Technological Transitions and System Innovations
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Technological Transitions and System Innovations

A Co-Evolutionary and Socio-Technical Analysis

Frank W. Geels

This important book addresses how long term and large scale shifts from one socio-technical system to another come about, using insights from evolutionary economics, sociology of technology and innovation studies. These major changes involve not just technological changes, but also changes in markets, regulation, culture, industrial networks and infrastructure.
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Chapter 5: The Transition from Horse-drawn Carriages to Automobiles in American Urban Passenger Transportation (1860–1930)

Frank W. Geels


5.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter analyses the transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles in America from 1860 to 1930. This transition involved changes in technology, not only horse-drawn carriages and automobiles, but also bicycles and electric trams. It also involved changes in infrastructure, for example, rail infrastructure for horse and electric trams, and also road infrastructures with new kinds of surfaces (asphalt, concrete). New types of roads were created with limited access for a particular kind of vehicle (highways). In addition, the responsibility for the administration of roads shifted from local residents to public authorities (highway engineers, urban planners). In fact, the symbolic perception of the role of the street changed from social meeting place to transport artery. New traffic rules were formulated to create more order on the street. Pedestrians were moved to pavements and slower traffic to the side of the street. The street was increasingly organised around the automobile. While transport in 1860 was mainly public transport along fixed routes (for example, omnibus, horse tram), the automobile introduced new functionalities in the transport system, namely individual transport (driving yourself) and flexible transport (chose your own route and time of travel). These new functionalities were widely explored and enjoyed in new application domains, for example, racing and touring in the countryside. The car also allowed urban middle classes to move out of the city and enjoy suburban lifestyles. In sum, the technological transition to automobiles was part of a wider system innovation. This chapter analyses how the...

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