I was in London attending a conference, today. I was trying to figure out at what time I should leave the ExCeL center to get to Gatwick in time to catch my flight. What I cared about is whether the subway was working regularly, or whether there were delays because of the protests that were happening in the city.
Because, in case of delays, I would have had to catch a taxi or fetch an Uber. And I wanted to make sure I could pay with my Oyster card both for the subway and the train service, so I wouldn’t waste any time at London Bridge station. If I had to take a taxi or an Uber, I would not have cared much whether it was a fancy connected car. Maybe I would have preferred an environmentally friendlier electric car, but I would not have waited or asked for one, at a risk of being late. In essence, I cared about minimal wait times between modes, minimal hassles and travel time, intuitive payment systems, comfort and safety, and a not so nasty carbon footprint. And that’s what most people that I know care about.
Instead, connected, autonomous, shared, electric (CASE) vehicles have made many of the headlines that talked about the future of mobility, over the past few years. But CASE is a product-centric view of the future of mobility. A point of view that is not necessarily helping car makers sell more of their products. As car ownership is anyway reaching its peak. Or at best CASE is an asset-centric view of the future of mobility. One that fleet operators care about to maximize asset yield through optimized routing, fuel efficiency, predictive maintenance and reduced insurance costs. Don’t get me wrong. CASE has its benefits. Car-sharing makes more efficient use of cars and parkings, but won’t address the environmental impact on its own. Electric vehicles will eliminate road transport emissions, but their market penetration is still limited, because of high prices and limited availability of charging infrastructure and they will not solve congestion or safety problems. Connected and autonomous vehicles can make traffic flow more efficient and safer, but they will take years to become available and affordable, particularly the fully autonomous ones; and then they could create induced demand, just like ride-hailing services have done.
The future of mobility in cities and beyond cannot depend on CASE only. We need a change of paradigm. We need a new kind of C-A-S-E. A people-centric one. People that travel every day to work, school, stores, entertainment venues want Convenience, Affordability, Safety and Environmental sustainability. City leaders that want to deliver intelligent transportation must meet the need of urban dwellers by promoting a people-centric view of mobility that is less focused on individual modes and more on a person’s mobility options from one location to another.
European cities will have to make traffic and transportation planning decisions to shape a more citizen-centric future of mobility. Like, Lisbon, which hosts 11 micro-mobility services, and is reallocating 1600 parking spots for scooters and bicycles and marking them with stickers on the ground. Or Oslo, which removed street parking spots from the city center, leaving only a few for disabled drivers, EV charging, and delivery trucks for a couple of hours in the morning, to favor walking, cycling and public transit ridership. And they will have to embrace digital technologies, such as IoT, big data, artificial intelligence, and mobile apps to monitor traffic flows, make more informed transport infrastructure planning decisions, charge for congestion and pollution, guide travelers to the most convenient route, make electric charging infrastructure more widespread and facilitate payments across transport modes. The whole ecosystem of vehicle manufacturers, utilities, railways, station and airport operators, ride-hailing companies and micro-mobility operators must cooperate and share data to bring together an increased yield of transport infrastructure, environmental sustainability, reduced traffic congestion, safer roads and inclusive access to mobility for all citizens.
And, in case you’re wondering, the tube was working regularly. I hopped on the train at London Bridge without queueing for tickets. And I got to Gatwick well ahead of time. I look forward to more C-A-S-E experiences across the globe.
Register HERE for the upcoming IDC webcast on “The Future of Mobility – How European cities are embracing intelligent transportation” on November 13 at 2 pm (UK time).