Planetary vehicles are a broad term for any self-propelled, personal vehicle designed to work on a planet, in contrast to spaceships or station vehicles. In common parlance, the term planetary vehicle usually refers specifically to high-tech, personal transports, though the term can also be applied to antiques such as airplanes and automobiles.
Planetary vehicles have been independently developed by virtually ever civilization in New Eden. Their development tends to coincide with the development of the steam engine, with early models typically being large vehicles used for commercial or industrial work. From there, planetary vehicles diverged depending on local customs and resource availability. On planets such as Caldari Prime, which lacked large scale fossil fuel resources, steam engines continued to be the primary power source until high-power electrical engines were developed. Conversely, on Gallente Prime, the abundance of fossil fuels allowed for the utilization of internal combustion engines.
Early models of planetary vehicles took many disparate forms, though all had a few components in common; wheels, a steering mechanism, and a braking mechanism. Four-wheeled models proved the most popular on most planets, though two-, three-, and six-or-more-wheeled devices all filled a variety of niches and functions depending on local conditions and needs. In the early days, the vehicles were dangerous to both passengers and pedestrians. Safety improvements were perhaps the driving force behind many innovations in design.
As technology advanced, planetary vehicles only changed slightly. Most changes went toward making the vehicles more energy efficient, safer, and cheaper for the consumer. A major innovation was the development of hover technology, typically through electromagnetism or gravity manipulation. No large-scale changes to vehicular design have emerged since, with most alterations being done for stylistic reasons.
Planetary vehicles are available on virtually all planets with populations of note. Remote settlements, however, must often rely on imported vehicles from off-world, increasing their cost and limiting their market. These planets tend to utilize older models of vehicle, with only the core regions having access to the latest models.
Because there exist a wide variety of inhabited planets in New Eden, a large number of different models of planetary vehicle have been developed. The most widespread are, of course, models designed to work on a terrestrial planet with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere of roughly one bar pressure. However, models for use on atmosphereless barrens, ocean worlds, storm planets, and even gas giants exist. The more unusual the planet, the more expensive the model is; a vehicle that can operate on a plasma planet with a methane-dominated atmosphere could cost several dozen times the amount a standard vehicle might.
Wheeled vehicles remain the most widespread designs, owing to their simplicity, relative safety, and affordability. Most consumers have little need for the added maneuverability of hover vehicles, while tracked vehicles tend to only see use in extremely rugged terrain. Hover vehicles, however, are widely popular among the more well-off; budget models are affordable for upper-middle class families and those lower-middle class families who don't mind paying off long-term loans.
Learning to drive a planetary vehicle is typically seen as a rite of passage for teenagers in most cultures of New Eden. Regulations vary from planet to planet, though most limit legal operation of planetary vehicles to those in their late teens who have passed driving tests and attained a license. More wealthy communities often couple this rite with the purchase of a child's first vehicle of his own, while those from poorer areas must often make due with sharing a family vehicle.
The latest models of vehicle are often glamorized in holovids. This has led to the popular perception from outsiders that every Gallente owned their own hover vehicle, as blockbuster vids almost exclusively featured them. The connection of stylish, luxurious automobiles has been so firmly tied with the Gallente that luxury vehicles are often referred to as "Gallente" even if they are manufactured by non-Gallente companies.
Numerous companies manufacture planetary vehicles. Most are limited in scope to the single planet they operate on, or perhaps a single solar system. Manufacturers that cater to an interstellar market typically target only the high-end consumer, producing luxury vehicles. Among the most successful luxury manufacturers are NOH, Noble Appliances, and Quafe.
More recently, capsuleers have entered the planetary vehicle market, utilizing their development of planetary resources. Because of the limited use of planetary vehicles to the space-based capsuleers, creation of these vehicles tends to be done mainly as a sort of hobby. Reaction to the quality of these vehicles throughout the industry has been mixed.