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Paula RiosExecutive Director MDS Portugal

Integrated Mobility

Science Fiction or Science Reality?

Picturingthe future is fascinating, but rife with inaccuracy. When I first watched BladeRunner, set in 2019 — which seemed like the far future at the time — I wasvividly impressed with the replicants (synthetic humans) and the flyingvehicles going to and fro.

Having rewatched it recently, it almost shocked methat the writer hadn't imagined paper photos would have all but vanished in2019 and we would all carry them around on our phones...

A New Mobility

Although wedon't have flying cars yet, the truth is mobility is undergoing a profoundchange. This paradigm shift is caused by a number of factors: traffic jamscause high pollution and dramatic economic losses; the emergence of a sharingeconomy that permits the rationalization of resources; and technologicalevolution. 

Not only do we have platforms that permit and facilitate sharing butwe also have access to vehicles running on alternative energy sources. Ifcities continue to grow — and the OECD estimates that 70% of the world'spopulation will live in urban areas by 2050 — something will evidently need tochange, lest cities collapse.

At the 2018Web Summit, on a panel about smart cities and the future, a panellist said thatcity-dwelling folk will not pick the kind of vehicle they want to travel on,but their destination first. Only then will they choose the best-suited meansof transportation. 

It also became clear that cities are gettingcitizen-friendly, as opposed to car-friendly redesigns. This means we need toget together a number of stakeholders, such as auto makers, insurers,universities and, obviously, citizens, and the greatest challenge here is towork together to build the cities we want.

We see aset of trends deeply impacting city mobility systems across the world andcontribute to more and more integration. Shared mobility, self-drivingvehicles, growing use of electric vehicles, connectivity and the Internet ofThings, changes in the public traffic network and infrastructure, decentralizedpower grids and regulation are but a few examples. 

But we also need to takeinto account innovative parking systems and intelligent traffic systems, orintegrated payment and support infrastructure for electric vehicles. 

Obviously,all these new forms of mobility must be adapted to each city, as cities are alldifferent. Bikes, for instance, are great for relatively flat cities. They'renot likely to become as popular in cities with lots of dips and rises.

Advantages and Challenges

Generally,transitioning to integrated mobility systems should improve city-dwellers’lives in a number of ways. Improvements to the environment would be among themost relevant changes. Reduced carbon dioxide emissions will positively affectrespiratory diseases or heart conditions, which air pollution tends to worsen. 

Additionally, reducing human-caused accidents will increase pedestrian safety,not to mention the benefits to the stress caused by traffic jams. 

However,there will be downsides. Drivers and mechanics will find themselves lessemployable. All these pros and cons need to be weighed by the powers that be.

We now havean emerging consensus on integrated transport as it pertains to the future ofmobility in cities. 

For the consensus to materialize, the public and privatesectors need to interact. We need, for example, travel cards or tokens thatallow us to get on "traditional” conveyances like buses or the underground andfrom there to a mobility scooter, or any other shared vehicle, includingself-driving vehicles.  

Above all, weneed to define our endpoints, because there could be a number of ways to getthere.

What about insurance?

Finally,what is the role of insurance in this new world of integrated mobility? Changesto mobility will certainly impact insurance in a meaningful way.

Technologicaldevelopments, like advancements in telematics, are changing risk underwriting.When you can rely on detailed information on driver behaviour, insurancepremiums are adapted to real risk which permits deep product customization. 

Andthen, the growing popularity of ride-sharing is creating new coverage models,like pay as you drive, which opens the way for insurers to partner withmobility operators. Why not imagine a world where insurance is included in thecost of your travel card, closing the gap for a number of transportationservices...

Anotherreality is that risk itself will suffer a profound transformation. Self-drivingvehicles are expected to bring accidents down by about 90%, but they pose newchallenges: who's liable for an accident involving a self-driving vehicle? Theowner? The manufacturer? The company that made the parts? The company thatdeveloped vehicle AI? Who else? 

The number of accidents will go down, but whenaccidents do happen, they will be more serious, and assigning liability will bevery complex, according to sector specialists. Once again, full-spectrumstakeholder cooperation will be essential in this new world of mobility.

Tocomplicate things a little bit further, it won't be long until flying vehiclesbecome a routine sight in the urban landscape. Tesla and others like it arealready working on prototypes. And then other factors will come into play, likethe need for laws and regulations. 

Can someone come up with "rules of the airlanes”? Science fiction, some might claim. I dare disagree. Reality oftenexceeds our wildest dreams. Look at Blade Runner now...

Published in Vida Económica

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