The future of urban mobility: How will we move in 30 years?

Published on 19 May 2021

Reading time 10 minutes

While the pandemic is still very present in our daily lives, the transportation sector has taken a big blow: travel restrictions, social distancing, other countries still under curfew... All this leaves room for real frustration within populations in dire need of travel and escape.

However, the crisis is not slowing down innovation or the motivation to improve the mobility of tomorrow. The transport of the future has two main goals: reducing urban pollution and improving traffic flow within major cities.

We have a huge number of territories in the world, but travel methods and distances to be covered don't correspond with each of them. It's just not as easy to travel in the United States or China as it is in France or Germany. Here, the major difficulty is to produce travel solutions for populations in all their diversity: more or less budget, small or large cities...

Together with the challenges of climate change, the digital revolution highlights the need to offer new transport services: both adapted to the territories in which they are used and to the different populations they're meant for.

The state of the urban transport sector

The transportation sector is known to be one of the pillars of the economy and one of the main causes of urban expansion, yet it's also one of the most challenging sectors for reducing CO2 emissions. That's exactly why today's transportation must reinvent itself!

Mobility and pollution

According to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, if we take the breakdown of global emissions from energy consumption, the transportation sector falls in second place with 25% of CO2 emissions in 2018, behind electricity production (due to combustion, with 41% of emission).

Thus, by 2030, the European Union aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to the level observed in 1990.

"Futuristic" transportation already on the market

While the road network is experiencing real saturation (with greater traffic jams at peak times and bottlenecks at major intersections), the trend towards a greener, cleaner and more sustainable urban mobility is emerging. Indeed, the transportation industry has been increasingly thinking long-term and reducing its emissions as much as possible. But this challenge does have a cost...

The connected and intelligent e-bike

While just 4% of the population in France relies daily on a bicycle for transportation, some European Union countries have a very high percentage of daily bicycle use:

  • The Netherlands: 36%
  • Denmark: 23%
  • Hungary: 22%

The trend has increased significantly in recent years—especially since the pandemic began spreading over a year ago. Ensuing social distancing has led to new mobility habits: some prefer bicycles, scooters, or walking when distances permit rather than cramming into a car, bus, or subway.

In 2018, there were 529 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in the entire European Union according to Eurostat, the European statistics agency. This is why cities such as Barcelona and Berlin have completely reinvented the way they get around in some of their neighborhoods by building bike lanes that give priority to space and safety. These two cities show that bicycles, buses, and cars can cohabit perfectly together and circulate in an organized and safe manner.

An e-bike to illustrate this trend...

The French company Angell has launched its e-bike (autonomous, electrically assisted bicycle) on the market. This responsible product, which is easy to use, transportable and lighter than traditional electric bikes, can be used for leisure, sports, commuting, and other daily trips.

The electric scooter

To ease the transition from individual cars to micro mobility, the bicycle is not the only trend in Europe and the rest of the world: the electric scooter is also used more and more. Indeed, in addition to being very practical, the latter is easy to use and portable.

To highlight this trend, we can mention Bird, the American company that pioneered the self-service electric scooter, which recently announced to invest €125 million to deploy in 50 new European cities and reach a more local population.

What's more, scooters are becoming more accessible for all. The French company Omni has introduced GlobeTrotter, a universal attachment that connects wheelchairs to electric scooters to allow users to go anywhere they want. This initiative is part of a more local approach to accessibility and demonstrates a significant social impact. And it's far from over! Their new goal is to reach 100,000 users by 2025.

Check out Brian's testimony, a Wilder and web development alumni at Trott!

The hybrid car and the plug-in hybrid car

These two types of vehicles—hybrid and plug-in hybrid—have one thing in common. Both have two engines under their hoods: a combustion engine (e.g. gasoline), and a battery-powered, electric one.

Although one might think that these two vehicles are similar, one quickly realizes that they have several differences. While the average hybrid car costs around €20,000, the average plug-in hybrid car easily costs around €45,000. These differences can be explained in particular by their own performance: a plug-in hybrid car will provide a higher electric range.

In fact, the hybrid car does not need to be charged manually, since it recharges itself when the vehicle decelerates. The rechargeable hybrid car, on the other hand, is the perfect mix between the hybrid car and the electric car. It has a rechargeable battery and the recharge time for this type of vehicle for about 50 km is 3 to 4 hours on a conventional socket, and less than 3 hours on a charging station.

