Publication

Automobility Beyond Car: Introducing a New Coordinate System for Transforming Urban Mobility

Bahrami, F., 2017, 289 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully external

How is the future of automobility imagined today? What has structured such imaginary ? And what levers can steer its evolution towards a Post-Car World? These very three questions form the foundational motivations of this thesis.<br/> First, through a historical overview, I explore and analyze a selected corpus of verbal and visual discourses that have contributed to how we think of car, how we think of a transition from it, and interrelatedly how it is placed in our cities. An oppositional relation against walking seems to majorly explain the changing position of car. The comfort, speed, and privacy of car have been put against the effort, slowness and sociability of walking. By tracing the shifting values of these qualities, I detect and depict the evolution of car-pedestrian imaginaries. <br/> Second, two series of encounters with urban actors–urban experts and inhabitants– were conducted. (1) Interviewing eight urban experts (active practitioners in the field of urbanism), I quest for their assessment of the current “weak signs” of transition from car in urban space, their vision for its future in various urban forms, as well as the perks and perils of emerging technologies, as mobility’s “wild cards”. The transversal analysis of the interviews, using the theory-generating methodology (Bogner and Menz 2009), results in a set of extracted themes, common threads, visionary strategies, as well as contextualized tools. (2) In a Focus Group composed of eight inhabitants of the territory of Arc Lemanique Lausanne-Geneva area, the participants discussed various post-car scenarios that we had developed over the course of two Teaching Units held at EPFL’s school of Architecture. The analysis of the transcribed discussions revealed some of the salient motivations and impediments towards a post-car world. Cross-referencing the participants’ lifestyles with their expressed views indicates a dissociation of inhabitants’ daily practice of car mobility from their ideal of a mobile lifestyle. Considering the role of urban projects as a mediator, I confront the experts’ representations, ideas and references with the discourses of the inhabitants. As city is increasingly to be approached as a “work without author”, urban project (scenarios, visions, plans) becomes a dispositif of exchange and discussion, animating a process in which imaginations, assumptions, desires, and insights are exchanged, becoming the telltale of imaginaries rather than prescription for cities and territories. <br/> Third, I propose three conceptual axes along which the questions of post-car mobility are reformulated. Such reformulation, I discuss, not only can act upon the imaginaries, but also have implications for urban projects. The notions of Effort, Agility, and Vehicular Units are presented and shown that together can create a “coordinate system” in which mobility discourses go beyond the previously mentioned polarities of car pedestrian, towards values that set in-between, in order to reinvent the “auto” mobility for a more sustainable future. I present each axis in extent, situate them within the context of their emergence, and argue for their relevance and potentials. <br/> Finally, I argue for broadening the development of these three notions into cogent and cohesive analytical forces to constitute major axes of transformation capable of engendering new sets of understandings and discourses – new imaginaries.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Ecole Polytechn Federale Lausanne EPFL
Thesis sponsors
  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
Award date12-Dec-2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

    Keywords

  • automobility, post-car world, futures, imaginaries

ID: 122489993