2019: The year of the micro-mobility revolution
By Johan Herrlin
This article was published on smartcitiesworld.net on January 3rd 2019.
There is no doubt that 2018 was a significant year in the ongoing transformation of the transport industry as new technological solutions came into use, new mobility players entered the market and trials of autonomous vehicles were widely reported in the news.Put simply, the industry is evolving rapidly and in 2019 we will certainly see further changes that will impact the movement of goods, people and services in cities across the world. What will these be exactly?
Here are my top predictions for 2019.
- We’ll experience an electric micro-mobility revolution
Micro-mobility has well and truly arrived in cities around the world. E-bikes and e-scooters have very high utilisation rates and are very popular with the public – especially commuters wanting to dodge traffic and get to work quickly and cheaply.
We are seeing that many of the big ’traditional’ dockless bike players have pulled out of cities around the world and are being replaced with electric versions and scooters.
With their ability to solve some of the biggest problems in urban communities, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more electric-vehicle micro-mobility services emerge in 2019. Questions over safety and regulation will, undoubtedly, need to be addressed and this will be at the front of mind for many parties next year.
- We’ll become accustomed to autonomy
Stories around self-driving cars have continued to hit the headlines throughout 2018. For example, the UK government announced backing for three world-leading public trials of self-driving vehicles in London and Edinburgh by 2021, while Ford shared its ambitious plans to start selling self-driving cars in the next three years, capitalising on the emerging technology in ride-share and business delivery.
“While significant progress is being made, I don’t expect to see fully autonomous vehicles in cities any time soon.”
However, while significant progress is being made, I don’t expect to see fully autonomous vehicles in cities any time soon. There’s still a long way to go to make the technology behind autonomous vehicles work as needed, and for costs to come down.
I do, however, believe that 2019 may well see the launch of autonomous on-demand taxis in certain geographies.
Earlier this month, Waymo launched the nation’s first commercial self-driving robo-taxi and I suspect other cities will look to introduce the technology in efforts to solve urban mobility problems.
I also believe that as more cars have semi-autonomous functions added to them, more people will become acclimatised to the idea of the technology. Many semi-autonomous vehicles are firmly in the luxury category – in 2019, these features will increasingly make their way into other buying categories as well.
- We’ll get on board flexi-buses
Micro-transit services or demand-responsive services are making better use of data and technology to plan routes and match supply and demand. Both traditional public transportation providers and a new crop of start-ups are starting new services and experimenting with different business models.
In 2019, we expect to see an increase in the number of demand-responsive services that complement existing fixed-route bus services to give travellers the service they want.
- We’ll be spoilt for choice
Over the past few months, we’ve seen many large players, such as Uber, Lyft and Didi, diversify their ride-hailing business model to include e-bikes and e-scooters. Some are experimenting with partnerships with public transportation authorities or even launching their own demand-responsive bus services.
Uber recently announced it has been in conversations with Transport for London as it seeks to create an all-encompassing journey planner app, displaying bus and tube timetables on its interface.
OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are getting in on the action too, with Ford announcing plans to launch an urban mobility platform that aims to manage mobility options for a city.
It appears that there’ll be lots of competition as these mobility platforms mature in 2019, each vying for the largest share of the market. These mobility platforms will likely be the way that many people discover, book and pay for journeys in urban environments, with many modes tied together, powered by high-quality, real-time information to support planning.
Towards true transformation?
While no one can know exactly what the year ahead will bring, we can be certain that 2019 will bring a further step-change in the way we move around cities.
2019 will bring a further step-change in the way we move around cities.
Every new trial and every new player that enters the market brings us a little bit closer to a true transformation of the transport industry – and this is incredibly exciting.
Of course, data will be central to the success of these advancements and it’s important that in 2019, and beyond, companies in both the private and public sector understand how to harness the power of it if we are to solve mobility issues for the future.