That hum in the distance is the sound of the concept of mobility changing—for the better. While challenges to the electrification of the vehicle parc persist, opportunities worth fighting for also lay ahead. This is particularly evident in cities, where emissions, congestion, and safety constitute major issues today. If the status quo continues, mobility problems will intensify as population and GDP growth drive increased car ownership and vehicle miles traveled. In response, the mobility industry is unleashing a dazzling array of innovations designed for urban roads, such as mobility-as-a-service, advanced traffic management and parking systems, freight-sharing solutions, and new transportation concepts on two or three wheels.
The current opportunity to transform the way we move fundamentally results from changes in three main areas: regulation, consumer behavior, and technology.
Regulation. Governments and cities have introduced regulations and incentives to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. Regulators worldwide are defining more stringent emissions targets. The European Union presented its “Fit for 55” program, which seeks to align climate, energy, land use, transport, and taxation policies to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and the Biden administration introduced a 50 percent electric vehicle (EV) target for 2030. Beyond such mandates, most governments are also offering EV subsidies.
Cities are working to reduce private vehicle use and congestion by offering greater support for alternative mobility modes like bicycles. Paris announced it will invest more than $300 million to update its bicycle network and convert 50 kilometers of car lanes into bicycle lanes. Many urban areas are also implementing access regulations for cars. In fact, over 150 cities in Europe have already created access regulations for low emissions and pollution emergencies.
Consumer behavior. Consumer behavior and awareness are changing as more people accept alternative and sustainable mobility modes. Inner city trips with shared bicycles and e-scooters have risen 60 percent year-over-year and the latest McKinsey consumer survey suggests average bicycle use (shared and private) may increase more than 10 percent in the post-pandemic world compared with pre-pandemic levels (See also “The future of micromobility: Ridership and revenue after a crisis,” July 2020). In addition, consumers are becoming more open to shared mobility options. More than 20 percent of Germans surveyed say they already use ride-pooling services (6 percent do so at least once per week), which can help reduce vehicle miles traveled and emissions (See also “Shared mobility: Where it stands, where it’s headed,” August 2021).
Technology. Industry players are accelerating the speed of automotive technology innovation as they develop new concepts of electric, connected, autonomous, and shared mobility. The industry has attracted more than $400 billion in investments over the last decade—with about $100 billion of that coming since the beginning of 2020. All this money targets companies and start-ups working on electrifying mobility, connecting vehicles, and autonomous driving technology (See also “Mobility’s future: An investment reality check,” April 2021).
Those plans include a combination of new and redesigned electric, gasoline and hybrid models slated for production through the middle of the decade.
Along with the Explorer EV, Ford will offer an electric Lincoln Aviator, also in 2023. Both vehicles will be distinct from the standard versions and be built in Mexico.
The company’s large SUVs, the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, will get hybrid variants within a few years as part of expected redesigns. Hybrid powertrains are also expected on popular models including the Ranger, Mustang and Ford’s Bronco family of utilities.
The Explorer and Aviator will sit on a new rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive EV platform, one of two new dedicated EV architectures Ford announced in May. The other is for full-size pickups.
After the middle part of the decade, Ford could add battery-powered versions of its Bronco SUV or Ranger midsize pickup — two possibilities it hinted at in May and which would align with its focus on electrifying strong-selling, established vehicles.
“The primary advantage we have right now is the strength of our product portfolio,” Farley said last month on an earnings call. “And it’s about to get a lot stronger.”
GT: The half-million-dollar supercar will take one last victory lap before production ends sometime next year. As Ford and supplier Multimatic wrap up the 1,350 GTs promised to a select group of customers, expect a few final special editions, such as the Heritage Edition introduced this month.
EcoSport: Ford’s entry-level vehicle will be upstaged this year by the Maverick compact pickup, which will have a starting price of $21,490, including shipping, making it $150 less expensive than the base EcoSport. How that will affect Ford’s subcompact crossover, which hasn’t caught on in the U.S. as in other parts of the world, remains to be seen. For now, Ford plans a next-generation EcoSport out of India that would debut in the U.S. in 2024.
Mustang Mach-E: The new electric crossover is quickly becoming a key pillar in Ford’s lineup. The company has sold 15,829 in the U.S. this year through July and says that 70 percent of buyers are from outside the Ford brand. It’s helping establish Ford as a legitimate player in the electric vehicle space while taking precious market share from Tesla. GT and GT Performance Edition variants just launched, starting at $61,000 and $66,000, with shipping. Ford said the Mach-E GT delivers 480 hp and 600 pound-feet of torque with an estimated 0-to-60-mph time of 3.8 seconds. The GT Performance Edition is even more powerful, boasting 634 pound-feet of torque and a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. Ford plans to move the Mach-E to its Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario in 2026, when it will be redesigned on a new platform.
