The pandemic effect: where will it put mobility in 2025?

TomTom’s Andy Marchant discusses future mobility scenarios for 2025 sparked by the changes seen in 2020

Let’s picture our world beyond 2025. The global pandemic brought many challenges that no one could have predicted. Changes to ‘life as we knew it’ lasted for longer than expected. The world had to be reset, impacting the way we lived, worked and moved. Electric cars are the norm, sitting in traffic is a thing of the past and the world is on track to be climate-neutral years ahead of schedule.

These scenarios may seem unachievable, sitting here in 2021, but they don’t have to remain as figments of our imagination. If bold choices are implemented now, we can take a hold of the future.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic accelerated changes in mobility behaviour and choices that have been considered for years. Telecommuting as a solution for congestion has been considered since the 1970s, cycling and walking have been encouraged as alternatives to driving for years, and despite the upcoming 2030 deadline, electric vehicles (EVs) still only represent the minority when it comes to car sales.

But this changed in 2020. Remote working was no longer an added bonus, more people decided to invest in bicycles, and EV sales did not experience the drop that conventional vehicles did. When looking back, you could say that this was a wake-up call, one that has resulted in new mobility options, which could combine to improve our quality of life. So, what could the 2025 mobility ecosystem look like then?

The way we view travel has evolved

In the years following the pandemic, many traditional car dealerships were forced to close. These models were replaced by new electric car lines as some markets expedited gasoline and diesel bans. With the redundancy of the internal combustion engine in everyday vehicles, they are now known as ‘classic cars’.

Not only did consumers embrace the EV revolution, so did automakers, tech firms and city planners. The days of patchwork tax breaks, charging stations and connected services were a thing of the past, and were quickly replaced with a comprehensive EV infrastructure and new incentives for greener modes of transportation.

These scenarios may seem unachievable, sitting here in 2021, but they don’t have to remain as figments of our imagination. If bold choices are implemented now, we can take a hold of the future

City centres also look quite different these days. Streets once packed with cars, buses and taxis are much quieter and cleaner. Many municipalities have banned private vehicles altogether, and new mass transit, cycle and shared vehicle hubs have sprung up to move people from the suburbs to cities. In downtown areas, people now have more mobility options than ever, from robotaxis to e-scooters, all integrated with efficient public transport systems.

We’re more mindful about our travel choices, too. Before, most of us didn’t give a second thought to hopping on a flight to attend a conference or taking the car to drop by a local store. Now, we carefully consider if we really need to make those journeys and we’re more open to alternative, eco-friendly modes of travel. This also means that we have gone back to using public transport and have substituted travel by single-occupancy vehicles for more efficient options. This is critical for preventing a return to highly congested peak periods or creating even worse traffic and environmental conditions than experienced prior to 2020.

‘Business as usual’ transformed

In 2020, remote working shifted from a luxury to a necessity for both employers and employees. The normal 9-5 workday restrictions on movement ended and hybrid working styles were adopted. As a result, congestion levels have dramatically reduced and the once-dreaded commute has become an increasingly distant memory. With peak hour traffic no longer increasing year on year, governments don’t have to constantly expand existing road infrastructure—saving billions in the process.

Now we have more freedom to choose when we move. Today, we consult daily traffic forecasts in the same way we check the weather: if the roads are busy, we just make plans to travel at a quieter time. It’s added up to less congestion, emissions and stress—making our roads safer and greener, and giving us back valuable time.

The current crisis is a crossroads, and the direction we take today will shape the world we live in tomorrow

The Earth became healthier due to reduced emissions

The historic drop in emissions witnessed in 2020 wasn’t a short-lived anomaly. During the pandemic, we were forced to see just how travelling less and burning fewer fossil fuels positively impacted the earth.

In the following years, governments introduced more stringent carbon-reduction targets to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change. Tighter CO2 regulations and more eco-friendly incentives were put in place by regulators within the travel and mobility spheres. Businesses supported this change by pivoting to more sustainable practices, and consumers made greener choices. The last few years have shown us just what teamwork can do, and that protecting the planet for people to enjoy far into the future is not impossible,

We took the future into our hands

Everything explored in this article is possible. Some scenarios will come into effect in the coming months and years as we reflect on what matters most to us and decide what we want for future generations.

The current crisis is a crossroads, and the direction we take today will shape the world we live in tomorrow. Our options are to either collectively decide to go back to how things were, or take a new path towards a cleaner, safer, congestion-free world. Ultimately it is up to us.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Andy Marchant is Maps and Traffic Lead at TomTom

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