CityX: Future Mobility Event

The CCD team attended the Future Mobility day of the CityX event hosted by the Connected Places Catapult.

It was an interesting mix of thought presentations and an expo for a number of start-ups and their tech solutions. So what did we make of it? Some was positive and insightful; much was about what wasn’t said.

It really reinforced to us the importance of adoption and acceptability (accessibility) of solutions to actually have impact and make a difference. There are a bunch of different agendas mixed up in here, some of which are connected, from environmental (e.g. move to EV), congestion, and health & wellbeing (e.g. air quality, healthy mobility). Rachel Skinner from WSP presented a useful hierarchy for how we can find a path through these issues and see how the priorities are changing.

But also at the heart of this is about how we make choices as consumers and citizens. As so often happens, so much of the conversation is about technology and solutions and less about the problem space. The danger is that this might take us to a range of solutions that don’t fully solve a user problem, or only solve part of it.

We clearly need to bring into the conversation more about how people make decisions and there wasn’t enough insight for us into behaviours, bias and how we might break long-ingrained habits on mobility.

This solution-led focus has also taken us to a current situation where there are lots of start-ups creating lots of solutions (only some of which have a focus on a real problem!). These start-ups are coming to market with their ideas and getting trials and prototypes out there. But this creates complexity for consumers as we have to navigate choices that are local and many, whilst getting little guidance of which works best for our individual needs.

So, are we in a temporary messy period before the winners scale and our choices become simpler?

The other consequence of current siloed or product thinking is the lack of sight on how these solutions integrate. How do mass transit solutions work together? How do feeder transport solutions integrate with mass transit? As we know from other areas, some of the barriers to adoption are about the hand-off between these services and there was no real discussion about how these joins are designed.

How do we address some of the barriers that emerge? Can we design a hand-off between modes which, for example, avoids a wait?

Interestingly, there was little discussion about how we ensure these solutions are accessible to as many of our citizens as possible. There was some good input to the importance of balancing rural needs with those of city dwellers. But the wider inclusive design question was largely absent.

We clearly have complexity at the moment in mobility and transport. Our overall conclusion was that finding a path to simplicity, for the customer at least, is the key to getting some of that needed adoption that will deliver the environmental and other changes that we seek.

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David Watts

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