The motor vehicle is the ultimate tool of the individual. In it we go about our business traveling where and when we see fit. When Malthusian socialists say the automobile ‘encourages urban sprawl’, what they mean is that it encourages the growth of suburbs where children and families grow. They mean it discourages inner city slums, despair, crime, and low birth rates. When they agitate for houses to be built with no car parking spaces to encourage the use of public transport, they want people to be forced to travel when and where a bureaucrat decides rather than according to their own wishes. They prefer the sight of millions of dreary faces on the Moscow subway rather than mothers driving SUVs through leafy streets with happy children in the back coming home from after-school sports practice.
Motor vehicles are evolving to become fully electric and autonomously driven. This will lead to an enormous expansion in traffic as individuals and businesses will be able to send unoccupied vehicles on errands. Unoccupied vehicles rushing about carrying goods will make possible entire new industries and efficiencies and will no doubt quickly surpass the number of occupied vehicles. People’s lives will be made many times more enjoyable as elderly people will be able to take themselves on outings, to the doctor, to visit friends and family, and children will be sent to school and day-care by themselves. This increased traffic will merely be the continuation of a trend humanity has seen since the dawn of the age of the automobile—more freedom, more convenience, more prosperity, increasing safety.
There have always been two approaches to transportation policy: first, the practical approach of building more roads, tunnels, freeways, bypasses, and flyovers; second, to look to an imaginary future through Marxist glasses and see a utopian socialist paradise where there will be no cars and all the comrades will happily travel together on public transport. The first approach leads to economic growth, convenience and higher standards of living, while the second creates congestion, economic stagnation and lower living standards.
Increased traffic undoubtedly has had some negative effects, but each in turn has been addressed by technology and investment. Traffic congestion has been eased by more roads, bridges, motorways and flyovers. The lead-filled smog that blanketed Los Angeles and other major cities in the 1970s has now lifted, despite an increase in traffic in the intervening years—thanks to emissions controls and lead-free gasoline. The problems of noise pollution and unsightly roads will no doubt be solved by moving roads underground. As technology and economies of scale make tunneling cheaper, we can expect to see private enterprise build more and more underground roads until eventually the majority of traffic will be underground, leaving leafy suburbs where there is nothing to be heard except the chirping of birds and the playing of children. Meanwhile, below and out of sight, trillions of computer-controlled electric cars will hurtle about, at ever more wondrous speeds.
Countries that continue their obstinate pursuit of a socialist utopian future will find that the infrastructure to create a prosperous society cannot be created overnight. Roads are laid down over numerous decades and multiple generations. Failure to invest will mean that by the time they realize their mistake, it will be hard to catch up. The cost of creating all those tunnels and bridges and flyovers, which should have been shared between generations, will need to be paid at once—a near impossible task.