Analysing the Future of Driving and Automobility in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and other Developing Countries

Mototransport (bicycle cars) in New Delhi, India



Automobility — the use of cars and light trucks for personal travel — provides many people with a flexible and speedy means of travel. But a high rate of individual car use comes at a price. Pollution, urban sprawl, traffic jams, and fatalities — not to mention an enormous investment in building and maintaining roads, bridges, and parking spaces — are only some of the risks and problems associated with widespread private auto use.


RAND Europe and RAND researchers sought to answer three questions:

  1. What are the factors besides economic development that affect automobility?
  2. What is their influence on automobility?
  3. What will happen to automobility in developing countries if they progress along similar paths as developed countries?

The research team determined that nine factors, in addition to gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, affect a country’s automobility. These factors can be divided into two groups: Exogenous factors (those that transportation policymakers cannot change or over which they have very limited control) and transportation policy factors (those that transportation policymakers can directly affect).

Transportation Policy Factors

  1. Good car infrastructure
  2. Inexpensive fuel
  3. Pro-car policies
  4. Lack of alternatives to driving

Exogenous Factors

  1. Active population
  2. Existence of domestic oil
  3. Strength of the domestic car industry
  4. Spatial dispersion
  5. Favorability of car culture


Our key findings were that income is not destiny when it comes to automobility, and policymakers can influence automobility.

Income per capita should not be the only predictor of future automobile driving. Although the nine additional automobility factors may need to be revisited — information technology, climate legislation, and other pressing trends may also affect automobiles and driving — policy, culture, and economic issues beyond people’s individual incomes can affect the choice to drive.

Additionally, transportation policies can affect how much people want to drive, including consumer pricing of fuel, policies that discourage excessive driving, and those that encourage alternatives to driving. In other words, policymakers can influence some elements of future travel demand if they so desire.

When applied specifically to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), the research team found that Brazil proved the most car-oriented country of the BRICs, with a potential long-term level of automobility between those of Germany and Australia. Russia was the second most car-oriented country, also with a likely long-term level of automobility above that of Germany. China and India, in contrast, were heading toward lower levels of automobility, below that of Germany but higher than that of Japan.


Project Team

Liisa Ecola
Charlene Rohr
Johanna Zmud
Tobias Kuhnimhof
Peter Phleps