3D mobility: what forms of travel will we use in the future?
European Mobility Week ends today. To coincide with this event, In Movement would like to take you on a journey into the future of mobility with Sylvain Allano, Director of Science and Future Technologies at PSA Peugeot Citroën.
What forms of travel will we use in twenty years time? Let’s step off the beaten path and fly into the future with 3D mobility!
My mission is to look into the future
Sylvain is Director of Science and Future Technologies. His teams imagine, test and submit the ideas that will shape the future of cars. With one foot in the medium term and another in the (very) long term they are inventing the cars of the future today!
“We have three priorities for 2020: to build cars that are clean, connected and autonomous, while also being attractive. My team is contributing to this, but my mission is to look even further into the future, into the time beyond 2020… Together, we are studying a time frame extending up to 2020, 2030 and well beyond.”
But how do you invent the car of the future… What do you think of when you hear the word “car”? A metal body, four wheels, seats facing forward, doors with windows, etc. But isn’t that all a bit hackneyed? To imagine the vehicles of the future, suppose we had to sweep all this away and start afresh? To really innovate, let’s reinvent the car!
Reinventing the car, rethinking cities
“To imagine the car of the future, we need to challenge the fundamentals of 20th century vehicle design. A car is a metal body, a platform, running gear… The concept on the roads today has changed relatively little since 1920.” Naturally, vehicles have seen major improvements since the early 20th century, but they still have much in common with the first vehicles on the road.
Sylvain’s basic premise is simple: “People will still aspire to individual mobility in 40 or 50 years,” but vehicles will no longer necessarily be owned. If I need to get into the city centre, I might order an autonomous car that will come and pick me up from my home. This is the access economy.
“The idea is also to move away from the paradigm of the integrated body.” Imagine an independent vector, taking the form of a base such as the EMP2 platform, equipped with a powertrain but without frills. This vector is able to take passengers from A to B. It may be controlled via a connected object, a smartphone of the future, for example, or even directly by the human brain!
We could then add a life cell to this vector. So first I create my means of transport, then I create my “travel bubble”. This cell is temporary and fully personalised. It is familiar with my habits, my physical characteristics, my preferences and those of my family or friends. “Broadly speaking, it’s like stepping into a soap bubble, with a transparent, supple exterior membrane. The interior design is personalised and tailored to my requirements.” This temporary private space is created using a bubble generator, which may be individually owned or shared with the community. When the vector arrives, all we need to do is to connect the bubble. Ready to go!
The vector already knows where I want to go and takes me to a “mobility channel” heading for the urban area. This channel then takes me to my destination at high speed. At the entrance to the urban area, the vector and bubble separate. The vector returns to the mobility supplier who sent it because, in the future, vehicles occupying ground space are no longer be allowed in urban areas.
So what happens to the bubble and its passengers? It all depends on their final destination!
In the future, mobility will be linked to changes in the way we use space. Living areas are broken down into several types: residential areas, highly concentrated urban areas and free areas, all connected by mobility channels. These channels are designed to manage vectors automatically and transport them at high speed to their destination.
3D mobility, a multi-channel approach
The cities of the future will be built vertically because, “in the city, ground space is the main challenge”. As a result, vehicles and vectors are not allowed “inside the walls”. To avoid monopolising ground space, other channels exist to transport humans and their bubbles. “The bubbles are able to move through horizontal or inclined tubes, to take vertical fluidic lifts, or hook onto airships that act as overhead buses”. On arrival at destination, the bubble dissolves and its constituent matter is recycled. Passengers can go about their occupations as normal. When they need transport again, to go home for example, they simply recreate a bubble using the generator and continue their journey in the channels or via the overhead buses to the exchanger outside the city. The bubble then reconnects to a vector in order to take them home.
These autonomous connected means of transport will be real mobility aids. “They will make mobility accessible to people with reduced vision or reduced mobility, for example. These vectors would provide them with real support in their mobility needs.” Further, they would be using “production” vehicles that would no longer segregate people with reduced mobility. In short, this liberated form of mobility would be all-inclusive.
Three questions for a more detailed analysis:
The organisational concept of channels carrying bubbles seems very organic. Where did the idea come from?
“I took my inspiration from biology. I talked to molecular biologists and studied how cells move. A cell has a core and is protected by a soft membrane. Existing cars, however, are hard! The airbumps on the Citroën C4 Cactus signal a change, albeit in a small way, in vehicle architecture. Vehicles will become increasingly supple. One day, a soft structure will be better able to protect passengers than a stiff structure.”
What will be the role and added value of vehicle manufacturers in this scenario of the future?
“Vehicle manufacturers will be able to build vectors, bubble generators, autonomous independent vehicles, interface systems, exchangers, switching systems, and so on. They will also be able to provide the services linked to the machines that they build. As a result, they will still be mobility suppliers. Their added value will lie in their identity, looking beyond their technical expertise. Vectors will be standardised in terms of their technical features and connections, but will be differentiated in terms of styling and related services. For example, a manufacturer could create a hologram of an aura around the vector. Onlookers would see the light design representing the brand promise and style.”
What about driving pleasure?
“If we have three types of area: urban, residential and free, then driving pleasure comes into its own in the “wild”’. In the free, more “rural” area, people will be able to enjoy the old-fashioned pursuit of driving on real dedicated roads, with period vehicles that are modified to avoid any form of pollution.
Many thanks to Sylvain Allano for this fascinating discussion, which I unfortunately had to cut in parts. The other subjects we discussed will be used in other articles on In Movement!