Automobilities after SARS-CoV-2: A socio-technical perspective
This paper presents an analysis, informed by socio-technical transitions theory and the socially derived concept of automobility, of the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and resulting COVID-19 pandemic on automobility in Europe. The paper argues that the concept of a pervasive, sudden, and powerful crisis has not previously be explored in the socio-technical transitions literature. The strong behavioural changes in physical and virtual mobility associated with the pandemic are argued to be particularly significant, representing a 'living lab' in which to explore the possibilities for disintegrating the boundaries of the automobility system, thereby breaking the enduring structures and practices that have enabled automobility to remain largely unchallenged in the policy arena. Change processes previously underway in the automotive industry and in automobility are not impacted equally by the pandemic. We present initial evidence that mobility sharing will reduce, while the acceptance of electric cars will increase. However, it is also concluded that the hegemony of private automobility is not in itself threatened by pandemic outcomes.