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Millennials: liberty, equality, mobility


Previously a symbol of freedom, cars are no longer filling young people’s dreams. Smartphones have now taken their spot on the podium of desirable objects.

Happiness is a mobile phone

Generations born after 1980 are less and less attached to cars. While mobility still represents a source of fulfilment and enjoyment, a gateway to employment and, more broadly, independence, the digital world is now able to connect people and provide access to pleasurable experiences. Vincent Kaufmann, professor of urban sociology and mobility analysis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), said: “The space-shrinking ability of cars is being overtaken by remote communication tools.” Young people no longer believe it is so important to have a car, as urban dwellers are very open to mobility services offered via smartphones. Asian metropolises such as Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore are leading the trend. These tech-savvy cities, whose governments invest heavily in public transport, are becoming laboratories for smartphone mobility solutions that provide users with information and options to make payments and travel reservations in real time.

Open to shared mobility solutions

Millennials have a different relationship to time, information and space. They are hyperconnected and value immediacy above all else. They are an “on demand” generation that avoids making plans so as not to miss out on anything. This is why they were the first to be won over by car pooling: not only is it a flexible means of transport, it is also an enjoyable and economical solution that quenches their thirst for meeting new people and discovering new things. The journey is now as valuable as the destination. “Young people are looking for an enriching experience where social interaction plays a central role,” explained Catherine Lejealle, sociologist, professor and researcher at ISC Paris, in an interview for an SNCF magazine.

One-third of Europeans under 35 have already tried this type of public transport and just as many are considering it.

By 2030, over one in three kilometres will be “shared” through car pooling or self-service cars. This prediction reflects the real desire young people have for responsible means of transport and for saving money. As explained by Guillaume Crunelle, partner in charge of the automotive industry at Deloitte, “It will be three times cheaper to travel one kilometre in autonomous, shared transport than in a personal car.”

Not all young people have equal access to mobility

Even though Generation Y is highly connected, its digital skills are mainly applied to entertainment devices. An Elabe study for the inclusive mobility laboratory found that using a smartphone to plan a journey involves skills that need to be learned, leaving many young people at a disadvantage. One third of 18 to 24-year olds find they are stuck due to a lack of mobility options. In rural areas, cars are still the main means of transport, which is a pricey option considering the cost of the driving test, license and the car itself. “If young people don’t buy a car, it’s simply because they cannot afford one”, said Flavien Neuvy, head of L’Observatoire Cetelem de l’Automobile. In 2016, the average price of new cars represented €24,300 and the average age of buyers was 55.

We can identify four types of obstacles that prevent people from accessing mobility options: financial, geographical, material (lack of a car or means of transport in the area) and cognitive (fear of travelling or getting lost).

Young people are affected by all of these factors and are very often confronted with obstacles. It is quite common for mobility platforms to support young adults who don’t have the means to buy a vehicle or the confidence to use public transport. When fear is part of the equation, training and personal support are the only ways to remove the obstacles.

The technological solutions may be available, but it’s now up to the local authorities to give young people seamless access to mobility. This is a social project that symbolises freedom and abundance, addressing a vast range of social, environmental and economic issues.

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