"Exciting turn ahead" it must say on a traffic sign for those exploring the possible routes to the future of transportation. Technology is about to bring more opportunities for the way we move around than we had in the last century. Since the transition from horse carriages to the automobile changes have been evolutions, but no revolutions.

Now we are at the verge of a true revolution in transportation. Electrification has been slowly entering the market. Where public transport companies have been using electricity for a while, nearly all car manufacturers are now following. Tesla took it from 'the good alternative' to 'the sexy alternative' to a fossil fuel driven car.

New technology. New opportunities.

The arrival of self-driving technology looks promising. It might finally be the moment that the automobile delivers on its promise; from 'mobile' to truly 'auto-mobile'. Meanwhile we are dreaming about mobility as a service, bringing a wide choice of smart transportation options to a single smartphone app, so we can find the smartest wat to travel for each trip.

The future tomorrow

The self-driving car promises a reduction of up to 90% of road crashes[1], car parking outside the city (centre), big time savings for not having to having to drive ourselves and cheaper access to mobility on the long run. Electrical cars are promising zero emission from vehicles in use, a solution to smog.

But what if tomorrow we'd all own an electrical car? Streets would look the same, traffic would be the same. And what if we'd all own a self-driving car tomorrow? We'd see an increase of traffic, as there is no need to minimise driving time. We could work in the car all day, sleep in the car, operate a business from the car, send our car out on errands empty, or let it drive around the block while we have a quick lunch. This would be a disaster for the ability to move around.

Unless.... those self-driving cars are shared. The trend of car- and ride sharing is something we read about and also something that most car brands experiment with. But so far, the uptake is small. We like to look at cars as our private, holy cow. A basic need and right in which we preferably drive alone for some precious 'me time'. The average occupation per car is low, around 1,2 person per car. Ans cars are known to stand still 95% of their time, making them a heavily underused mode of transportation.

Freedom to move

Ever since people inhabit the earth, we have needed and wanted to have ‘the freedom to move’. In the last century, ‘freedom to move’ has largely equalled car ownership. The ‘norm’ is to own your own car, or even more cars per household, as it’s available 24/7 exclusively for you.

While our population, the economy and cities keep growing, the need to move keeps on growing too. We are experiencing the downsides of this freedom to move everywhere. Pictures of smog-pestered cities, endless traffic jams, city sprawl, asphalt over green and incredible stats on road fatalities are familiar to all of us.

Private property on public ground

This means the freedom of choice for an individual, also has an impact on other people. Cars can be privately owned, but roads are public and parking takes up a lot of public space too. When it comes to car ownership we are reaching the limits of what our roads and cities can handle and we cannot solve this by creating more asphalt. In the words of documentary director Fredrik Gertten[2] “The reality is that there is not one city in the world that has solved the issue of mobility through the private car. None.”

What if..... we would share?

Various recent researches show what significant impact we could expect from better utilisation of vehicles. A study from ITF-OECD[3] showed that if all personal trips made in Lisbon would be shared - in minibuses or taxi's, combined with high capacity public transport - all trips could be fulfilled with only 3% of current vehicles on the road. We could get rid of áll street parking and 80% of off street parking. That enormous amount of freed space could be used for green, playgrounds or other facilities for people, rather than cars. It would make cities more pleasant to move around by bike or foot.

A similar study from MIT[4] using New York City taxi data showed that 'ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by a factor of three without significantly impacting travel time.' It would be possible to fulfil 95% of demand with just 2,000 10-person vehicles, instead of the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City.

A study in Stuttgart[5] showed that by using 100% ride sharing in combination with public transport could replace all car traffic in the region with only 7% of current personal vehicles.

Here and now

We don't know when the fully autonomous car will be here. Some say five 5, some say 70 years. But car- and ride sharing can already happen and make an impact here and now. These services present an enormous potential for positive societal impacts with respect to pollution, energy consumption, congestion, etc. Let's stop being stuck in traffic and wasting money[6] today and let's start sharing and harness the power sharing brings us.

Dare to share

Sharing transport is not new, but you could say its still in its infancy. Although it is a very promising route to improving cities, there are no cities that have fully embraced shared mobility for long enough and centrally orchestrated activities to have proven results on impact. We will need to focus on impact from single initiatives, promising results from research and new policies but most of all, dare to try, play and learn.

By getting to work with shared mobility solutions today, you will be ready for the autonomous mobility of tomorrow.



[1] KPMG 2012 ; Fagnant and Kockelman 2013

[2] Bike vs Cars https://vimeo.com/ondemand/bikesvscars a WG film by Fredrik Gertten

[3] http://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/shared-mobility-liveable-cities.pdf


[4] https://www.csail.mit.edu/ridesharing_reduces_traffic_300_percent

[5] https://www.vdv.de/megafon-abschlussbericht-20161212.pdfx

[6] the annual cost of congestion at $160 billion, which includes 7 billion hours of time lost to sitting in traffic and an extra 3 billion gallons of fuel burned