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MOBILITY Opinion piece


For the greater good O


Guy Fraker suggest that a disruption in personal mobility is an ethical dilemma for many


n 3 September 2013 I read a news headline on MSN News with interest: ‘Rail Industry resists safety meas- ure sought for 50 years.’ The story that followed this


headline provides a solid example of a similar set of circum- stances facing those impacted by the vehicle “crash economy”. According to this article, and several others on the same


topic, safety measures were enacted in 2008 designed to increase the safety of rail transport. While a handful of com- panies are going to meet these regulations, the majority of rail companies have chosen to not meet these new regulations, citing cost and scale. Several aspects of this story are worth noting. For example this resistance is being raised now, given additional safety measures being proposed in the wake of a series of deadly train crashes over the past 24 months. In fact, these past two years hold some of the highest fatality


rates along with property loss in many years. Secondly, what is the recourse for regulators when an industry absolutely essen- tial to the nation’s economy essentially chooses to not meet regulatory requirements? This raises questions about other means of transportation that now have access to technological capabilities with quantified and significant societal benefits, while at the same time holding the very real potential of nega- tively impacting gross revenues and net profits. For example, what about autonomous vehicle capabilities?


NOT JUST REVERSING TRENDS, WRITING A LEGACY History has proven repeatedly that one cornerstone of every great society, considered “state of the art” in it’s own time, was the ability to move people, goods, and services effec- tively from point A to point B, and if needed, back again. Additionally, as long as their have been modes of transporta- tion, those at the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum of their day, also chose ownership of the various modes as a means of both convenience and displaying their status. As a result, urban planners and those in the public policy arena have consistently found themselves in a position of reacting to transportation-based consumer trends. In 45 BC a Roman law limited vehicles within the city to


the two hours before sunset. No vehicles were allowed within the city from dawn until two hours before dusk, unless the vehicle was being used for a specific ceremonial purpose. As congestion between Roman cities grew, sidewalks were eventually added for pedestrian use. England passed its first


18


A fork in the road: should vehicle insurance companies be seen as a massive system that organizes cash flow?


traffic law in 1555, requiring property owners to be respon- sible for the roadways passing across the front of their prop- erty. Along the way, specific events have periodically created transportation-based disruptive shifts, such as the avail- ability of a vehicle created by Henry Ford, and then again in the 1950s with the implementation of the Federal Interstate Highway Act by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, all prior disruptive shifts resulted in accelerating


the growth of ownership and use of personal vehicles. One important aspect to remember is that knowledge was also dependent upon transportation systems for movement and adoption. Along the way, peripheral industries grew as trans- portation needs grew. For example, several of the nation’s leading auto insurers, as well as consumer credit institutions, tourism, and the emergence of gas stations can all point to the 1920s as the decade of their founding. The launching of these sectors is certainly attributable to


the mass adoption of Ford’s Model T. And so it has been for nearly two thousand years – the more personal transpor- tation units improved and were acquired, the greater the


thinkinghighways.com Vol 8 No 3 North America


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