Escape: After a delay following battery fires in Europe, Ford finally launched the Escape plug-in hybrid this year. That could help slow the slide in overall Escape sales, which have fallen 9.5 percent in the U.S. this year through July amid the global chip shortage. The compact crossover is due for a freshening late next year and could be redesigned in late 2025.
Bronco Sport: The Bronco’s smaller sibling is performing well in showrooms. It’s helping to build the budding Bronco subbrand as well as allowing Ford to claw back some market share in the all-important small utility segment. Through July, Ford has sold nearly 63,000 Bronco Sports in the U.S. this year. A hybrid is expected to debut in 2024.
Edge: Ford will kill the Edge at the end of its current life cycle, in 2023, when it will convert the Oakville plant, where the midsize crossover is built, into an EV facility. Ford has stressed that it wants to focus on iconic products that evoke customers’ passion. With the popularity of the Bronco Sport and Escape, which is still one of Ford’s highest-volume products despite its sales drop, keeping a third two-row utility in the lineup made less and less sense.
Explorer: It’s safe to say the Explorer has recovered from its bungled launch. U.S. sales are up 10 percent this year through July, despite the chip crisis pinching production.
honda baiku is a futuristic vehicle concept that gives us a taste of transportation’s next step. envisioned by valencia-based designer nacho alfonso, the one-wheeled motorcycle explores the new electric mobility that has become popular in the last years, where electric vehicles — scooters or skates, occupy the streets of many cities around the world. the honda baiku concept adds a high-end segment to this market targeting younger generations.
honda baiku by nacho alfonso takes shape as a self-balancing electric scooter standing on a single wheel. the vehicle utilizes gyroscope and accelerometers sensors enabling it to balance itself. the motorcycle features a movable flat seat that can be retracted into the frame sparing space while not in use.
furthermore, baiku’s rectangular-shaped front includes LED array lights providing a clear view on nightly trips. meanwhile, a long display spans from the top section to the lower chassis. the top part reveals all the important information such as speed, temperature, navigation, while the sloped section function as a remote control for the user’s connected smartphone.
Company executives declined to say more about the move.
“There’s going to be a whole lot of speculation,” Sonic President Jeff Dyke told Automotive News last week. “We thought long and hard about it and just, at this point, can’t make any comments about what’s going on there. At the end of the day, our goal is to maximize shareholder value.”
The review marks a change in tune for Sonic leaders. When asked about the potential separation of EchoPark from Sonic in July 2020, executives downplayed such a move.
“There are synergies between the two companies, and we think that’s what makes us valuable,” CFO Heath Byrd said then, referring to EchoPark stores and Sonic’s franchised dealerships.
J.P. Morgan analyst Rajat Gupta said in a note last week that the review “in our view hints at potential spin-off, and signs that profitability should inflect in 2022 making the business self-sustaining.”
EchoPark sells used vehicles that generally are between 1 and 4 years old with less than 50,000 miles and prices them up to $3,000 below market.
The approach draws customers seeking vehicles in that range, as well as would-be buyers of slightly older vehicles and new vehicles, Sonic executives have said.
Cars have been at the heart of American culture for more than a century. Until recently, getting a license and buying a car were considered rites of passage, and the car you chose was widely regarded as an expression of your identity, reflecting your priorities and revealing your status.
All that is now changing. The advent of car sharing, ride-hailing and self-driving vehicles presages a radical transformation in consumer behavior. The future of personal transportation will be determined by technological advances, informed by the needs and desires of the people who use them. Our understanding of who those consumers are and what choices they are likely to make is changing in surprising ways.
Car-loving Boomers Are Headed for Cities
Consider baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964. They may no longer be the largest generation in the U.S. (their kids, the 19- to 35-year-old millennials, now outnumber them slightly), but boomers are likely to continue playing a major role in shaping the future of the auto industry and the rapidly evolving “sharing economy.”
Given the boomers’ affection for cars, it’s not surprising that adults over 50 bought nearly two-thirds of the new cars sold in the U.S. in 2011, according to an AARP study. Unlike earlier generations, today’s seniors “are refusing to follow their parents’ lead and go quietly into the car-buying night,” according to a 2013 article in Bloomberg News. In fact, nearly 93% of Americans between 60 and 64 had driver’s licenses in 2011, up from only 84% in 1983.
