In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
7 Standout Trends in Future Urban Mobility
I really enjoy Meeting of the Minds’ unique combination of technology and regional planning. Two of the mobility conference sessions covered the “Urban Mobility Revolution” and carsharing (ZipCar, City CarShare, and peer-to-peer Buzzcar).
While the future is anyone’s guess, below are seven standout future mobility items, with a bias towards self-driving and youtubility.
1. GM’s EN-V: small self-driving, self-parking future car
The video (above) features high-speed autonomous crossings through congested, stoplight-free intersections. Automated parking fits more vehicles into less space (see video above).
At a 2012 Commonwealth Club talk, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson expressed some sympathy for raising the gas tax. A substantial tax increase, though unlikely, will increase demand for mobility services.
2. Toyota’s 2050 vision
Toyota’s futures video envisions a car-restricted, pedestrian-centered city with a hierarchy of green vehicle types.
3. Avego smartphone instant ridesharing
Avego is rolling out 2012 pilots in Santa Barbara and the north part of the Bay Area. Their introductory video shows the driver/rider matchmaking process, pickup logistics, and cloud payment.
4. Urban mobility new ventures and venture capital investments
Bill Ford Junior’s venture firm, Fontinalis, has bet on four different smart parking startups (ParkMe, Parkmobile, QuickPay, and Streetline), as well as Wheelz peer-to-peer carsharing. Mercedes Benz created their own Car2Go carshare system. Google Ventures and GM Ventures invested in Relay Rides peer-to-peer carsharing that now features OnStar integration. Honda is now supplying EVs to the Zipcar fleet.
5. Personal/Group Rapid Transit (GRT)
PRT: elevated, electric, self-driving “last mile” circulator transit with many four-person vehicles for airports, office parks, and universities. GRT deploys larger vehicles.
Ultra’s London Heathrow Airport system operates at ~99.7% reliability. Overview video:
Vectus has the strongest parent company (Posco) and their Suncheon system is under construction:
First-to-market 2getthere’s Masdar system also operates at ~99.7% reliability. 2getthere also has a GRT system in operation at Rivium GRT. This next video provides the yet-to-be-fully-realized Masdar ecocity. This video shows renderings of Ultra vehicles, rather than the installed 2getthere design:
6. Comprehensive new mobility
UM SMART’s Susan Zielinski’s favorite comprehensive mobility video is available at trasndev.com. It depicts a seamless mobility service where many tools are packaged together: carsharing, car rental, bike sharing, smartphone transit route planning, real-time location tracking, smart parking, guaranteed ride home, transit fare payment, context-aware web content, etc.
7. Google self-driving cars
In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill SB1298 at Google Headquarters. The bill “creates a legal framework and operational safety standards for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.” Signing video:
Google cofounder Sergey Brin, “What I see in this project is the promise to transform our urban and suburban centers, and to not need that much parking.” Brin goes on to describe an automated shared car system with empty vehicle movements as well as a self-park feature.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
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