COMMENT: Paralysed by choice—how cities of the future can integrate mobility seamlessly

Implementing multi-modal transportation will require innovation, persuasion and a total rethink of how city mobility networks are designed. By Jack Hunsley

Most commuters around the world will be well aware of the effects that growing population, vehicle ownership and pollution are having on inner-city mobility. Commute times in all major markets are rising, alongside congestion and poor air quality.

These factors, combined with the increasing cost of owning and running a vehicle on a day-to-day basis, as well as the new options offered by increased connectivity, mean these locations are on the precipice of change rivalled in scale only by that of the transition from the horse to the car—the switch to integrated mobility.

Even if new mobility options can be implemented successfully, humans are creatures of habit. Convincing the average commuter to abandon the single occupancy vehicle will require a change in consumer mindset

Cities and towns around the world are beginning to alter their mobility networks to cater for a range of new offerings. Car-sharing and ride-hailing schemes have arrived in the major markets and beyond. Smart city solutions are allowing commuters to pay for their travel seamlessly with just the swipe of a card, and to be updated on their trains and buses in real-time via smart devices. However, while such platforms are filled with promise and innovation, the key to success does not lie solely in investing and implementing with a scattergun approach.

At a very basic level, the natural geography and existing transport networks mean a one-size-fits-all approach is not a feasible option for cities. Likewise, while perhaps it is trendy for cities to proclaim themselves as the leader of the future of city mobility, making a meaningful change will, in fact, require a total rethink of how cities analyse and plan future mobility projects.

Likewise, even if new mobility options can be implemented successfully, humans are creatures of habit. Convincing the average commuter to abandon the single occupancy vehicle will require a change in consumer mindset, inspired by providing people with multiple, seamless mobility options and the required real-time information to make an informed decision.

As the number of major players and smaller innovative start-ups beginning to play in this space grows, the cities of the future could yet be powered not by the internal combustion engine (ICE) but by the ability to choose.

Such a system will also need a sophisticated communication and data-sharing platform to operate on. However, the scale of this transition makes it a sizeable juggling act, with the need to handle regulation, infrastructure and product development in one fell swoop a key part of the puzzle.

Overall, however, it is still very early days for integrated mobility. With the automotive industry only just beginning to truly get a grip on connected, electric and autonomous megatrends, it is perhaps too early to judge harshly the progress made so far. As the number of major players and smaller innovative start-ups beginning to play in this space grows, the cities of the future could yet be powered not by the internal combustion engine (ICE) but by the ability to choose. To read more about how industry players and municipalities are tackling these challenges, download Automotive World’s latest special report, The path to integrated mobility.

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