World Economic Forum Examines Future Mobility Trends

Michelle Avary, head of automotive and autonomous mobility at the World Economic Forum, argued in a January 13 column that demand for more “inclusive mobility” is one of three major future trends that will impact how government entities at all levels formulate transportation strategies.

[Above photo via the North Dakota DOT.]

“People today are insisting that mobility is a right and a public good, and that it must be inclusive,” she said. “This means that mobility must serve everyone – including those on low incomes, the disabled and elderly, and places with low demand such as rural areas. Inclusive mobility is mobility that is safe for everyone, including women.”

Michelle Avary

Avary added that inclusive mobility “is not an orderly trend; rather it will involve a lot of experimentation, no single correct solution, and a very long horizon.”

She explained that as quality of life degrades as a result of traffic congestion, and as people are excluded from mobility options, they are less willing to accept the status quo and more willing to experiment with alternative mobility options. “Technological advances can be harnessed to make mobility more inclusive and improve quality of life,” Avary said, which is one reason why advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, connectivity and automation are “being applied to mobility” now.

That trend will also result in more public-private transportation collaboration, particularly where automation and ride-hailing services are concerned.

Photo by the North Dakota DOT

“Rural authorities are partnering with on-demand, high-occupancy ride-hailing companies to serve outlying areas,” she noted. “Transit authorities are creating dedicated offices devoted to advancing automated technologies. State governments are passing laws allowing for automated trucks, shuttles, and taxis.”

Such collaboration will accelerate because, Avary believes, people and governments are “becoming frustrated” with the traditionally slow pace of public transit improvements and the associated costs.

“Many are turning to the private sector to help deliver real solutions faster and more affordably,” she pointed out. “And there is widespread belief in the potential of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to solve seemingly intractable mobility problems.”


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