- In late 2015, the Disrupting Mobility Summit brought together mobility experts from all over the world to discuss the future of transportation. You did not have the chance to attend? Here’s some good news for you: We just released the videos of the sessions for you to hear from our experts about what the future of mobility has in store for us (for the videos click here).
- And for those of you who look for a quick summary, read on for the tweet based recap...
The Technology that will change the way we move
- There is no doubt: Changes in technology are a key driver of changes in the mobility sector. The power of mobile technology has made services like Lyft, Uber, car2go, RideScout, Bridj, or Via possible and the rise of smart sensors and increased computing power are expected to enable even more mobility services going forward. If you take it a step further, we’re getting close to what sounds like science fiction: Drones are expected to deliver goods, new materials will allow for transformable vehicles, and 3D printers might fundamentally change production and maintenance processes.
- One technology (or actually a bundle of technologies), however, has been in the center of our discussions: Autonomous Vehicles. All of our experts agreed on the fact that in future, our cars will drive autonomously. And when this happens, the impact can be fundamental:
- When becoming available on a large scale, autonomous cars could provide access to individual mobility for groups of people, who right now can’t enjoy this flexibility, including the elderly or the blind. At the same time autonomous cars - when shared and electric - could have a significantly lower environmental impact than our current mobility does:
- But there also are some critical voices: Do we really feel comfortable leaving the driving to a machine? And what if, in a world of self-driving cars, people moved even further away from the cities since the commute becomes so much more enjoyable when you can read, eat or sleep? And if we don’t find a way to regulate this, wouldn’t we end up having more traffic instead of less?
Social Trends as Drivers of new Mobility Behavior and Services
- A second key driver for changes in the mobility sector are social trends. Let’s take demographic trends for example: People getting married later in life affects living-preferences and with this mode-choice behavior (e.g. less need for an own car when living in a city with good public transportation and without children). The trend of older people moving back to cities changes mobility as well: people want to stay mobile as long as possible, but many transportation systems are not adapted to the needs of an aging population.
- Also, the rise of the sharing economy has already made an impact on mobility - it’s the reason why we see more and more car-sharing services hitting the road. With sharing-based business models becoming more and more popular, critics begin to raise one fundamental question: Are these new services really operating in the spirit of sharing when, at the same time, they are driven by commercial interests?
The Government’s role in fixing the mobility system
- When talking about equality and the social impact of mobility, our experts started to question the government’s role in our mobility system. Should the government have more or less of an impact going forward?
- What we see is a clash of two fundamentally different world views: While one side claims that the free market will create the best possible outcome, others argue that failing market forces are the cause of out current mobility issues and that stronger governmental regulations are the only way of fixing this.
- This sounds like a classic battle of socialism and capitalism, but no matter what side you’re on, one fact is clear: Even the most innovative companies can’t change the world without governmental support - and governments alone won’t either. Fixing our mobility systems is a team effort, with cities, transit agencies, mobility providers, and the general public working hand in hand.
- An example for a win-win-situation: The community-based traffic and navigation app Waze provides the city of Los Angeles with information about current road conditions, and the city returns information on road closures - this example illustrates how data sharing between public and private operators improves traffic and public transit planning.
- In many discussions about mobility we forget to focus on the cities themselves, which is truly surprising. Think about it: Isn’t the question of where we live and where we go to work one of the major factors to impact the way we move?
- Clearly, the structure of a city is determining its transportation needs. Single-use, low-density patterns - as they can be found in many suburbs - drive mobility demand and do not allow for efficient public transportation solutions. This illustrates how connected city planning and transportation planning are - a relationship that does not seem to work very well in many cases.