As I look back on the 25 years I have spent working in mobility – in both the public and private sectors and on two continents – I can see that while the transport industry has always faced change, the rate and unpredictability of that change is unprecedented.
New technologies are having a disruptive impact; evolving customer behaviours and expectations are proving transformative; a return to simpler, healthier and local mobility solutions is increasingly desirable; and the proliferation of new mobility market entrants is offering innovative alternatives to how we move.
Megatrends are changing the context for future mobility
By 2030 there are expected to be 41 global megacities with more than 10 million people
Wider factors, such as megatrends, are at play. Our future as a society seems to be about more of humanity living in cities and most in large or even megacities. This is a worldwide trend that has been progressing for many years, as UN statistics have shown. In 1950 there were two global cities with a population greater than 10 million. By 2004, this had risen to 25 cities. By 2030 there are expected to be 41 global megacities with more than 10 million people.
Coming to terms with and resolving the environmental impact of 20th century industrialisation and the ongoing industrialisation of the developing world today is needed. This includes reducing air, water and noise pollution; tackling climate change and focusing on sustainable solutions to meet our future mobility needs.
We are also an ageing society. While this is more pronounced in certain regions, it is a global long-term trend that will shape societal perceptions and needs. In the UK, for example, currently 10 million people are over the age of 65. In 20 years this will increase by 50% and double to 20 million by 2050. Half of all humans over 65, ever, are alive today … that’s 600 million people. By 2035 this will have risen to 1.1 billion people (from eight to 13% of the global population).
The move to a digital-first way of life is also instrumental, whereby the fourth industrial revolution is rapidly reshaping our expectations, interactions and creating, as well as destroying, numerous well-established business models and services.
Did we ask for smartphones? Would we have predicted that east African countries would bypass the traditional banking and telecommunications sectors and move to a ubiquitous mobile banking system? Should we have expected that ‘sharing’, as a business process, would challenge the basis of exclusivity, privacy and personal consumption? Why has open data only now gained traction as a viable and transformative business process? My view is that only a few years ago many experts would have considered most of these outcomes as unlikely, distant and certainly not industry challenging.
Disruption in mobility is upon us
We are now looking at disruption in mobility. Yes, (some) large infrastructure will be essential, for urban spaces to be redesigned, but disruptive mobility options will also support travel needs.
Fleets of vehicles will be built, but do they need to be personally owned? Can users be offered constant personalisation as a result of the requirements of specific trips? Is mobility more realistically serviced via fleets of intensively used small vehicles delivering people to their final destination, rather than high investment in selected mass market core trunk services? How do we merge these visions of public transport with a sustainable use of private vehicles that captures the various views and expectations of drivers?
The world of transport is facing more change than I have so far seen in my 25-year career. Established ways of considering, planning and delivering travel solutions are still valid, but under disruption from an ever-widening array of new thinking and new technologies, and by changes in society and society’s impact on the environment. This is both a thoroughly exciting as well as daunting time to be a thinker, developer, producer or provider in the mobility industry.