World Economic Forum seeks 75% reduction in car ownership

Michigan’s partner in the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing seeks ‘vehicle access regulations’

A World Economic Forum white paper published last month supports a vision where three in every four vehicles is removed from the road by 2050.

Last year, World Economic Forum and Automation Alley, in Troy, collaborated to create the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. Why is Detroit, the one-time king of the American auto industry, partnering with a group so at odds with the way people in Michigan live and work?

People in Michigan build and drive cars. That’s not a bad thing. The people at the World Economic Forum feel otherwise. The attitudes and policy positions of Michigan’s partner are consistently anti-car, anti-growth, and anti-worker.

When will the rubber meet the road?

The two are in obvious conflict: a world with fewer cars, and an advanced manufacturing center. That’s until you read the fine print on what’s entailed in “advanced manufacturing,” or what World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

This is a world with fewer manufacturing jobs, and workplace where people who work with their hands are devalued. “Dull, dirty and dangerous” jobs would be eliminated. Brainworkers and co-bots, or co-working robots, will take it from there.

The World Economic Forum put this all on paper in 2019. The partnership for advanced manufacturing was created three years later, at a cost of $6 million taxpayer dollars.

It was odd enough that Detroit, once the manufacturer to the world, was partnering with a Swiss nonprofit.

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The May 2023 paper is called “The Urban Mobility Scorecard Tool: Benchmarking the Transition to Sustainable Urban Mobility,” and was produced in collaboration with Visa. The future it envisions is one with “vehicle access regulations.”

While projecting that global car ownership could reach 2 billion by 2050, the paper sets a goal much lower: 500 million. In the forum’s perfect world, three in every four vehicles expected to exist in 2050 would not.

Throughout, the paper treats private car ownership as the culprit for society’s woes and collective solutions as the answer. Climate change demands nothing less, the paper argues:

By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, swelling the size of towns and cities by 2.5 billion people. Over the same period, demand for urban travel is predicted to double. On the current trajectory, that would add 4.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year by mid-century. Such a scenario is at odds with both the Paris Agreement on climate change and a vision of cities as healthy, sustainable and successful places to live.

The paper advocates for electrification, or the transition away from gas engines to electric vehicles. It’s a goal Michigan’s leaders share: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer believes the state needs the infrastructure for 2 million EVs by 2030.

That’s not enough for the World Economic Forum. It wants fewer cars on the road, too. There can never be too much progress.

“Today, passenger vehicles cause over half of urban air pollution, which led to an estimated 1.8 million excess deaths in 2019 and nearly 2 million cases of asthma in children,” the paper reads.

If growth is not the plan for the auto industry, what is? We can’t very well wonder why Michigan’s college graduates leave, when the paths to a viable life narrow by the year.

If Michigan is not a manufacturing powerhouse, what is it? You might not be asking these questions. Perhaps you’re close enough to retirement that it doesn’t matter. Your high schooler is asking, though. And the answers aren’t good.

“The cities of the future need to move more people with fewer, cleaner vehicles,” reads the paper’s foreword.

The future envisioned by the World Economic Forum is hostile to all the things that make Detroit go.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.