What is surprising is that seniors are participating in the well-documented mass migration to urban centers. Despite the common assumption that millennials will dominate the urban landscape in the coming years, recent studies suggest that boomers are also locating there in droves. “Instead of migrating south en masse to retirement communities in the Sunshine State or the wilds of Arizona,” wrote Realtor.com, “more and more baby boomers — a particularly urban-savvy group of Americans — are moving back to the metro areas they abandoned when they began raising families.”
And these older urbanites are anything but sedentary. Rather than retiring, 87% say a shorter commute to work is a major reason for their move to the city, according to a recent Zipcar study. Moreover, when they are not working, the study said, “An overwhelming 90% are seeking to boost their cultural experiences, with easy access to a variety of restaurants, shops and fitness facilities.”
“Millennials have a lower rate of car ownership than previous generations at their age.” –Sam Abuelsamid, Navigant Research
All this activity makes urban boomers active consumers. “Between 2015 and 2030, the 60-plus age group in the United States, for instance, is projected to contribute 40% or more of consumption growth in categories such as personal care, housing, transportation, entertainment, and food and alcoholic beverages,” reported a 2016 study by the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Urban World: The Global Consumers to Watch.”
For boomers who keep their cars in the city, ride-hailing offers
It is a challenging time for automotive industry executives. It is also an exciting one.
The global car industry is experiencing massive upheaval and uncertainty. A powerful set of forces are converging. New players are turning traditional business models upside-down. New technologies with far-reaching implications are cresting the hill. A sea-change in consumer behaviour is shaking-up and disorientating a sector once used to calling all the shots.
Individually, these forces present a real danger to businesses that don’t respond appropriately. Combined, they present a very serious threat indeed. But if properly harnessed, they have the potential to deliver big rewards.
Automotive manufacturers are working hard to get it right. They are embracing innovation and digital transformation in a bid to remain relevant. However, managing risk is part of established car-makers’ DNA, which is a problem because innovation is associated with taking risks. And while car-makers are putting in place strategic transformation plans towards becoming mobility solutions providers, it is not proving easy for them to leverage their assets in new ways beyond their core business.
Our 2020 summit helps carmakers to identify the critical risks and leverage the new opportunities that customer-centricity, new technology and data analytics, new business models, and the move towards a net-zero economy bring with them.
Let’s shake ourselves out of our four-wheeled stupor, look at the vehicles and devices being developed, and reimagine how we’ll move around our cities, says TED technology curator Alex Moura.
Humanity has come a long way from traveling by horse, but when we consider the future of transportation in cities, too many of us are still stuck in the 18th century.We still envision our streets full of four-wheel chariots (minus the horses), and our future as relying on cars or car-like vehicles, because that’s all we know. Why this myopia? For most automakers and transportation companies, adhering to the status quo is more profitable than experimenting; their business models, even for forward thinkers like Tesla, depend on their keeping drivers tethered with maintenance and service. And builders and urban planners have learned to limit their thinking because existing regulations and clunky political processes have made it nearly impossible to innovate without years of negotiations. As a result, we’re laying the foundations for a transportation future that carries forward the problems of the past.
But there can be another way forward, a new vision of transportation that upsets the four-wheel chariot model. And signs of it are already rolling across the landscape. By looking at some of the most advanced vehicles and devices out there — not just concept cars and prototypes but vehicles that are already in use or being road-tested in the real world — we can start to see a more interesting, less car-based future. Based on this new crop of transportation-related devices, I’m making the following four predictions:
1. Cars will become much, much smaller.
While SUV and truck sales have been on the rise worldwide, that trend has been boosted by low gasoline prices, which can’t last given the finite supplies of fossil fuels.As we move forward,personal urban transportation will be dominated byindividual vehicles.In 2015, Toyota launched a trial run of its three-wheeled i-Road electric vehicles — which resemble an enclosed motorcycle and fit only a driver and perhaps a small passenger — through a network of sharing stations in Tokyo. (We road-tested them at TED, too.) The project is now expanding throughout Japan, a nation with more electric car-charging stations than gas stations. In a bid to become the first country to embrace smart transportation systems, government officials have gone as far as trying to create international car-charging standards.
