The primary measure of the efficiency of the car, and a significant factor in its design and engineering, is miles per gallon. In the physical world, however, there are many other costs associated with the design of the automobile – widths of streets, breadths of intersections, sizes of parking lots and parking spaces, miles of highways, acres of interchanges, rights of way, sizes of storm sewers, etc.
If we consider the costs of maintaining and operating all of this, including its environmental costs, how would the cost/mile of driving a car – more complete Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)metrics – be perceived?
We now legislate fuel efficiency, and the growing awareness of that measure in pocketbook and environmental costs causes a response in buying patterns from consumers and a response from car manufacturers in the engineering and design of their product. Similarly, food labeling, including not just ingredients but also nutritional information and, in some places, distance from origin information, is affecting consumer decisions and moving back up the supply chain to influence even how farms are managed.
How much else might change in the design of the car if all of these other infrastructural and environmental costs were a matter of commonly understood and shared information? For example, what would the infrastructure look like and what would it cost if cars had collision-avoidance/self-guidance systems, for example? Which is more expensive in TCO – technology or land?
What if the labeling on a car had all of its other cost “ingredients” listed? What if I understood that, on this car, the turning radius, parking requirements, and other physical impacts had a 20% higher infrastructural cost than another model?