Going Mobile: The Personalized, On-Demand Future of Urban Transportation

Stakeholders throughout the transportation industry face fundamental disruptions as vehicle ownership yields to as-needed mobility.

Mobility has been the lifeblood of modern civilization. Throughout the 20th century, autos and the auto industry propelled human development, bringing unrivaled utility and flexibility to the way people move. The automobile forever altered urban and suburban landscapes, and the auto industry emerged as one of the largest sectors of the world economy. Yet the industry — which survived the Great Depression, two world wars, and a two-peaked oil “crisis” — now faces fundamental disruption.

Relentless urbanization has left many cities with crippling congestion and unhealthy air pollution, and cars are wearing out their welcome in most. Modern urbanites, weaned on omnipresent connectivity, have also altered their patterns of living: Vehicle ownership is yielding to mobility accessibility as expectations and aspirations change. These trends have led a growing number of thought leaders both within and outside the auto industry to assert that radical transformation is imminent. Nissan’s Europe chairman, Paul Willcox, worries that automakers are facing “a decade of disruption.”1

We postulate that urban mobility is transforming to a connected, heterogeneous, intelligent, and personalized architecture (CHIP). A CHIP mobility architecture makes room for automakers, technologists, city planners, and entrepreneurs to innovate and proliferate new travel modes and solutions, enhancing variety, options, and utility for users. CHIP mobility leverages the power of networked systems based on connections linking physical infrastructure with digital tools to reduce travel cost, time, and effort. Intelligent systems that can access data on user preferences, traffic congestion, prices, and weather, for example, will help promote efficiency and deliver personalized user experiences. Mobility can be delivered as a service — available on tap to suit the consumer’s need at the time. Nations and cities can shape their unique architectures through investments, policies, incentives, and fees, aligning their mobility portfolios to societal objectives.

The Winds of Change

An Urban Century

At the dawn of the 20th century, one in every six people lived in an urban location. By the end of that century, one of every two was an urbanite. And by 2050, it’s projected that as many people will live in urban areas as there were people on the planet in 2015.2

Cities are emerging as economic powerhouses and pushing their own social and environmental agendas.


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2.United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision” (New York: United Nations, 2015)

3.R. Dobbs, S. Smit, J. Remes, J. Manyika, C. Roxburgh, and A. Restrepo, “Urban World: Mapping the Economic Power of Cities,” March 2011, www.mckinsey.com.

4.M. Bloomberg, “Keynote Speech” (UN Economic and Social Council 2014 Integration Segment, New York City, May 27, 2014).

5.F. Creutzig and D. He, “Climate Change Mitigation and Co-Benefits of Feasible Transport Demand Policies in Beijing,” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 14, no. 2 (March 2009): 120-131.

6.R. Petersen and C. Schäfer, “Land Use Planning and Urban Transport” (Berlin: German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2004).

7.E. Peñalosa, “Politics, Power, Cities,” Jan. 11, 2015, www.youtube.com.

8.V. Lall, Somik, “Planning, Connecting, and Financing Cities — Now: Priorities for City Leaders,” Jan. 23, 2013, http://documents.worldbank.org.

9.D. Moore, “Ecological Footprint Analysis: San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area,” June 30, 2011, www.footprintnetwork.org.

10.International Energy Agency, “2015 Key World Energy Statistics,” 2015, www.iea.org.

11.U.S. Energy Information Administration: “International Energy Outlook 2016,” May 11, 2016, www.eia.gov.

12.World Health Organization, “WHO Releases Country Estimates on Air Pollution Exposure and Health Impact” (news release), Sept. 27, 2016, www.who.int.

13.United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, “Creating Universal Access to Safe, Clean, and Affordable Transport: Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, 2013,” June 20, 2013, http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

14.T. Dutzig and P. Baxandall, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship With Driving and the Implications for America’s Future,” May 14, 2013, www.uspirg.org; P. Brasor and M. Tsubuku, “Japan Is Losing Its Drive to Get Behind the Wheel,” Feb. 13, 2016, www.japantimes.co.jp.

15.Morgan Stanley Research, “Rent-a-Car Meets Tech: Head-On Collision” (New York: Morgan Stanley, Sept. 4, 2014).

16.“The Future of Driving: Seeing the Back of the Car,” The Economist, Sept. 22, 2012.

17.“Automotive Revolution: Perspective Towards 2030,” January 2016, www.mckinsey.com; and “Gross Domestic Product 2016,” World Bank, April 17, 2017, http://worldbank.org.

18.“Economic Contributions,” 2017, www.oica.net.

19.B. Ford, “A Future Beyond Traffic Gridlock,” March 2011, www.ted.com.

20.M. Colville-Andersen, “The 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities on the Planet,” Wired, March 22, 2016.

21.“Travel in London: Report 8,” 2015, http://tfl.gov.uk.

22.U. Guida, “Increasing Bus Attractiveness Through Efficiency,” Oct. 2, 2013, http://civitas.eu.

23.“How to Design Cities Around People, Not Cars,” June 10, 2011, http://allianz.com.

24.N. Balwit, “A Growing Seattle Goes All In on Transit,” Jan. 5, 2017, www.citylab.com.

25.S. Gibbs. “Self-Driving Buses Take to Roads Alongside Commuter Traffic in Helsinki,” The Guardian, Aug. 18, 2016.

26.FICCI, “Modern Trams (Light Rail Transit) for Cities in India” (New Delhi: Institute of Urban Transport [India], September 2013), http://ficci.in/spdocument/20301/LIGHT-RAIL-TRANSIT-White-paper.pdf.

27.J. Hagel, “Navigating a Shifting Landscape: Capturing Value in the Evolving Mobility Ecosystem,” Jan. 7, 2016, http://deloitte.com.

28.C. Hetzner, “BMW’s Robertson Warns Industry to Brace for Change,” June 8, 2016, www.autonews.com.

29.“Nissan Partners With 100RC to Prepare Cities for Autonomous Vehicles, Electric Cars, Future Mobility” (news release), Jan. 6, 2017, www.100resilientcities.org.

1 Comment On: Going Mobile: The Personalized, On-Demand Future of Urban Transportation

  • Abhijit Bhattacharya | October 5, 2017

    Excellent article. The crumbling infrastructure and the alarming levels of pollution in every city of a country like India, can ill afford to ignore the urgent need for rapid development and implementation of the CHIP architecture.
    If CHIP is effectively combined with organizational innovations, then the impact on road congestion could be even more dramatic. Currently, most of our organizations, like schools, universities, hospitals and offices are following routines that were developed long ago in a very different era. Governments, businesses and people at large must be encouraged to question the orthodoxies involved in the operating models of all our organizations. By doing that, in combination with CHIP, ultimately we can reduce a humongous amount of unproductive daily trips of students, doctors, officegoers and others in our cities.

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