely illegal in the US. There's so much regulation on car companies these days, there's very little room to innovate, especially with smaller cars which are pretty much illegal these days.


Did someone say they were? Seems like the article is arguing against something that no one is promoting and offering solutions that have been available for many years and not yet taken up. Where I live (Norway) electric scooters, hoverboards, etc., are all in use and have been for years but they are typically replacing walking not driving.

I agree with the article that things can suddenly change in unpredictable ways once a new technology becomes massively available. But it seems to me that both of us are pretty much stating the obvious.


People need cars for various reasons: trips to Home Depot to pick up home gardening gear, taking the kids and their friends to the movies, heading to the park to fly kites, traveling to the local university for graduate classes, travel for work that requires driving for hours to nearby cities. My family has done all of this, and none of it is convenient without a regular (gas or electric) car.

There may be some climates in the USA that allow year round commuting exposed to the elements, say San Diego, but in most of the country this isn’t practical. I’ve lived in places where it got to 13 degrees Fahrenheit below zero and in other places where it has been over 113 degrees above zero. Travel without the protection of a car for a couple of miles under these conditions is difficult.

For these reasons, people feel they need cars and once the sunken cost of such an investment is made it makes less sense to use public transportation or scooters. Someday, in the distant future, perhaps cities will have better, cleaner, safer, and more convenient public transportation and then the equation may change, but once you have a car in the garage already it’s often the easiest choice and having a Tesla might lessen the environmental impact.


Am I the only one who prefers a car to shared trains/rideshare/walking? Knowing I have a portable climate controlled space when the weather isn't to my liking? Knowing I can conveniently leave things fairly securely near where I happen to be (if not at home)? Knowing that no-one has recently barfed in my car, or have to wonder: ugh, what's that stain on the seat? Not having to run my life around a transit schedule (or deal with a full or very crowded bus/train) is great. The freedom cars give is absolutely wonderful relief from these things that you encounter in the city.

Personally, I don't get pro-urbanization: it's crowded, loud, smelly, and for all that wondrous enjoyment (and more), crazy expensive. I like not being able to see/hear my neighbors and for them not to see/hear me. I like that my views are very pretty. I like that the noises I hear are nature, and not man/machines. I like that I get to spend more of my money on things other than rent (other things are cheaper in the 'burbs too). And to someone else's point -- I live in a city, but looking around, you'd never know it.

But maybe I'm just weird.


uh, you may be missing the point. Few if any are against cars because the experience is poor. Absolutely the experience is individually superior. The point is that car usage is selfish, wasteful and generally worse for society as a whole.

in the west we are used to and loath to give up these comforts. personal cars, large suburban homes.. look at places that have modernized more recently, like in east Asia. Density, verticality, public transportation, these are the name of the game. Of course they would prefer to have their own cars and large homes, but the reality is that it's too inefficient for society to support.


Selfish? Really? That's your socialist dogwhistle right there.

Wasteful? That's in the eye of the beholder. It all depends on what you value. Some people value things differently than you.

Worse for society? Is it better to have to have millions of people burn substantially more time of their lives to live in cities due to the added expense? Is that really better for the poor?

Density is not a virtue. Misery of crowded, smelly, noisy and expensive, cities is not a virtue to inflict. Some people prefer cities. Good for them. Many do not.

Too inefficient? For whom? Funny, it works really well for many millions.

If you're pro-misery, claim it and own it. I just find it ironic that people from smoggy smelly cities are judging people from the comparatively, beautiful, clean, and low crime suburbs.

Try exiting your bubble.


Please don't cross into personal attack on HN. We ban accounts that do that repeatedly.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


At the end I didn't understand if he was talking about pollution or space use. Aren't Tesla cars emission free vehicles?

TL;DR: Claims a future of "small, personal electric vehicles like e-bikes, scooters, or micro-cars that are yet to exist. That's it."

Our road networks (urban, AND suburban & rural) host an extremely wide range of vehicle types. While the "small personal vehicles" touted might become popular (with a tweaked road network) it's unlikely to be at the exclusion of all the other vehicle types.

Sometimes you want to put your family in a {thing} and go somewhere together. We still need to haul/move/ship/deliver things. Those requirements don't go away.


I honestly couldn't read past the third paragraph. Yawn.

I completely agree with this article.



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