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朋友, Where’s My Car?

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As vehicle ownership in developing economies like China begins to approach Western levels, the world’s known oil reserves will disappear, a crisis that demands the application of collective intelligence on a global scale. History suggests it won’t be forthcoming anytime soon.

The good news for the global auto industry is that in the coming decades they will sell a staggering number of new vehicles. The bad news is that there won’t be any gas to put in them.

The demand for vehicles in places like China and India is skyrocketing. As vehicle ownership even begins to approach Western levels, the entire global crude oil supply will be spoken for. A situation that could plunge the world into global war.

You would think, then, that these companies and the governments around the world that dictate to a large degree what kind of fuel efficiency their vehicles must achieve would be gathering in endless meetings in order to address the problem, a beehive of collective intelligence in action.

And you would be completely wrong.

Even today there are very few global standards for fuel economy, vehicle emissions or pretty much anything else when it comes to automobiles. The vast majority of issues are still decided on a country-by-country and company-by-company basis.  It reminds one of the early days of the automobile when electric vehicles were highly popular and died off in large part because electric car manufacturers insisted on their own proprietary plugs for their recharging stations. The owner of a Detroit Electric Vehicle, therefore, could not recharge at a Baker Electric Vehicle recharging station and vice versa. Why should I dilute my customer’s dependence on me, EV makers seemed to say, just to, um, stay in business?

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