Mobility in the future

Jesper Bo Jensen, Ph.d., Futurist / 24. nov 2017

Cities in the future will be shaped by more mobile people who need to be moving a lot more than today. The transition to a globalized production- and knowledge world will also create a global trend of more mobility and transport. The future means more mobility and more traffic rather than less. We’ll see new modes of mobility in the shape of selfdriving cars, busses, trucks, ships and planes. Work could increasingly be done on the road in your car in a few years.

When did we become mobile?

A large part of the history of development is about mobility. The first people spread from Africa to the rest of the world. It happened on foot. That type of transport continued up into more recent times. We got ships, wagons and horses, but most who moved around in the old agricultural society moved on foot. We don’t do that any longer. We now have bikes, cars, trains and planes as modern forms of transport.

New opportunities for mobility created the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society. With the help of steam engines and the railroad, industry was created. Coal and iron ore needed to be moved to foster the steel industry. Ships were pivotal elements in the creation of mobility for produce and finished industrial products.

The petrol engine led to increased mobility via the car and the truck. That meant that the production could be split up and take place at different factories. Semi-finished goods could be transported between factories. The employees in the companies could now live far away from their workplace. The new mobility created our modern cities with single family homes around the city. You could work in a part of the city, live in another part and shop and handle official municipality things in the third. Sport and exercise often took place in a fourth place. The option of cheap and efficient transport and great mobility was the prerequisite for the modern industrial nation’s city.

The new mobility

The industrial city is still here. The city’s demands of mobility is what daily creates traffic congestion on the access roads, many passengers on public transport and a relatively uniform circadian rhythm for most people. Off to work in the morning and back to the home in the afternoon or evening. But the future will mean a different mobility and a city that will change.

Companies are starting to emerge, that don’t have offices or a headquarters. One such is Coburn Venture from New York. The company was founded in 2006 and had three priorities from the beginning: Customers, internet access & website as well as an office in southern Manhattan. After a week they’d gotten customers and internet, but no office. While the company grew, they looked for offices but never found the right one. After 9 months the company decided to carry on without offices. There were some minor problems to solve with a few employees, but even today, the company doesn’t have an office space. They work during the day while they move around New York in a fractal route with business client, meetings with coworkers at cafes and once in a while also in meeting rooms borrowed from their clients. They also work from their homes. The day becomes a fractal route through the big city.

The new mobility is creating new nomads who roam around all day, but who return home at night. In the future a lot more people will work in this manner, but even today there are quite a few in the workforce that move around a lot during their day, week or months. It creates a new set of routes in the city and in society. Most routes are individual and move from place to place in a crisscross fashion across main traffic flows. In 10-20 years a lot of people will work in this way. That means higher mobility and more traffic – and note that it’s individualized traffic that doesn’t necessarily follow main traffic flows. That’s why more of the mobility will take place in individual modes of transport. There will also be a need for oases for the new nomads, who might also need a break or a power-nap during their long days.

When these new nomads move around in self-driving cars, we move up a step and can both work and relax while on the road. Companies like Coburn Venture will be able to make do with self-driving busses as meeting rooms and all employees will be able to handle their jobs during transport, so we will have more time in life to do other things than navigating through a traffic jam on the highway.

Home as a base

More movement, more mobility and more transport will be the result. The answer to this changing existence is for the home to have a bigger significance. Modern people will need even more recharging than they do today, and that’s where the home will play a bigger role as a stable constant and the place where the world can be forgotten for a while. The same goes for family, which will constitute a permanent social relation in a rapidly changing world. The more mobile we become, the more significance we will attribute to home and family.

Mobility means traffic and energy consumption

Rapidly growing mobility will bring with it a growing amount of traffic and a need to develop spaces for new traffic patterns. It will affect all parts of traffic and transport – both the individual and collective traffic. It will however also mean, that the cities and geographical areas that seek to limit traffic trough restrictions or by refraining from developing the traffic nodes will become outdated and incapable of generation growth equivalent to the rest of the world.

It will also mean a need to develop the smaller traffic nodes for cross-going traffic and mobility in the bigger cities. It could be done with new means such as electric minibuses, metro, tramcars but perhaps also with special individual modes of transport. More traffic will often mean more energy – but in itself, using energy isn’t wrong, but the emissions from the energy consumption might be a problem.

The CO2-neutral energy sector is becoming profitable on market terms so there might not be a problem with increased energy consumption in a few years, as long as it is using green energy. A bit further into the future – 30-40 years – energy will be plenty and cheap. It’ll be the finish line for the green transition and will let us use a lot of green energy. We will go from energy shortage to plenty.

Published here 2017

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