2. On sidewalks and bike lanes: pint-sized people movers.
In the next decades, bikes will still be a big part of how we move around urban areas. But while many people will continue to use bikes for health reasons, new technologies may overtake them, offering better ways to zip short distances inside cities. Much less cumbersome than a bicycle, scooter or Segway, these seated one-passenger devices take up roughly the space as a person. Without requiring handlebars or parking spaces, they’ll run on sidewalks, paved pedestrian areas and bike lanes. Honda’s Uni-Cub, a compact
With each passing day, reports on rising total confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to dominate the global conscience, and the novel coronavirus is now present on every continent except for Antarctica. And the resulting fear is more pervasive. Thousands of people have perished as the effects of COVID-19 touch us all: stock markets have cratered, millions have become unemployed (temporarily or soon-to-be permanently), the federal government has passed a multi-trillion-dollar aid package, and health care institutions are being stretched thin. To “flatten the curve,” millions of people around the globe are quarantined in their homes or elsewhere, while infrastructure and transportation systems that bonded us globally, nationally, and locally are being used more sparingly, at least currently. Long-term, what could be the lasting effects on transportation and infrastructure in our post-COVID-19 world?
Public Transportation: Even though we are still in the first few weeks of what may be a prolonged quarantine throughout the United States, we have already seen a travel advisory issued for the New York City area, where transit ridership ranks among the highest in the country. So what does the future of transportation look like through a mandatorily-quarantined window? It’s murky, both because the windows need “cleaning” and the future of everything is covered with a COVID-19 glaze at the moment. One helpful data point is that during prior SARS outbreaks in Taiwan, there was a material drop in ridership of public transportation. If a return to work and schools occurs before a vaccine is created, people may not feel comfortable riding public transportation. With transit ridership dropping in Los Angeles in particular, could transit agencies be affected permanently?
Traffic: Assuming we remain quarantined in some form until successful treatments for COVID-19 are administered worldwide, Americans and others globally will be working from home for many months (if not for over a year). As some businesses may decide to permanently have their employees work from home to save on real estate costs, the number of commuters on the roads may drastically drop. So, could that lead to more commuters taking advantage of less congested roads, perhaps even those who traditionally rode public transportation?
Driverless cars: Another possible (and perhaps positive) impact on transportation from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could be the acceleration of mass adoption of driverless cars, and, hopefully, the “tweaks” that are needed to our infrastructure to maximize the safety and efficiency of driverless cars to ensure they are connected to other driverless cars, road infrastructure, and their own designated lanes away from “human” drivers. Will the future of commuting consist of a double-down of personal vehicles, but driven by themselves and connected to our infrastructure so we don’t have to just work from home, but also from our cars?
Articles about technology and the future of transportation rarely used to get far without mentioning jet-packs: a staple of science fiction from the 1920s onwards, the jet pack became a reality in the 1960s in the shape of devices such as the Bell Rocket Belt. But despite many similar efforts, the skies over our cities remain stubbornly free of jet-pack-toting commuters.
For a novel form of transport to make a material difference to our lives, several key requirements must be satisfied. Obviously the new technology must work safely, and operate within an appropriate regulatory framework. But public acceptance and solid business models are also vital if a new idea is to move from R&D lab to testbed to early adoption, and eventually into mainstream usage.
There’s inevitably a lot of hype surrounding the future of transportation, but also plenty of substance, with big investments being made both by disruptive tech companies and by incumbent industry players. Can technology help to get us and our goods around quicker, in greater safety, and with less damage to the planet?
Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs)
Driverless cars, or Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are getting the lion’s share of attention, but the wider implications of CAVs and other novel forms of transport are also firmly on the agenda — including smarter, greener cities and more efficient distribution of freight and consumer deliveries.
To get an overview of a large part of this subject area, it’s worth examining Gartner’s Hype Cycle, and the 2017 status of technologies relating to connected vehicles and smart mobility:
Most of the technologies listed here are in the early stages of the progression towards mainstream adoption, according to Gartner, with only five out of 30 making it beyond the Trough of Disillusionment.
No surprise, then, that there’s a lot of activity in the CAV market. In a report published last October The Brookings Institution collated reports of “investments and transactions attributable to autonomous vehicles or core technologies” between August 2014 and June 2017, and found over 160 separate deals amounting to some $80 billion. These covered auto electronics, microchips, rideshare apps, AI/deep learning, digital mapping, non-AI software, physical systems and sensors. The authors concluded that “investment in 2018 should be substantially more than the $80 billion disclosed from 2014 to 2017, and continue upward for some period of time as the race to deploy self-driving moves on.”
At the same time, public perception of autonomous vehicle safety seems to be heading in a positive direction. In a survey last year, Gartner found that while 55 percent of respondents (from the US and Germany) would not consider travelling in a fully autonomous car, 71 percent would ride in a partially autonomous vehicle.
These findings are echoed by the Deloitte 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study, which found that the percentage of respondents considering fully self-driving vehicles unsafe ranged from