Navigating Choice in Future Mobility

This is the first piece in our Mobility Series, where we will look at the challenges facing future mobility.

How has transport evolved, and what attitudes and behaviours does society have now as a result?

There are many new mobility solutions being developed. However, the challenge will be ensuring these come together in a way that helps citizens to make mobility choices, rather than remain as many disparate solutions.

Image: Kumpan Electric

Thinking about the future of mobility mostly focuses on the solutions…will we be driving anything like a car? Will we be flying? Will the vehicles be super fast?

But perhaps we should be investing more thought into how, as individuals, we want and need to move, what kind of future transport ecosystem we need to facilitate this, and the wants and expectations people have on such an ecosystem?

200 years ago mobility was simple. You either had a horse or you walked.  Today, as in other walks of life, the choice in our cities has vastly expanded.  Is it public or private? Is it fast or slow? How much do I want to pay? What other services do I want to include? How do I connect between the different modes to make my journey work?

The challenge in urban transport is increasingly about choice and how citizens navigate those choices. 

Image: Aviation Today. A Paragon T21 Raptor Vertical take-off aircraft being tested.

Mobility is at an interesting moment with new disruptive entrants coming to market, often via trials or testbeds. For many reasons, including the environment, major cities are trying to nudge citizens away from the traditional model of private car ownership and towards options such as public transport, ride-sharing, and micro-mobility. 

If cities want citizens to transition to a more multi-modal alternative, people need to be able to easily make sense of the options. We are getting used to the new taxi & ride hailing operators, dockless e-bikes & e-scooter services.

However, cities and operators still seem in the midst of trying to piece these together in a way that helps citizens understand and connect their journey choices – a true Mobility-as-a-Service model of transport. 

The appeal of the private car is one of ease – both perceived and actual. The ease of the car is its relative simplicity and low friction – you get in and go. When you compare this to a multi-modal journey it is just easier. 

This poses a core challenge:

How might we make planning a multi-modal journey as frictionless as “I’ll just get in the car”?

Public transport and micro-mobility London
Image: Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Part of the complexity is in creating this mobility ecosystem. Missed or delayed connections, confusing ticketing structures and lack of information are the same intersections between operations, operators and user experience that leave us feeling dissatisfied with today’s transport systems. Consider online purchasing and package delivery. It isn’t the quality of how you found and ordered from an online retailer, but the “we missed you” card on your doormat where you are left with a negative experience.  

How can we drive innovation in new mobility solutions whilst making sure we join the dots and remove friction between choices?

The visions offered around the future of mobility often seem disconnected with the real demographics of our future society. There is a genuine challenge around how we make navigating these choices accessible to all.

The UK’s Urban Mobility Strategy has a clear goal to increase active travel, particularly in the first/last mile; more pedestrianised streets is one example of this in practice. However, the UK (and much of the world) has an ageing population: what does this mean for people who rely on accessible transport?

The design of those services and intersections between providers will, if not done with consideration and co-creation, present barriers to some that exclude them from taking that option. 

Pedestrianised streets promote an active first & last mile, but what does it mean for those with physical access needs or limited mobility?

The tools which we give future users to understand and navigate these choices will be at the heart of whether the experience is positive and greater adoption can be built. Everything in this market is tracking the wider trends of services being personalised, flexible and a need for them to be delivered seamlessly and with low “friction”. 

The challenge is less about the solution, the vehicle, but what can knit this ecosystem together and help people to navigate mobility choices. 


David Watts

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