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Future of Mobility

The micromobility market alone is estimated to be worth up to $500 billion per year globally by 2030, which is roughly a quarter of the global market for autonomous vehicles.

By: Adi Gaskell, Contributor


Few sectors of the economy have been as disrupted by the coronavirus as transport.  Mobility of citizens has been heavily restricted, with many countries closing their borders entirely, thus resulting in huge financial challenges for industries across the travel sector.  Alongside this, millions of employees have been forced to work from home, thus creating a temporary, yet hugely significant shift in our daily mobility patterns as our commute to and from work ceased to exist.

As such, it’s quite likely that the trajectory mobility developments were on prior to the pandemic will not be the ones that emerge after it.  This month we will look at some of the biggest changes to mobility brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, while also attempting to chronicle the significant breakthroughs in autonomous driving, electrification, shared mobility and connectivity.

Investment in mobility innovation continues to grow apace, whether in sensors for advanced driving-assistance systems, autonomous technology, e-hailing or semiconductors.  This is seeing a fundamental shift in the automotive industry towards a more holistic, mobility ecosystem that sees OEMs working hand in hand with both high-tech companies and tier-one and tier-two suppliers.  Indeed, it’s estimated that some $70 billion has been invested by OEMs, simply to retain their current position in the market.

Autonomous focus

Autonomous technology has been the primary focus of the industry for many years, and this largely continues to be so, but the automotive sector is perhaps understanding the true scale of the challenge they’re taking on, and are scaling back their optimistic forecasts to an extent.  Predictions for level 4 and level 5 technologies have been put back by several years in many instances, but this doesn’t diminish the potential benefits the technology can bring to the numerous mobility pain points we experience. 

The technology’s potential to provide more efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly transport is not diminished, but significant hurdles remain, not least in the ability of the technology to operate effectively in diminished weather and road conditions, withstand cyberattacks on infrastructure, and ensure smooth transitions between autonomous and human drivers.

As the technology for autonomous vehicles develops, one of the key areas of progress will be in the connectivity between vehicles.  Such cars are going to become highly potent information platforms that provide both a better driving experience for passengers, but also a novel new platform for businesses to develop value.  These will enable a range of new experiences to be developed, many of which will be supported by artificial intelligence.

For connectivity to deliver true value, however, it’s vital that security issues are addressed so that hackers can’t wreak havoc by breaking into the ecosystem at any point.  It’s estimated that some 45% of vehicles will be connected within a decade, so these are all issues that will need to be addressed in the coming years for the technology to reach the mass market.

Electric dreams

While progress for autonomous vehicles is likely to remain slower than expected, the outlook for electric vehicles is extremely strong.  Research has already shown that in the vast majority of instances, the technology offers a more environmentally friendly solution than existing, fossil fuel-based vehicles, thus allaying fears about the lifetime costs of electric vehicles.

We are also seeing tightening regulation and customer demand creating a market that is ripe for progress.  This has resulted in over two million vehicles being sold across the world in 2018, representing year-on-year growth of 63%.  With market penetration sitting at just 2.2%, however, there is clearly a lot of room for growth.  With companies such as Toyota also working on electric heavy-duty trucks, the potential for the technology to impact the entire mobility and logistics market is considerable.

It’s estimated that 2.2 million electric vehicles will be sold in Europe in 2021, but this growth cannot happen in isolation, and would require approximately four gigafactories to ensure an adequate supply of batteries, plus a supply chain for the raw materials.  There would also be a need for up to 400,000 public charging stations.

Shared mobility

And what of the role of public transport and shared mobility?  The past year has seen cities across the world announce their future mobility visions, whether via e-scooters and other micromobility solutions or more mass transit investments into public transport.  Indeed, the micromobility market alone is estimated to be worth up to $500 billion per year globally by 2030, which is roughly a quarter of the global market for autonomous vehicles.

There is also likely to be ongoing wrangles between ride sharing firms and municipalities, as cities better understand the impact ridesharing is having on mobility patterns of citizens.  In many cases, this is driven by the additional demand ridesharing is placing on the road network, with some form of personalized congestion charging an increasingly likely solution, alongside capping the number of licenses and providing wage protections for drivers.

As the coronavirus pandemic has shown us, changes can often come out of nowhere and significantly change the landscape, but these are likely to be the biggest developments in the coming years.  Consumers increasingly demand mobility solutions that are flexible and environmentally friendly, and this will drive developments in the sector.

The effectiveness of regulation will also be a crucial development, both at the city and national level, as authorities strive to ensure people maintain their mobility in a safe and effective manner.  These developments are likely to ferment in cities, before then spreading out across nations, and the mobility sector promises to be one of the most fascinating, and transformative, parts of our society in the coming years.

If you loved this article–our ‘Future of’ series will explore new topics released weekly every Thursday–stay tuned!
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