The Next Ten Years – Readers’ Edition, Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #523

In NMA E-Newsletter #520, The Next Ten Years, Jim Walker, Gary Biller, and Steve Carrellas provided their thoughts — limited by the NMA to less than 300 words — on the significant challenges that motorists and the NMA will face over the next decade. We asked readers to chime in with their thoughts and published Part 1, Issue #522 last week. Here are some additional observations:

As a motorcycle rider you would think that we’re immune from the technology march, but we’re not, just to start the engine requires a 5 second wait for all of the 17 computers to get on line. Such things as ABS go rather unnoticed for a street rider, but when you add dirt riders, they find ABS an impediment to safe riding off road and on some bikes they can’t turn the darn ABS off. Newer bikes now include stability control, traction control, electronic suspension, and anti roll back brakes. WOW.

My last BMW motorcycle had over 40 menu options on the “Rider Information Display” many of them were not of the “Set and Forget” options either, before every ride you had to go and reset everything again. The worst offender is the new Honda Gold Wing with its Star Wars display.

— Tom, Washington member


I think we are going to experience a renaissance in personal transportation in the next ten years, especially in cities. This will be driven primarily by Europe and Asia since the US is controlled by politics and that will keep the car and the internal combustion engine front-and-center over here. Here are my predictions:

  • Hybrid and electric vehicles will become extremely popular in Europe where roads, high fuel taxes and culture come down hard on modes of transportation that pollute.
  • Cities will become much less friendly towards cars and trucks not only in Europe but also in the US. Europe will be driven by the need to control pollution and the US will be driven by the need to control congestion. You will begin to see zones in and near cities that ban certain types of vehicles and taxes that make them prohibitive to drive into the city except for special situations. There will also be time restrictions when such vehicles cannot be driven into a city.
  • Today’s electric scooter and the bicycle will give way to new modes of personal transportation that have yet to be invented or developed. The emphasis for these new modes of transportation will be personal safety, mobility, clean air and convenience.
  • Self-driving vehicle development will shift from cars to personal transportation. When you need one, you will summon the personal transportation vehicle electronically and the vehicle will drive itself to you. You tell it where you want to go and it will take you there quickly and safely. When it is no longer needed, it will go find the nearest plug-in parking spot and recharge itself while waiting for the next user to summon it.
  • You will not own your own vehicles. Instead, you will sign up for a “transportation service” and pay monthly according to your usage plan. This will be similar to a car payment but you will have access to a wide range of vehicles and you can select one that meets your needs at that moment.
  • Increasing taxes on internal combustion engines and increasing areas where they are prohibited will slowly drive down the popularity of those vehicles. Europe will lead the way, followed by Asia and the US will lag.
  • A new industry will spring up that will replace engines in older “classic” cars with electric and hybrid engines. Without the conversion, those cars will become too expensive to drive in addition to being prohibited from many public roads and highways.
  • The repair and maintenance cost of electric vehicles will be far less than the cost for internal combustion engines.  That will contribute greatly to pushing people away from internal combustion engines.
  • The auto repair business will be totally transformed due to the new modes of transportation. There will be three main types of repair shops – mechanical, body repair, and electrical.
  • The value of the vehicles we think are so ‘cool’ in 2019 will plummet. No one will want the vintage pickup trucks, mustangs, SUVs, etc. because they will be too expensive to drive and too restricted on where they can go.
  • Roads in the middle of the city will be torn up and reconfigured to accommodate the new forms of transportation.  There will be an emphasis on walking and using personal transportation devices (electric and much smaller than cars). There may even be underground roadways in some cities for these personal vehicles.
  • Life in cities will be much more pleasant and quiet with fewer cars and trucks on the road. The air will be cleaner and people will be healthier with all of the walking they need to do.
  • New cities and communities will be created around these new modes of transportation.

— Jim Burton, New Hampshire member


I read your latest newsletter with great interest, and was immediately on board with the first missive on ‘the 85th percentile’, but what REALLY grabbed me was the second, which held the statement “Punishing citizens into submission sounds more like an authoritarian society than a free one”.

This harkened me back to the not-so-halcyon days of the National Maximium Speed Limit of 55 mph.  I was yet a mere pup in my early 30’s and drove, naturally but unwittingly, the 85th percentile.  My reward for driving the 85th, and, god-forbid, enjoying it, were enough tickets to where that poor young sap with a wife and three kids to support SIMPLY COULD NOT AFFORD ANOTHER ticket.

P.S. Ever since the return of (relative) sanity to speed limits I have generally driven, particularly out on the highways, so that while I’m slowly passing most traffic (conditions permitting of course) I make sure I’m getting passed by a small percentage of the cars on the road with me.  I’d say that puts me, on AVERAGE, at between 5 to 10 miles over the posted speed limit, and occasionally 15 to 20 with the same flow pattern [commonly, 85mph on I-80 between SF and Sacramento].  And I haven’t had a ticket since.  Or an ‘at-fault’ accident (only two low-speed slow-and-go rear-enders in commute traffic).

                                                                        — Carl Hockett, Nevada member


I see one of the biggest challenges being technology, since it will drive other changes.

Already, cars are becoming increasingly high tech. Displays and gadgets are a lot more advanced, and can be confusing to many of us who are more in tune with the analog dashboards of our past. Aside from the confusion as one goes down the learning curve, there is also the increasing complacency that comes with having devices that do some of the things an attentive driver should be doing-checking mirrors, watching following distance, etc. All this stuff can be helpful, and has its advantages, but the fact remains that the best safety device is a careful driver.

The big new thing now is driverless cars, though they’ve had their teething problems. There are not now enough of them in play to have a significant impact on traffic, but as they become more prevalent-and they will, though, I think, not as fast as their proponents would like, or the rest of us fear-they will eventually become an obstacle for the rest of us who are still driving our own cars. I can picture this situation: three lanes of traffic on an expressway somewhere, automatic cars in all three lanes at the same speed, blocking everybody behind them from passing. The corollary to all this automation, because they will all be part of the internet of things, is that unless there is sufficient security built into the cars and supporting infrastructure, they will be subject to hacking, which can cause all kinds of mayhem, from the cars grinding to a halt, with ensuing traffic disruption, to active hacking causing the cars to behave in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

Tech will also increasingly drive law enforcement. The travails with red light and speed cameras are well known, and I won’t rehash them here. I would expect more use of ALPR’s for a variety of law enforcement activities, some of them surreptitious, especially when the activity they support might be illegal (think tracking drivers’ movements) in combination with agencies being opaque about their use and purpose. Already, Oklahoma has started using them to scan plates and match against a state insurance database, sending uninsured registrants tickets in the mail. (Side note-if you live in Oklahoma, back into your parking spot, since you have no front plate)

Another issue is infrastructure. The condition of our roadways, and funding their upkeep is another topic that has been well covered, so I won’t address it except to say there’s a lot of work to be done. On a local level, there is a push in many places to put in bike lanes, pedestrian crosswalks and the like, which often include the annoying “traffic calming” features. We had a street here that had a bike lane set up, and the roadway pinched down to a single lane in the middle of a block, so if two cars approached from opposite directions, one had to stop to let the other pass. Fortunately, public outcry got them to remove those obstacles. Bike lanes are nice, but streets are for driving. If municipalities want to accommodate bikes, they need to expand the roadways to handle both kinds of traffic.

                                                            — T.A. Beckett, Arkansas member

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