Just about everyone agrees that we need to start weaning our society of our excessive use of the personal automobile. We need to encourage use of public transport, car pooling, cycling and walking.
I believe that one very effective way of doing this is to start making people aware of the cost of each trip that is taken. Most of the population is still more likely to be motivated to change their habits when there is a direct impact on their wallet.
The technology for this has been around for a while now. One such device is called a Scangauge. It can measure your actual fuel economy at the moment or averaged over a trip. The current cost of fuel can also be programmed to give a cost per kilometer or per trip. These devices can be very useful in helping people adjust their driving habits to improve their fuel economy. (Volkswagen has been making this sort of gauge as standard in most of their vehicles for years) If the cost per kilometer is displayed it would act something like the meter in a cab, making people very aware of the cost of a trip. This tool could help someone see that it might be cheaper to take public transport, or perhaps instead of spending $2.50 in gas to go to the grocery store, to take a bicycle instead. Even many small trips of only a few blocks end up getting costly over a period of time. The short 5 minute trip we make to drive our daughter to school costs us about $0.80 round trip. That adds up if we were to do it every day!
I believe our government should take the step to legislate the auto manufacturers to make these sort of gauges standard equipment in all new vehicles. This could have a huge impact in fuel savings as people start to adjust their driving habits, and it could potentially improve peoples health if it encourages them to walk or cycle! For existing vehicles there could be some kind of promotion and subsidy to encourage people to purchase and install them on their vehicles.
We must start changing our habits of the free and easy use of motor vehicles. I believe this is one way the government has the power to make it happen.