Although countries with high levels of economic development generally have more personal automobile travel than less-affluent nations, income is not the only factor that determines a nation's demand for cars, according to a new study.
Examining factors that may influence personal automobile use in developing nations, researchers found that government policies such as taxes that keep fuel costs high and the development of road systems can have important influence on levels of automobile travel.
Shaping the personal use of automobiles is an important issue in developing countries. While individual cars can increase access to employment and personal travel, it also can contribute to congestion, air pollution and traffic fatalities, according to the study
Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Mobility Research examined four large developing nations and forecast future automobile travel. Researchers concluded that Brazil is likely to have the most automobile travel, followed by Russia, India and China.
"Our research suggests that factors other than income influence automobile travel," said Liisa Ecola, lead author of the study and senior project associate at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Some factors reflect underlying trends, but others can be shaped by policy. So just because the Chinese economy has grown rapidly doesn't mean that the Chinese will drive as much as Americans in the future."
Researchers looked for lessons by comparing the developing countries to a set of developed nations that have different personal driving levels -- Japan, Germany, Australia and the United States.
Japan has the lowest levels of automobile travel and the United States has the highest. Germany reflected the European experience and Australia was selected because while it is similar to the United States geographically, it has lower levels of driving.
The study identifies nine facto
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