By Andrew J. Hawkins / @andyjayhawk
What a year, huh?
Electric vehicles went mainstream and, in the process, became nearly impossible to buy. As a result, they were vastly outsold by e-bikes, which continued their march toward popular acceptance. Gas prices did their rollercoaster thing. So did interest rates. AV companies expanded, retracted, and basically befuddled our expectations. Transit agencies struggled to get back to pre-pandemic levels, but maybe buses will soon be free? Tesla showed us a robot, shed billions in dollars of value, and watched enviously as its CEO found a new toy to play with.
A lot more stuff happened, but honestly, who wants to dwell on the past?
A lot more stuff happened, but honestly, who wants to dwell on the past? Here at The Verge, we keep our unwavering eyes always on the future, which is why I thought it could be cool to reach out to a bunch of my favorite smart people in transportation to get their predictions for 2023.
Will car prices stabilize? Will China surpass the US in autonomous vehicle technology? Will more people ditch their boring SUVs and minivans for the unmitigated joys of an electric cargo bike? Enough of my blathering; let’s let our experts tell us what they see in their crystal balls.
My biggest prediction is that car prices finally start to fall — new and used — in a measurable and noticeable way. It’s been a long couple of years with inflated prices due to demand, low borrowing costs, and covid supply shortages, but I think things will finally equalize in 2023.
“My biggest prediction is that car prices finally start to fall — new and used — in a measurable and noticeable way.”
“We expect more households to opt for a cargo e-bike instead of a second gas-powered vehicle.”
Electric cars aren’t sexy. You know what is sexy? Electric bikes. In 2023, cities will realize that they’ve been too busy reading Elon Musk’s Tweets to notice that the transportation revolution of the last decade hasn’t been in Uber, Lyft or in electric, driverless or flying cars but in the half-billion bike share and e-scooter trips taken since 2010 with scant public investment. Electric bike sales now outnumber electric cars in the US, and if the nation’s cities invested half as much money and road space in supporting this trend, it could just as quickly outpace car trips.
The interest rates piece is probably most interesting — how much higher can these rates go? Folks getting a used car loan right now are paying over $10,000 in interest alone on average!! It seemed like not that long ago you could buy a car for $10,000!
“The interest rates piece is probably most interesting — how much higher can these rates go?”
I think that pedestrian fatalities will hit an all-time high, around 8,000, for 2022; but overall roadway fatalities will level off from the historic high of 2021 and provide too much comfort, reducing the focus on roadway safety.
“Vehicle subscription companies will scale at the fastest pace in a decade as vehicle affordability reaches new lows.”
E-bike fans were rightly furious when the Senate killed the proposed e-bike tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. With Republicans now in control of the House, its resuscitation seems unlikely. But fear not — states are ready to lead the charge for e-bike adoption, even if Congress isn’t. Rhode Island already has a statewide e-bike subsidy program, and states like California, Connecticut, and Colorado are preparing theirs too. Expect more to follow in 2023, especially in blue states where leaders recognize the urgency of climate change.
“Expect more layoffs in the large AV companies and at least one more high-profile flameout like Argo AI”
GM will surrender on Cruise, citing astronomical costs and this uncertain path to profitability.
We see direct action and tactical urbanism hitting the mainstream in 2023. As Americans wake up to the fact that government is failing to provide basic services and move with necessary urgency on a variety of pressing issues, we expect to see more and more groups like L.A.’s Crosswalk Collective, Slow Streets San Francisco, Just Stop Oil, and the Tyre Extinguishers taking matters into their own hands. Call it the Year of the Lentil Bean.
I think traffic deaths will start to decline compared to pandemic years and settle into a more normal pre-pandemic pattern or perhaps remain slightly elevated but stop increasing. Infrastructure Bill spending will start to hit the ground, and we’ll see more construction and orange barrels. I am hopeful the Pete Buttigieg US DOT is going to unveil a really important policy change. It has been revising the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is a sort of recipe book that tells engineers how to design streets. Big opportunity to reform traffic engineering and implement greater safety nationwide. I hope EV sales will sort of explode. I expect the charging infrastructure that has been lacking will come online quickly thanks to federal investments in part. I also think major automakers are retooling to expand inventory and the new IRA law makes the price about the same as for a new internal combustion engine car.
“We see direct action and tactical urbanism hitting the mainstream in 2023”
I’d love to see e-cargo bikes catch on more. They’re still expensive, even with various state subsidies, but I think they’re a really smart answer to how we can make micromobility work not just for the guy commuting to work (or the pub) but for women and families, people who need to carry things and run errands, and so on. If we want people to stop driving to the grocery store, we need to give them an easy alternative for getting their groceries home. Elsewhere in micromobility, I think 2023 will be a year of reckoning for e-scooters. Investors are sick of propping up money-losing firms, so you either figure out a way to turn a profit or you run out of cash. Lastly, it’s important to remember that a lot of how we get around develops in response to our built environment and urban policies, so I hope to see more people- and environment-centric planning moves like constructing bike lanes, reducing vehicle speed limits, introducing congestion charges, funding public transit, and— maybe! the dream! — putting a price on all that free parking.
This coming year, I expect to see the rise of the home-office apartment complex. We’ll see developers in cities nationwide planning new apartments with larger floorplates and special features made for the large number of Americans who now work from home some or all of the time. These apartments may feature soundproofed rooms and customizable wall displays fit for a zoom background. The buildings themselves may include rentable meeting rooms for occasional in-person get-togethers. And developers will work with major companies to try to subsidize a portion of these new, larger units’ higher rents.
“I think 2023 will be a year of reckoning for e-scooters”
In 2023, I think we’re going to see a continuation of many of the trends we’ve already been experiencing. Tech’s big ideas will keep failing to deliver, whether that’s micromobility, eVTOLs, or the Boring Company. Autonomous vehicles will roll out to a few more places, accompanied by a narrative that the promise is finally starting to be realized, even as companies try to cover up the flaws that persist (and how far the reality is from the future they once promised). Uber will keep fighting to carve its drivers out of employment protections, but workers will continue to make progress globally at defending their rights. I would love to see Uber become a victim to the end of cheap money, but sadly I don’t think we’ll be so lucky. Finally, we’ll see continued (though unevenly distributed) progress on the things that actually make transport better: redesigning streets, investing in transit, expanding cycling infrastructure, and the like. In short, tech’s big ideas are sidelined in favor of the fundamentals they tried to distract us from.
“Uber will keep fighting to carve its drivers out of employment protections, but workers will continue to make progress globally at defending their rights”
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We asked 17 smart people to predict the future of transportation in … – The Verge
By Andrew J. Hawkins / @andyjayhawk