Taking a step back to move forward

Mega roads such as the Atal Setu and hybrid vehicles like those being introduced by Maruti Suzuki may originate from the past, but they are instrumental in shaping our future.

By Sergius Barretto, Autocar India  calendar 25 Feb 2024 Views icon3038 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Taking a step back to move forward

Two of our mega stories this month – Maruti’s plan to launch range extenders or series hybrids and the Atal Setu – triggered an interesting thought in my mind, which I wanted to share with you. Both seem like a step back in time, enabling a leap into the future. Let me explain. The Atal Setu is an engineering marvel and is all set to ease up our immediate commuting future, but it’s also something from the past.

The world over, cities are now moving away from mega roads, seeing that they eventually only attract more traffic. As that cynical statement goes, ‘one more lane will fix it’, adding lanes eventually doesn’t really ease traffic. The world over, cities have realised that expanding their roads hasn’t helped ease congestion and cities are now shifting their focus to public transport and beyond – re-zoning and restructuring to enable shorter, quicker commutes.

London has its congestion charge, New York too will implement the same in what is being called a car-reduction experiment. It wants to reduce city centre traffic by 20 percent and use funds to upgrade its old and stretched-to-the-limit subway system. Many European cities are re-zoning areas and even redoing city layouts for easier and shorter commutes. The Line in Saudi Arabia takes things further still and proposes an audacious plan to build an entire city with no roads, but with a structure allowing for short walkable commutes to work, play and shop, and a high-speed rail system for the odd longer distances.

So should we not be building these roads then? No, we certainly need them. Like a snowball, our infrastructure development began small and a while ago, but it’s now growing into the mega size we need. But the future remains a shorter-commute one and one that we must keep working towards. This isn’t the end goal.

The same goes with hybrids too. While the world seems done with them – certainly at least the series hybrids that Maruti wants to build – for us there’s merit. EVs will play a big part in our future but we have many hurdles to overcome: charging infra, green energy availability and even electricity availability all around the country. So, as it stands, we have some distance to go and until then, solutions are needed for a growing automobile market. Thus, while the series hybrid maybe shunned the world over, for India, this could be a fantastic idea. Imagine a Swift returning a genuine 30-plus kpl.

So yes, I wanted to pen this thought down as it struck me as intriguing, seeing that we are looking to past ideas to build our future. Perhaps they are not past ideas then, maybe just hoops we must get through on our way to the future.

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