Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?

Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk

By James Wilt


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Public transportation is in crisis. Through an assessment of the history of automobility in North America, the “three revolutions” in automotive transportation, as well as the current work of committed people advocating for a different way forward, James Wilt imagines what public transit should look like in order to be green and equitable. Wilt considers environment and climate change, economic and racial inequality, urban density, accessibility and safety, work and labour unions, privacy and control of personal data, as well as the importance of public and democratic decision-making.

Based on interviews with more than forty experts, including community activists, academics, transit planners, authors, and journalists, Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? explores our ability to exert power over how cities are built and for whom.


“Wilt makes quick work dismantling the pervasive automobile industry myths that scaffold our car-dominant society. He provides both a road map for activists to internalize how our struggles over public transit are connected to other struggles and a vision of public transportation as the foundation of a truly just and democratic society.”

– Kate Jacobson, labour organizer and podcast host of Alberta Advantage

“Well-researched and timely, Wilt’s book is a must-read for those interested in the nitty-gritty of climate politics. An engaging combination of data and political imagination, Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? provides an important window into how revitalizing public transportation can address inequality and climate change in one fell swoop.”

– Jessica F. Green, associate professor of political science, University of Toronto

“Will electric cars and ride-sharing platforms solve climate change? For James Wilt, these supposedly eco-friendly innovations are the latest in a long history of profit-driven threats to public transit. Wilt debunks the hype surrounding electric, autonomous vehicles and makes the case for a decarbonized future that guarantees mobility for everyone.”

– Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of TTCriders

“In 2020, we stand at a critical juncture: will we democratize and decarbonize mass transit systems—or will we allow private electric vehicles to dominate our streets? In this lucid, accessible, and sharply argued book, James Wilt presents an inspiring vision of mobility justice for transit workers, riders, and broader communities. In the process, he deftly critiques the twin paradigms of automobility and austerity, which threaten to dismantle public transit in the United States, Canada, and beyond.”

– Thea Riofrancos, co-author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal

“Wilt cuts through the narratives of Silicon Valley billionaires and lays bare the equity problems with ride-hailing services, electric cars, and autonomous vehicles, while making the essential case that only a massive reinvestment in public transit with democratic, community control can achieve a future of transportation that is inclusive and sustainable. A must-read for anyone who cares about building a transport system that truly serves everyone while addressing the climate crisis.”

– Paris Marx, freelance writer and editor of Radical Urbanist

“As the corporate class tries to squeeze every last breath from workers and the planet, Wilt’s book presents a long-awaited, sharply written, and indispensable blueprint for how to analyze and organize around mobility justice as a core pillar of climate justice. It’ll read even better on your commute!”

– Simran Dhunna, organizer Climate Justice Toronto & Peel

In this very readable and strategically important book, Wilt identifies the centrality of public transit in key issues of our time: the environment, the urban crisis, inequality, and the ebb of the social. Rejecting tinkering and technical fixes, he argues, with admirable confidence, for a radical politics that once again places public ownership and democratic planning on the public agenda.

– Sam Gindin, co-author of The Making of Global Capitalism

This book is a gift to the climate justice movement—one that could not have come at a better time. As organizers around the world are forced to confront the overlapping crises of white supremacy, capitalism, and climate change, Wilt makes clear why public transit is one of the most strategic points of intervention we have to building a better world.

– Emma Jackson, organizer with Climate Justice Edmonton and

James Wilt’s new book blows open the false promises and dead ends of individualized, tech-savvy, platform-based solutions to our collective need to get around. In their place Wilt recovers a demand of public transit for all, with the needs of groups like the disabled and the health of our planetary systems driving his case. If you’re looking for a radical orientation to the problems of transit, get this book.

– Alex Birnel, Texas voting rights advocate and community organizer

As Wilt argues with vigour, egomaniac billionaires will not save us. But if people fight together for transit—massively expanded, truly accessible, publicly owned, democratically controlled, and hell, why not free—well, we might just be on a fast track to winning the world we need.

– Avi Lewis, filmmaker and co-founder of The Leap


Introduction The slow bleed
Off the rails A brief history of automotive domination
Manufacturing automobility The anti-transit underpinnings of the “three revolutions”
Running on empty Climate and environment
Race to the bottom Inequality and poverty
Crowding out Congestion and safety
Locked down Reimagining access for marginalized people
Data minecraft Surveillance and policing
Old town road Rural and intercity transit
Walmart on wheels Labour and unions
Money and the power What is to be done?