Trucks at Work

The future of mobility … and freight

“[Our] study finds that young people don’t place as much importance on owning a car as previous generations and the urban population is more open to innovative mobility concepts that use the smartphone as a control center to seamlessly combine mobility elements.” –Matthias Bentenrieder, a partner in Oliver Wyman’s automotive consulting practice, discussing the results of the firm’s Future of Mobility study

Here are two questions for you to ponder: if the up-and-coming generation ditches the traditional petroleum-fueled car in favor of public transportation and “alternative” forms of mobility (i.e. electric vehicles), will that necessarily translate into less roadway congestion? And if it does, will that be a boon or a burden to the freight sector?

That’s at least what I asked myself after thumbing through some of the results from the Future of Mobility study compiled by global consulting firm Oliver Wyman and the ESB Business School Reutlingen in Germany. The two polled some 3,000 young urban residents in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, along with denizens of the huge cities of Shanghai and Singapore.

The survey found that, if fuel prices continue to rise significantly, by 2030 approximately 77% of those polled would change their “mobility behavior” by switching to a smaller car, switching to an electric car, or abandoning car ownership entirely and replacing it with a mixture of transport modes.

[One of those “modes” is the tried and true bus, which is being redesigned under the auspices of a number of projects to make it more efficient. Below you watch a new prototype developed by the Volvo Group at work in Goteborg, Sweden.]

Respondents in Shanghai (91%) and France (82%) were particularly open to changing their mobility patterns, with 30% of all survey respondents saying they’d give up car ownership completely under this scenario, led by students (44%), young adults (36%), and urban residents (35%).

“The study findings confirm that innovative mobility services such as car sharing are more and more important,” noted Matthias Bentenrieder, a partner in Oliver Wyman’s automotive consulting practice.

“Young people don’t place as much importance on owning a car as previous generations, and the urban population is more open to innovative mobility concepts that use the smartphone as a control center to seamlessly combine mobility elements,” he added.

“The study findings also suggest that Asian megacities – with their high share of young, technology-oriented inhabitants and governments willing to make significant investments in public transport – will likely be a proving ground for new, IT-assisted mobility options,” Bentendrieder pointed out.

How would such smartphone-directed mobility work? Well Sweden’s Volvo Group laid out how its research indicates transport would be changed via the rise of what it calls a “connected society,” which you can view below:

Now, obviously, this is a conjecture from where we sit today, as what folks say they’ll do in a survey is often entirely different from what they ACTUALLY do in real life – especially when “real life” in this study is 18 years in the distance.

Still, this kind of research allows one to play a strategic game of “what if” when it comes to freight’s future. If urbanites begin to favor alternative transport modes, especially if they forgo automobile usage in the big city, is that an improvement from a freight perspective? Does it mean less traffic congestion, thus reducing delays – and cost – to move freight in and out of major cities?

Maybe … and maybe not. It’s just one of those things to think about as our urban centers get bigger while the ever-expanding plethora of technological additions to our lifestyles get put to work helping find better ways to get from here to there and back again. 

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