© Jeremy Yap


Future of Mobility: of Time and Traffic

With time being our most valuable good, how can autonomous driving revolutionize time consuming commuting? As fascinating concepts are developing around the world we take up the question: where is mobility headed in a system so deeply linked to cars. How does the equation change if we alter the most important variable?

People hate their commutes more than just about any other activity in their lives. When in 2015 Ford Motor Company surveyed 5,500 people across six European cities, many ranked commuting as more stressful than their jobs, moving into a new house, or going to the dentist. That’s right in line with what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and economist Alan Krueger found out 10 years prior, when they asked 909 working women in Texas how they felt during various daily activities – the morning commute came in dead-last in terms of positive emotions; behind work, child care, and home chores. Indeed, there is a copious body of research within public health and social sciences pointing to the negative effects of commuting on personal and societal well-being. And things have clearly not improved in the last decade.

Commutes are often framed as a question of choice between “living close to work” and “living in a bigger home” and many working people opt for the latter – especially when they have children. But with cities becoming more and more expensive, living close to a job in a city center is no longer an option for many working families, regardless of house or apartment size.


There are several potential ways to remedy tedious commutes: Say, by making cities more affordable, working from a home office, or making personal car commute less bothersome. This is where autonomous driving comes in. Following the first technological fascination with the concept, the more cultural aspects are coming into sight. And if technology is evolution filtered by man, then the race is on – enjoy the read!

Facet #1:  Time as a Precious Resource

Time is our most precious resource, even if we do waste it carelessly on a daily basis. It cannot be renewed, traded, stashed away. Our only choice is how we spend it, not whether we do. German premium automaker Audi is treating time as the ultimate luxury with a project they call 25th Hour, whose purpose is to figure out how the autonomous cars of the future might be able to restore the time that commuting takes away. An additional hour of free time is an intangible commodity for which most people are prepared to pay. Interestingly, the ‘value of time’ varies according to country, age, income, and vehicle segment. Young people, high earners, drivers of sports cars, and Germans place the most value on an additional hour of free time.


Facet #2: Intransit (secondary) Activities

Fully automated (Level 4) and driverless (Level 5) cars are only really expected to hit the bigger cities’ streets in about 10 years from now. As autonomous mobility proliferates, drivers will become passengers not holding onto the wheel anymore, no longer having to intervene even in hazardous situations. This opens up a lot of opportunities for designers, manufacturers and service providers.

Established automakers, along with new entrants, could manufacture vehicles that are increasingly diverse—from larger personally owned self-driving vehicles that can pick up kids from school and groceries from the store to utilitarian shared autonomous pods that let passengers focus on work as they flit across town to their next meeting. Vehicles could be flexibly tailored to the specific purpose of any given journey, with interiors optimized for entertainment, productivity, relaxation, and more. For example, a consumer electronic company Panasonic, took a tremendous leap in technology, and devised the interior of an autonomous vehicle of the future – that doubles as a relaxation station.

© Panasonic

Facet #3: Beating the Traffic

As in all fields with great potential of change, finding out about the possible future is fiercely discussed. Our mobility system is so deeply linked to cars that changing the idea of the car itself changes the whole equation. Cities – where most of us all live – could become a much better place or even more hellish. Take a look at the most discussed ideas and an outlook to an even more distant future, where a possible solution might be beating the traffic with the use of cryptocurrencies.

© Andre Francois

” The future of personal urban mobility isn’t an autonomous car, but an autonomous bicycle. Clean, quiet, electric, and hail-able, these self-pedaling pedicabs will extend walking distances, cover the last kilometer to public transport, and traverse bike lanes instead of streets. Uber purchased Jump’s 12,000 electric bicycles because the average length of each company’s trip was the same. There is new a class of vehicles waiting to be born.”

Greg Lindsay is Director of Strategy for LA CoMotion. He shared his Mobility expertise as a contributor to our think tank on the future of autonomous driving.

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