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“Faster horses” or different mobility?

Experience dealing with customers and infrastructure managers has always left me on the line between what one wants and what the other wants.

If we enter the variable “Business Segment”, the two worlds either diverge or converge.

The guarantee to have a road free from traffic, to find a free place for one’s own car and all this at zero cost, are obviously the requests of the users that clash mainly with the need to create profitability on the part of those who provide a certain service.

The main difference between the two is not so much the need, but the roles. Managers create solutions and users use them. The former are the real creators, trying to bring in a loyal customer base.

So what is the driver that drives managers?

Surely improving people’s lives is one of the priorities, summarized in “User Experience”, making solutions affordable for everyone. If you are sufficiently in step with the market needs, the payoff comes.

For years, the concept of green has made its appearance in the “big industries” that first made it a badge to be applied to their corporate name, until they became real promoters of sustainability and ethical thinking.

In the Mobility sector, however, other factors should be considered that have a parallel development to the factor of eco-sustainability.

In an interesting speech given by Bill Ford (yes, the great-grandson of Henry Ford of the homonymous car manufacturer) in 2011, the bases were laid to address the problem of the increase in the number of vehicles worldwide, making a simple and analytical consideration:

“Today there are about 6.8 billion people in the world. In our lifetime we will see that number rise to 9 billion. With population at those levels we will face the problem of the limits of growth.  And along with growth we’re going to face other practical problems, one of which is that our transportation system is not going to be up to the task.”

Ford goes on to say:

“There are about 800 million cars in the world today. As the world’s population and level of affluence increases, that number is expected to grow to between 2 and 4 billion cars by mid-century.”

Following up with more numbers he explained that the average duration of a transfer is increasing.

Already in 2011 we were questioning the ineffectiveness of the mobility model. Today we see a change in the type of vehicles, seeing the electric or hybrid cars move to 16% of the circulating car fleet. Great news, no doubt, but what is being done about mobility?

Currently, especially in the cities we live in traffic, maybe sitting on a hybrid car, but we are still in traffic and worldwide we will still have by the end of the century 4 billion vehicles circulating.

The need therefore of an urgent reflection on what are the infrastructures or the alternative solutions to the mobility.

Ford then adds:

“My great-grandfather once said, before he invented the Model T,  “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said  “We want faster horses.” 

From this statement comes a reflection. Abandon the current way of analyzing and addressing the concept of mobility, redesigning the cities of the future. We’re going to build smart cars, but the roads, parking lots, public transportation systems will also have to be smart. We don’t want to and won’t want to spend time stuck in traffic, at toll booths or looking for parking.  We need an integrated system that uses real-time data to optimize personal mobility on a grand scale without inconvenience or compromise to travelers. 

What will be the model of the future?

For all intents and purposes this “model” is a system that will make personal mobility sustainable. 

Current studies of autonomous driving and generally interconnecting vehicles to create a network of information to facilitate the travel or transfer experience bode well. The 5G technologies in full development will take the lion’s share of this transition.

The solution won’t come from one person or one group. It will take a new national energy policy, because the solutions will be different in each country based on per capita income, congestion levels and even levels of integration of existing systems. But we have to start, and the infrastructure will have to be adequate to accommodate this flexible future. 

But there’s still a phrase running around in my head, “We want faster horses.”