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The future of the car

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 17 December 2011

The world's love affair with the car has been a defining feature of the 20th century.

There are more and more of them, a billion cars so far, with projections of there being over two billion cars on the road within two decades, unless consumers and designers decide to embrace an alternative.

So is the car culture now at a critical crossroads?

Will it remain a status symbol we all aspire to, the world over?

And can new car designs, especially for the emerging car markets in India and China, overcome problems of pollution, road safety and over crowding?

Expert opinion from car designer for India, Rohan Saparamadu, Californian transport adviser Professor Daniel Sperling and British authority on social attitudes to travel Professor John Urry.

Illustration by Emily Kasriel; The single-seater car as an office on the road to India's future.

  • John Urry

    John Urry

    Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University, John Urry, has a particular interest in contemporary mobility and what comes ‘after the car’. He argues that it might take a long time before we can be weaned off the ‘petroleum and steel’ car and that fun might be one of the key elements in persuading us to opt for greener transport.

    Urry: After the car
  • Rohan Saparamadu

    Rohan Saparamadu

    After a long career in car design at General Motors in the US, for the last two years Rohan Saparamadu has been Chief Designer at Maruti, the pre-eminent small car manufacturer in India. He says that when he first started designing for India, he had to revise many of his ideas about what makes a successful car.

  • Daniel Sperling

    Daniel Sperling

    Daniel Sperling is recognized as a leading expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy. He is Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at University of California, Davis and sits on the board of the California Air Resources Board, an institution that for half a century has been pivotal in shaping policies on things like fuel efficiency and restricting car pollution.

    Sperling: Two Billion Cars
  • Sixty second idea to change the world

    John Urry suggests that we should re-design cars so that it’s much more obvious what highly dangerous machines these really are. Drawing on an idea by risk theorist John Adams, he says that all car steering wheels should have pointing out from their centre a sharp metal stake directed at the heart of the driver and stopping an inch or two from their chest.


    We’re devoting the whole programme to some of the weird, whacky and wonderful 60 Second Ideas we’ve had on the Forum, reviewed for us by the distinguished zoologist Robert May, poet Imtiaz Dharker and science writer Philip Ball.


Free downloads

  1. Image for Forum - A World of Ideas

    Forum - A World of Ideas

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