Business Travel Data & Expense Self-Driving Smart Cities Realizing The Future Of Mobility: Balancing Optimism And Cynicism By BMaaS Contributor Posted on March 25, 2019 10 min read Several years ago, we offered a vision of where the future of mobility is headed. A world of seamless, intermodal on-demand travel, where private cars are increasingly supplanted by shared autonomous vehicles. We believed then—and now—that trends unfolding in self-driving cars, electric powertrains, ride-hailing, connectivity, micro-mobility, and more offered tremendous promise to address some of society’s most pressing challenges, delivering a mobility system that is faster, cheaper, cleaner, safer, and more accessible, inclusive, and equitable than today’s. Many others are articulating a similar vision. Lately, however, this vision appears in doubt—at least judging by the flurry of 2019 predictions from pundits. Several leaders in advancing the technology for self-driving cars are talking publicly about hitting “speed bumps,” suggesting widespread adoption will be slower than imagined. If breathless media coverage is to be believed, e-scooters have invaded cities like a barbarian horde, sullying sidewalks, endangering helpless pedestrians, and presaging a wave of head injuries to helmetless riders. Looming over it all is a likely cyclical downturn and potentially much more significant structural disruption to the global automotive industry, and the specter of a broader global recession, which could throw the ambitious plans of these companies to transform into broader-based mobility providers in doubt. Of course, there are kernels of truth here. Not surprisingly, consumers remain wary of autonomous vehicles, given that few have experienced the technology directly. In the rush for market share, many electric scooter introductions paid too little attention to city governments’ legitimate concerns. Regulation, cybersecurity, data privacy, funding, and the maturation of the technologies themselves are all very real and daunting issues to tackle, not to mention questions around the long-term viability of many emerging mobility business models. Yet, to serious students of the shifts happening in transportation, these should come as no surprise. Nor should they cause us to doubt the fundamentals of where the mobility revolution could take us. We know, for example, that it is difficult if not impossible to gauge shifts in consumer attitudes toward new technologies until the future user actually sees them in action. Innovators have long recognized this dynamic, and refused to let it challenge their belief in the transformative nature of their ideas. This shift is likely to be governed by adoption tipping points that belie the linear forecasts purveyed by market researchers. Just consider what we’ve seen over the last handful of years. Self-driving cars have gone from a skunkworks project pursued by a handful of dedicated engineers, to a billion-dollar undertaken by nearly every automaker and supplier, major technology companies, and countless startups, to today being an honest-to-goodness service available to consumers. Investors channeled more than $4 billion towards autonomous vehicles in the first three quarters of 2018 alone, 40% more than in all of 2017 and nearly six-fold the investment of 2016. That excludes the additional tens of billions of direct capital being allocated by AV developers themselves. Micro-mobility options have proliferated globally, logging tens of millions of trips in a little over a year—faster adoption rates than the major ride-hailing providers. In 2013, just 350,000 electric vehicles were on the road globally. By the end of 2017, that number had grown almost 900%. The list goes on. Nor should we lose sight of the opportunity in front of us. Today’s transportation system, so heavily reliant on private cars, has delivered remarkable benefits. But it also comes with tremendous costs: congestion, pollution, millions of dramatically underutilized assets, uneven access to economic opportunities, land paved over for roads and parking lots, and the more than 1.25 million people globally killed in car crashes every year (disproportionately affecting the most-vulnerable road users). We have a chance to rewrite our transportation story, to create a transportation system that can nourish the types of thriving, vibrant communities so many want to live in, but which for too many remains little more than a dream. To that end, I’ll be using this space to explore some of the most interesting developments in mobility, from the growing diversity of opportunities and innovations that transport us to the emergence of seamless intermodal travel and the promise of integrated, digital mobility platforms for our cities. But I’ll also be tackling some of the most pressing challenges. Like how should we think about the commonalities and differences between the movement of people and the movement of goods? How do we truly safeguard privacy in a mobility ecosystem premised on the sharing and integration of highly-personal data? What are the steps we can take today to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs? How should we govern and regulate mobility differently than the current approach, which is highly dispersed and fragmented across numerous agencies? How can we ensure the future mobility landscape provides higher quality of life and greater access to economic opportunity and doesn’t perpetuate and exacerbate the problems that plague our current transportation system? How do we foster local innovation and share best practices globally to speed up adoption and achieve this enormous promise? And, perhaps most fundamentally, how can we reframe mobility as a human right—and what exactly does that entail? The road to the future of mobility is long and bumpy, with unexpected turns. But make no mistake: we are heading toward a fundamentally different system for moving people and goods. Now is when the hard work of translating vision into reality begins. It’s the time to collectively roll up our sleeves and address head-on the critical issues that could impede or derail the realization of a transportation ecosystem that better serves all of society. I hope you’ll join in what aims to be a robust, challenging, and much-needed dialogue to collectively shape the future of mobility.