Automobility reconfigured? Ironic seductions and mundane freedoms in 16–21 year olds’ accounts of car driving and ownership

  • Published: Mobilities.June 2017
  • Authors: Green, J., Steinbach, R., Garnett, E., Christie, N., Prior, L.
  • Date Added: 12 Jan 2018
  • Last Update: 12 Jan 2018
  • Format: html


The aim of the paper was to develop an understanding of contemporary enrolment to automobility by exploring the practices and desires of people aged 16-21 and their parents.  


17 group interviews held with seventy people aged 16 to 21 year olds and 4 group interviews with fourteen parents. Groups of young people consisted of people who knew each other. Recruitment was conducted through community groups and local gatekeepers, with individuals identified asked to invite a small number of friends or colleagues. It was conducted in the areas outside the metropolitan centres of United Kingdom with over-recruitment from Northern Ireland.

Key Findings:

  • It was concluded that classical meanings ascribed to automobility such as independence, freedom and autonomy, are still present in the narrative, but are reconstructed by young people.

  • Car usage is not entirely narrowed to car owning and independence but also to car sharing and interdependencies.

  • It is positioned not only as a desirable object in itself and an item of conspicuous consumption but a part of options in a mixed economy and a mundane tool which enables access to fundamentals of subsistence life, i.e. work, apprenticeship and social events.

  • Driving is perceived as a potential contribution and service for interdependent local communities which also requires financial collaboration.

  • A car is considered merely as a space for enjoying company than a platform for the individual traveller.

  • Car ownership has lost much of its glamour and is framed by mundane responsibilities of acquiring financial resources and gaining skills to deal with risks on the road.