Home / Automotive / Cars / What If Cars Spontaneously Disappeared?


If cars just suddenly disappeared, what would be the effect on society today? Quite an odd thought, but it serves to show just how much of a role they play in this day and age.

There are over 1.15 billion motor vehicles in use in the world. This figure represents the number of cars, buses as well as light, medium and heavy-duty trucks, but does not include off-road vehicles or heavy construction equipment.

First off, let's have a look at some advantages it may offer.

On an average, nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3 561 deaths a day. An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. You might think that the death rate has declined over the last two decades due to more advanced safety features, but unfortunately not. Cars are not only a lot more powerful but have become a lot more accessible, financially viable and available – especially to the younger market.

A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This number can vary based on a vehicle’s fuel type, fuel economy, and the number of kilometres driven per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 10l/100km and drives around 20 000km per year. Every litre of petrol burned creates about 8 887 grams of CO2.

This totals to about 30% of the global carbon footprint. So, without cars, this equates to quite a large sum of reduced greenhouse gases.

Also, imagine the amount of money one could potentially save. No more insurance, petrol and maintenance costs. This could surely up the standard of living for millions of people.
And, on top of this all, one large over-looked factor would be the rapid loss of noise pollution. It might even take quite a while to get used to such a drastic change.

On the other hand, though, the disadvantages of no more cars will quite likely overrule the advantages very quickly.

If auto manufacturing were a country, it would be the sixth largest economy. The world’s automotive industry made over 66 million cars, vans, trucks and buses in 2005. These vehicles are essential to the working of the global economy and to the wellbeing of the world’s citizens. This level of output is equivalent to a global turnover (gross revenue) of almost R28 trillion.

The auto industry is the single greatest engine of economic growth in the world. The global auto industry is a key sector of the economy for every major country worldwide. And the industry continues to grow, registering a 40 percent increase over the past decade. Imagine if all this was lost, what an effect this will have on the global economy.

Autos create jobs, jobs, jobs.

Building 60 million vehicles requires the employment of about 9 million people directly in making both the vehicles as well as the parts that go into them. This is over five percent of the world’s total manufacturing employment. It is estimated that each direct auto job supports at least another five indirect jobs in the community, resulting in more than 50 million jobs owed to the auto industry.

Many people are employed in related manufacturing and services. Autos are built using the goods of many industries including steel, iron, aluminium, glass, plastics, carpeting, textiles, computer chips, rubber and more. Not to mention, advances in technology.

Automakers continue to invest in the future. The automobile industry is also a major innovator, investing over R1.2 trillion in research, development and production and plays a key role in the technology level of other industries and of society.

Vehicle manufacturing and use are also major contributors to government revenues around the world, contributing well over R6 trillion. Then, what about the road construction industry? That will fall away too.

Aside from all the financial and GDP figures, what if public transport was established to the point whereby it could be a substitute to owning a car? This could either benefit or be a great inconvenience. Imagine having to take a bus or train to your matric dance, or to wait for the train to be rushed to a hospital in an emergency... that is of course if you consider an ambulance a car too.

There are most definitely people who live quite well without owning a car, but this depends greatly on your community's public transport. In most European central business districts, for example, having a car could be more of a nuisance than just using public transport for day to day activity. However, in more developing countries much like our own, public transport is not established as safe, reliable or cost-effective.

Cars are obviously here to stay for many years to come. The concept of what we call a car today might change greatly as technology evolves, but its primary function will always remain consistent.

What do you think of a future without a car? Let us have your thoughts in the comment section below.

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