8 trends that drive the future of mobility
Innovation Director at INFO and visiting professor TU Delft
Read more by Iskander Smit
Mobility is a far-reaching topic where developments take place continuously. As a business innovation partner, we don’t only look at today’s solutions, we’re also preparing for tomorrow’s issues. We do this together with pioneers in the field. In recent years we organized breakfast sessions with 20 mobility companies and organizations. In addition, we published a research report during last June’s Mobility Livecast, for which we interviewed eleven experts.
As a visiting professor at TU Delft, I supervise students for my research who delve into aspects of mobility and gain insights. An example is Jelmer’s work on the role of mobility hubs in the DNA of a neighborhood, and David’s work on the design of calibrated trust for autonomous vehicles.
In 2018, we formulated eight trends that will impact and shape the mobility of the future. Since then, I’ve gained insights that inspired me to take a fresh look and update these trends:
1. Condensation of living environment
The environment we live in becomes more and more urbanized. We’re forced to share less space with more people. Due to urbanization, the ‘last mile’ is becoming shorter and will mostly be covered by foot.
Since Covid-19, the role of the city has been changing. If we all continue to work partially from home, how does that influence the relationship between city and countryside? Shouldn’t we look much more at mobility in rural areas instead of focusing on the ‘last mile’?
Paris has an interesting vision in this regard: the 15-Minute City: everything you need, should be available to you within fifteen minutes, including your work. And including IKEA, they’re already opening the first City Stores. There’s a lot to be said for this initiative. It mainly affects commuting, which has been around 45-60 minutes for decades. And a further mixing of functions within the city and in the areas beyond.
2. Blending home and work
It’s easier to work from anywhere; our laptop is our office. Close to the city, co-working spaces are being created that align perfectly with customized, door-to-door commuting.
Since the pandemic, the blending of the living and working situation has become clearly visible. Companies’ efforts to stimulate working remotely have been halted for a while, we simply work from home. Everything happens online and we notice for example that team meetings don’t always have to be physical. For mobility, it mainly means that we’ll make less commuting kilometers and use our own mobility pod (from public transport to car). In addition, the revaluation of walking, especially in the city, has accelerated enormously.
3. Change of the climate system
It might have been pushed into the background by Covid-19, but at the same time it has been recognized as the big wave to come. Global warming and the melting of polar ice are accelerating. Rethinking energy and mobility systems is part of the solution. Think of solar energy, electric vehicles and above all making more efficient use of the system.
Covid-19 triggers a number of changes that could contribute positively to the climate. But we can only take advantage if we’re able to build a new healthy economic model. Otherwise the priorities will shift back. The current decline in travel and the increase in working from home could lead to a healthy mix in which travel is taxed proportionately as compensation and we redesign office parks with a focus on social gatherings only. Until last year, the futuristic images of mobility hubs making it possible to run meetings during the commute were reserved for the freelance consultant, but can very well be used as a model for every office worker.
4. Customized everything
Digitizing our environment has led to us being used to a more diverse and personalized offer. From assembling our perfect car to 3D-printed objects, customization has become the norm. Algorithms play an integral role in compiling the offers we’re presented with. The personalized offer we receive, depends on the moment and our location in the system. Our world has become more and more polarized and breaking through these barriers is one of the most important challenges society is facing.
This goes beyond mobility, but as I concluded in the research report, mobility is a mirror of society and plays an important role in determining opportunities for people. Inclusivity has (fortunately) become a much more important theme in recent years and that’s sharpening the discussion about mobility. During a session about mobility by CLINKNL Drive during the Dutch Design Week, this was mentioned by Matthijs van Dijk as a clear gap in our design approach to mobility solutions. Often, the starting point is the added value for the individual traveler, while the impact on collective social systems should be so much more important. Consider, for example, a new mobility hub that is optimized for different types of users, but does not look at the impact on the area and the non-users.
5. From ownership to use and from single use to sharing
Shared transport is becoming an increasingly normal part of mobility in the Netherlands. Cities have less space, which makes it important to use public spaces more efficiently. Hely mobility points that scale with demand, are a great example.
The Swapfiets (Swap bike) might have reached it’s maximum number of users, but the trend from ownership to use remains. The same goes for car purchases; cars are bought less often and manufacturers are starting to sell private leases as a car subscription. Volvo is one of the traditional brands, and new player Lynk & Co is entering the market as a mobility solution where you happen to also get a car. A sense of security and ease of use are more important than one’s own identity through ownership. These trends also influence our spending patterns. We have more subscriptions, from phones to bikes to meal plans.
