Car trouble – the beginning of the end

by Maria HARDING B.Eng (Hons), EDITOR

Have you considered giving up your car and using public transport, or better still walking or cycling? The government is trying to encourage us to cut down on car use and those of us who live within easy reach of buses and trains really have no excuse. Well, apart from the fact that fares are expensive, the service unreliable, crowded and uncomfortable, plus we need our cars to visit our customers, none of whom are located near train stations, and it’s all just too tempting to stay in bed that bit longer.

Let’s assume that the government succeeds in improving public transport and, either in a fit of altruism or because of a pain in your pocket, you use public transport, your bike or your legs to get to work. But let’s also assume that your job involves meeting with customers – probably more than one a day. Now stranded at your office, how do you reach them?

It is quite feasible to make contact electronically: using the Internet as your medium, for example, videophoning, product demos and report deliveries are all possible.

But if you’re going to do this, why travel to the office at all? Why not be linked up in your own home?

Perhaps instead of subsidising rail travel the government should subsidise the installation and use of Internet connections in everyone’s home.

In theory all business currently conducted in person could be dealt with remotely and electronically. The electronic interface would remove a lot of the subjectivity involved in buying and selling – you won’t know if the salesperson has a weak handshake, bad breath or dirty shoes. You won’t waste the first few minutes of your visit discussing your journey because no one will have gone anywhere. The product or service will have to stand alone, neither supported or impaired by the charms or idiosyncracies of the salesperson. Of course there will be the odd lorry or service engineer on the motorway and a smattering of the very rich and selfish in their gas guzzlers. But road rage will be a thing of the past, and the rising numbers of magpies feeding on road kill will diminish allowing the song thrush to make a come back.