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A journey to the centre of mobility

15.05.2018

Gone are the days when road maps were fiddly, frustrating things that needed to be unfolded, deciphered and then folded back up again.

In the past 20 years, Silicon Valley has dramatically changed the way we get around. Today, Google Maps advises us on the most appropriate mode of transport, the Waze mobile app shows us the best route to take depending on the traffic, and carpooling services like BlaBlaCar help us to reduce travel costs by sharing vehicles.

Digital technology has revolutionised mobility. But economic developments have also had a major impact, with employment concentrated in city centres, away from our homes. People are travelling more than ever, to go further and faster.

The surge in mobility needs has given rise to new challenges – such as urban congestion, rural isolation, higher transport costs and greater environmental impact – which new technologies are going to help us to address.

Citizens, companies and communities are working together to devise a new approach to mobility, one based on smart, shared, resource-responsible solutions.

The story of mobility

During the 20th century, cars became the preferred mode of transport. All governments had to do was provide major cities with the main infrastructure, such as subways and buses, and expand the country’s road network. France, for example, had 5,000 kilometres of motorway in 1980 versus nearly 12,000 kilometres in 2018. As more and more people moved out of the cities and into the suburbs, cars became even more dominant. At the same time, fuel became more and more expensive, as prices were pushed up by the impacts of various oil and financial crises. In France, the portion of the average household budget spent on transport gradually rose from 10% in 1960 to 18% today.

The advent of digital mobility

Higher transport costs and increased environmental awareness have served as catalysts for change, forcing us to rethink our consumer and commuter practices with the help of new technologies.

Thanks to the data collected about user habits and the computing power offered by digital technology, local authorities, transport companies and start-ups are now able to make more effective mobility decisions that take into account our specific needs.

Towards integrated transport systems

Soon, it will be possible to combine various modes of transport seamlessly, no matter where you live. For example, a commuter might cycle to the station on a shared bike, catch a regional express train and then cross the city by tram, with the whole journey booked and paid for via a single mobile app. The shift towards this comprehensive, end-to-end vision of each journey is already under way. 

The new generation of mobility solutions is expected to gradually wean consumers off their addiction to cars. In an article on emerging mobility solutions, Olivier Razemon reports that 18%* of French people would like to use cars from time to time, either by sharing one, hiring one for a longer period, or using alternative options such as taxis, carpooling or carsharing, depending on their needs.

 

How are mobility solutions changing to suit our new lifestyles?

Making travel easier significantly improves our day-to-day lives, by reducing the time we spend in transit, as well as the cost and the associated stress. But to provide smart, shared mobility solutions, service providers will need to meet a number of major challenges.

Santander, the most connected city in Europe

If you want people to adopt different modes of transport, providing them with relevant, real-time information is essential. But how? The city of Santander in northern Spain decided to create an augmented reality app. By simply pointing their smartphone towards a street, users can see where the nearby bus stops are located, which buses stop at them, when the next bus is coming, and exactly how far away it is at that moment.

La Rochelle, a pioneer in smart mobility

How do you relieve traffic congestion in the city centre when, as the saying goes, old habits die hard? Getting motorists to avoid using their vehicles temporarily in favour of public transport is no small task. But the city of La Rochelle has risen to the challenge. Three free-of-charge park-and-ride lots have been created on the edge of the city, enabling commuters to leave their cars and use the bus to travel into the city centre. The new lots make it easy to find a parking spot, and the only cost for commuters is the price of a bus ticket.

Eliminating inequality

But not everyone has access to the same level of service. Digital technology has revolutionised mobility, giving rise to new service providers, such as Uber and BlaBlaCar, and creating new, shared practices. However, the benefits of this technology are not shared equally.  In France, 20% of the working-age population face obstacles when trying to get around. The problem mainly concerns people living in rural areas, who have access to fewer transport options and can’t always afford the ones available. In addition to technical innovation, today’s new mobile world needs solutions that address the societal challenge of equal access to mobility, regardless of geographical location.

*Survey on emerging mobility practices conducted by consulting firms ObSoCo and Chronos.

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