The car and its trusty internal combustion engine transformed the world of transport a century ago and provided us with a long and wonderfully dependable ride, but it's time to buckle up tight as we enter mobility's second major revolution. Expect the unexpected as disruptive tech companies dream up ever-more sophisticated but user-friendly schemes while future-gazing government authorities make sure there is something for everyone.
Ride-sharing and hailing, electrification, autonomy, connectedness, micromobility, smart infrastructure and waves of colourful apps... it's a complicated and interdependent business that is only getting more urgent as urban populations grow. The goal: to steer the future of mobility along a safe and sustainable path.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have been a sound environmental choice for a while, but soon they will also make economic sense with the cost of owning battery EVs matching petrol and diesel cars by next year, according to consultancy Deloitte. Batteries – and hence range – are improving fast. No wonder European automotive companies have a pipeline of new models set to hit their showrooms this year. However, Michael Woodward, UK automotive partner at Deloitte, warns that “supply will vastly outweigh consumer demand by approximately 14 million units over the next decade” as drivers take their time to change their behaviour.
Multi-modal transport apps
One-stop-shop transport apps promise to allow us to co-ordinate all available transport options to create the perfect journey from A to B. The fastest or the cheapest or the greenest? The choice is yours at the click of a button that will also, ideally, pay for the ticket. Helsinki in Finland has one of the best offerings with the Whim app, which bundles everything from bus and taxi fares to car-share trips and other services into a monthly subscription. Globally, Mobility as a Service platforms are expected to replace 2.3 billion urban car journeys a year by 2023, according to digital sector analysts Juniper Research.
Sensors are everywhere. They are the essential eyes of the autonomous car, creating a real-time 360-degree image of other road users and pedestrians – as well as anything else that moves – and relaying the data to the on-board computer. But they can also be found in Pirelli's 5G-connected Cyber Tyres, where they pick up vital information about road conditions and tyre status to improve driving safety. A new wave of sensor start-ups is also moving cameras inside the car to keep an eye on drivers and passengers. In-cabin cameras can detect driver fatigue and distraction by tracking gaze direction, pupil dilation, eye openness and blink rate.
It may currently be a niche area, but not for long. According to consultants McKinsey, high-income urban consumers are already sharing rides rather than buying cars, but we are still only at “Ridesharing 1.0”. Billions of dollars have been pumped into the market, with providers keen to attract a broader range of users. That means we can expect adaptable vehicle interiors that can be reconfigured for shopping missions, deliveries, children's outings, group nights out on the town…
Micromobility (such as shared bikes, e-bikes and scooters)
The rise of micromobility has been remarkable but perhaps unsurprising as it helps solve one of the great mobility challenges – how to travel the last mile of a journey. It promises to be a game-changer, according to McKinsey, which estimates it could theoretically account for 9 per cent of today's total passenger miles in China, the EU and US. Bike-share services and e-scooters help us avoid traffic jams in a fun and funky way, but why stop there? Swedish start-up Cangaroo is offering pay-per-minute pogo sticks.