What does the future hold for urban mobility?
What does the future hold for urban mobility? Many governments, including the UK government, are exploring this and asking what the future of urban mobility is. We responded to the UK government Future of Mobility consultation, which closes on 10th September. We posted our complete response on Twitter and wanted to highlight some key points in our response:
Active transport is a significant political priority and a growing trend in cities
Early on, the consultation report lays out the backdrop against which changes in transportation are happening. It identifies cleaner transport as a trend that will affect the future of transportation but primarily focuses on cleaner vehicular transport (i.e., electric vehicles). We point out that cleaner transport also includes active transport, such as walking and cycling, which mayors across the UK are pushing at the moment. It would be a grave omission to discount increasing investments in active transport as a factor impacting future mobility. We support active transport and our technology will increase safety for people walking and cycling around cities.
Adapting a people-first approach to city streets will improve safety for all road users
Decades of urban and transport planning that privileges automobile traffic has resulted in road systems that largely endanger pedestrians and cyclists. The advent of autonomous vehicles on city streets puts us at a critical juncture, where we risk perpetuating auto-oriented urban design and planning at the expense of people and public space, or seize this opportunity to create safer, healthier, more liveable, human-centred cities.
Currently autonomous vehicles are not ready for driving through cities because they cannot adequately understand and anticipate human behaviour. We are addressing that problem by adapting a people-first approach that integrates behavioural science and AI/deep learning in order to make autonomous vehicles safer and more efficient for cities. Our technology is able to predict pedestrian intent across multiple cultures and urban contexts, which will ultimately make autonomous vehicles safer and fit-for-purpose across various urban environments.
More importantly, we are designing our technology with the most vulnerable of vulnerable road users in mind — the elderly, people with disabilities, children. We are ensuring that our technology is inclusive and ‘sees’ everyone. After all, autonomous vehicles could — and should — expand mobility for less mobile populations, like ageing populations, people with disabilities, children, and other populations that experience mobility constraints. This makes autonomous vehicles a potentially important supplement to existing transport infrastructure that could contribute to a more robust, inclusive transport network that reflects and responds to the diverse, pluralistic urban populations it serves.
For innovators to build and scale mobility solutions that work for UK cities, local authorities must be on board
Central Government should support local authorities in capacity building to adequately anticipate and prepare for autonomous vehicles in their cities. Specifically, local authorities could use government assistance on training and resources to steer the rollout of autonomous vehicles in their metropolitan areas.
Increased communication, coordination and collaboration between local authorities and innovators would be mutually beneficial: Local authorities could share transport challenges in their cities and innovators could gain valuable insights on how to tailor their technology to specific urban contexts and challenges. For instance, the government could convene an Urban Mobility Task Force to make strategic decisions about future transportation technologies and services, including autonomous vehicles.
So, what does the future hold for urban mobility?
The 10th September draws nearer and by the end of this year, the government will publish a Future of Urban Mobility Strategy based on consultation responses. We appreciate having had the opportunity to contribute and eagerly await this document!
In the meantime, let’s not forget that people must be at the centre of all future mobility innovations. Human-centred urban mobility is at the crux of what we do and we are excited to be working on delivering safer, smarter, more efficient and more inclusive urban mobility!