The mobility mix is changing significantly; the question is how public transport will develop in the near future. Lime’s choice to become a MaaS platform and not just a supplier of vehicles (scooters and bicycles) fits this change. An interesting example is a party like Ree that offers a platform for EV (electric vehicles) and AV (autonomous vehicles) where you can easily put together various configurations. A graduate at Cities of Things has previously looked at the consequences of this development, calling it Wehicles: open source vehicles.
6. Code/Space and the Internet of Things
All these trends are either the cause or the consequence of a term that was coined Code/Space by Kitchin & Dodge. Our physical environment is reshaping to codes and software. Everything is connected, all our services are digital. There’s already places that won’t be able to function in the case of a digital system failure, such as the airport.
With the Internet of Things, the ‘things’ are actually a representation of increasingly complex systems and the translator of our behavior. They use data to get to know us and to improve their knowledge. This is a gradual process, eventually everything we’re going to use will have a so-called ‘digital twin’.
Today, the focus is mainly on infrastructure. Cities are recording everything in a digital copy in order to make simulations. Major equipment manufacturers are doing the same, such as Intel taking over Moovit. And of course this also applies to all means of transport we use via a service layer.
The real transition where this new reality is translated into new virtual services is coming soon. At a meeting from provinces and municipalities about the digital twin, the term ‘citizen twin’ was already mentioned. Unknowingly, we’ll become part of the simulation, the line between digital and physical will only fade further. That axis is no longer important; real and unreal completely blend with each other. Much of our real life takes place in digital environments, and mobility isn’t limited to moving around in physical space. As with the textual internet, we need to gain new insights about what is real and learn to recognize deep fakes, for example.
7. Assisted human
Customized offers and a fully digitized environment are the external factors that affect us as humans. But people themselves have also become increasingly skilled in applying the smart assistant and assistance. An important aspect of the assisted human is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant. A system that we use to better solve complex problems. AI is in full development. For example, we see possibilities of GPT-3 to engage in human conversations, and we especially see big developments in our attitude towards the technology. Assistants are increasingly becoming part of our lives, although the way of cooperation is still an exploration.
The assisted human is also an important development when it comes to physical attributes. This is already showcased by the fact that the regular bike is slowly being replaced by the electrical one. The electric skateboard and now also Segway’s motorized hover shoes are seriously impacting people’s action radius, past the ‘last mile’ and beyond.
8. Importance of ethics
With the increased awareness about technology, data and the heightened dependence on these things, the realization that ethics is an important part of the development of these systems increases too. We are more critical about what we share and what we don’t. We also expect the providers of the services that we use to form an opinion and take a stand on these issues. The new European privacy regulations (GDPR) are a sign of the times. Unfortunately the GDPR still doesn’t provide the desired control because the difference between large and small players only seems to be intensified. But it did become part of the mindset. I also see this happening at the colleges and universities I’m in contact with. As noted in the research report, mobility is intertwined with our social and ethical values.
A new mobility consumer
But how do these developments actually impact mobility? This is what is going to happen:
- Multimodal travel – both within the same and different journeys. Especially under the influence of the decrease of owned transportation vehicles combined with the culture of subscription services, it makes more sense to plan a trip according the goal rather than the means of transportation. The NS (Dutch Railways) Business Card is a great example of this.
- Smarter travel – traveling smarter sometimes means not traveling at all. If we are more goal-oriented, the outcome could be that travel is not necessary. Dividing the tasks between home, a quiet place within walking distance in the city or a place where you and your colleagues work together. Due to Covid-19 we all work from home, turning mobile working spaces into the new normal. Mobility providers are therefore not only transportation providers, but providers of a complete service of planning and executing trips. If you need to work on something with three people for an hour, a possible solution could be a mobile office or a co-working space at a train station, for instance.
- Travel as a lifestyle – mobility is more targeted than traveling from A to B. It’s also more than the use and experience when you’ve arrived at B. Sometimes, the journey and the experience themselves are the goal. Maybe you want to be inspired by new environments and the people you meet on your travels, or maybe you want to do a little meditation session on your commute. Plan for the amount of calories you’re planning to burn and the transportation will be adjusted accordingly.
Mobility is rapidly changing from an infrastructural issue to a behavioral issue. Understanding, anticipating, and sometimes even steering behavior, will shape our mobility in the future. Here we can learn a lot from the current situation.
Vision on Mobility: En route to 2050
Mobility is a comprehensive topic, not easy to oversee or predict. In order to work on the right solutions, it’s important to understand how mobility will develop towards 2050. With this goal in mind, INFO asked eleven experts from the field about their vision on mobility.
We launched this research report on June 25, 2020 during our livecast. During this livestream, we spoke with a number of leading players in mobility, including Joost van der Made (Mobility Strategist at NS), Tarik Fawzi (Co-founder at Hely), Ronald de Jong (Team Manager Mobility and Road Safety at ANWB) and Eric Mink ( Program manager MaaS at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management).
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