The electric car

Contrary to the types of vehicles mentioned above, the electric car does not consume any fuel and does not emit any CO2 emissions while driving 100% electrically over distances ranging from 60 to 600 km on average. Previously, electric cars were associated with short distances. Fortunately, this misconception has gradually faded, and some models can now reach distances of over 600 km.

Thanks to its large battery, the electric car offers more autonomy than the plug-in hybrid. However, it requires a longer recharging time: between 5 to 6 hours at a charging station, and about 20 hours via a conventional power outlet.

Despite the long charging times, more and more electric vehicles are being sold around the world. Europe even managed to overtake China, between January and June 2020!

As you can see, there are already a lot of alternatives to ordinary vehicles... But how far will all this innovation take us? What are the next mobility projects? That's what we're going to reveal right now!

The mobility of the future: connected, electric, autonomous, shared and intelligent vehicles

As a result of growing environmental awareness, the trend of using ordinary vehicles is becoming less and less prevalent.

It can be estimated that, within the next 30 years, mobility will be cleaner, greener and more sustainable thanks to vehicles that impact the environment less and offer users more safety.

The car of tomorrow: connected, autonomous, intelligent… and shared?

The connected car

We currently live in a world where objects are becoming more and more connected—and so will our preferred and daily mobility tool!

Although the connected car already exists with over 340 million worldwide to date, it would seem that this is just the beginning of its expansion. By 2023, it is estimated that this number will multiply and reach 800 million.

But why this growing interest in connected objects?

Nowadays, the main connected features of these vehicles are mainly related to the safety of users with the respect of safety distances and voice commands, mapping via GPS applications, and reliability thanks to more detailed internal vehicle diagnostics. These functionalities could reduce accidents by as much as 68%!

The autonomous car

By definition, an autonomous vehicle is a vehicle entirely driven by artificial intelligence. It navigates alone and is fully capable of adapting its driving according to the environment around it and events that occur.

If we talk to you about driverless cars, what does that make you think of?

Ironically, to truly be autonomous, you have to be connected! This is what Waymo, Nuro, and Zoox have understood.

  • Waymo, known for being one of Google's subsidiaries, launched its consumer service "Waymo One" in the United States (in Phoenix, Arizona, to be more precise) in October 2020. This driverless car is capable of taking users from point A to point B;
  • Nuro is an autonomous vehicle designed to make deliveries. The company has been testing since 2017, and it's in Texas (USA) that the first Domino's and Nuro partnership was born. Ever since, customers living near a Domino's pizzeria can have their order delivered!
  • Zoox is a robot cab service that Amazon acquired in 2020. With room for up to four people, this vehicle can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h and 16 hours of autonomy.

The trend is more in the same direction, as General Motors has announced a service of self-driving cars (also autonomous or simply AV cars) to come.

On the one hand, the autonomous and shared car allows to reach the goal of easier, safer, cleaner, and more comfortable urban mobility. It will transform urban agglomerations in the long term. For example, there will be fewer and fewer cars parked on the streets, more cleanliness, etc.

On the other hand, the autonomous car is a technology that's still quite expensive, and that requires a reduced latency time in order to optimize the safety of passengers. This is why the development of 5G is taking the autonomous car to the next level!

Will tomorrow's mobility be more drones and connected, autonomous vehicles, or more bikes, scooters, and other green alternatives? Let the betting begin!

But what if the future of mobility lies in water?

Low-emission boats for navigating through cities crossed by waterways? Yes, such a thing exists!

Two examples are:

  • SeaBubbles, an aeronautical technology that moves at the speed of a car but has no impact on the environment or the city's infrastructure;
  • Amerstam's RoundAround, a rotating bridge robot made of boats, created to bring people from one shore to the other.

What about the flying car?

Did you really think we would forget about it? We, too, dream of daily travel like in the cartoon The Jetsons or the film The Fifth Element!

Although it looks more like an airplane or a helicopter, EVTOL (for electrical vertical takeoff and landing) is a flying car still in the testing phase today. This new technology is able to send passengers or loads from point A to point B for a lower price than a helicopter ride ($10/min, for example).

High-performance, less noisy (three to four times less), less polluting, and more accessible, this flying car could even fly at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024!

The only obstacle remains safety... Until these cars have a safety level at least equal to that of a commercial airplane, they'll surely not be marketable.

Of course, you already know the rest of the story. The pandemic has impacted not only urban mobility but also the entire transportation sector, including aeronautics.

Discover the testimony of Lisbon-based Wilder Rodrigo, who shares with us the experiences of his past career at TAP Air Portugal.