The Experts’ Vision of Smart Mobility

10 min reading time
How will we organize urban mobility in the future? Using a smart city model with self-driving cars and flying taxis? A hundred experts from the fields of science, industry, culture, and sociology share their view of the future with BMW. Here are their insights into the most exciting scenarios.

27 November 2018

Imagine an app that combines features of Tinder with those of Uber. We can use “Tuber,” as the app is named, to find car-sharing opportunities and select our preferred drivers and fellow passengers. This is how Tuber represents the future of mobility – as a transportation system that not only gets people from A to B but brings people together.

The idea of Tuber originated at the BMW Group 2018 rad°hub gathering in Rotterdam. In a series of workshops that took place there, around 100 experts explored the future of transportation systems and smart mobility. They also considered such questions as what “smart habitats” will look like. How will our lives change when everything is interlinked in a kind of “connected living?” And how can we ensure our economic systems are sustainable, creating a “circular economy,” as experts call it?

Read on to learn about five exciting scenarios for the future. In addition, five of the participants share their personal vision of future mobility.

Scenario 1: Seven Days in the Life of Kim

Meet Kim, a 35-year-old woman living with her child in a suburb of Paris. Kim’s husband used to be a taxi driver. Why “used to be?” Because we are now in the year 2030 and in this future scenario of urban mobility, conventional taxis no longer exist. And neither do private cars – because they are not necessary in this city of the future!

Instead, the entire public transportation system operates with a system of autonomous and intelligent cells. These modes of transport offer customized services, such as a flying conference room, a mobile physiotherapy treatment room, and a traveling hair salon. Because services travel to people via these cells, residents like Kim have much less need for transport.

Mobility services are also less important in a professional context, thanks to innovative technologies. On “Virtual Mobility Day,” Kim can work as a self-employed healthcare consultant from the comfort of her own home. She meets customers and colleagues from all over the world in her living room – with the aid of highly sophisticated hologram technology.

Kim’s personal assistant, depicted here as a snowman, helps provide efficient mobility services. He optimizes her daily routines, suggesting the most appropriate mobility option at all times. He also takes Kim’s preferences into account.

With the time she saves through these more efficient mobility solutions, Kim gets to spend more time with her loved ones and on volunteering for the local “community day.” Kim’s biggest luxury, however, is her digital detox day – a day she spends only with real people whom she visits on her trusty old bicycle. 

Scenario 2: The Perfect Circle

What we see here is a model of the “circular economy.” To save resources, reduce waste, and conserve energy all emissions are either reused or recycled. In this scenario of the future city, waste is used to produce the energy needed to manufacture the industrial goods required for connected living. The city thereby supplies its own needs. It’s worth mentioning that while everything is computer-controlled in this scenario, genuine interpersonal encounters are at the heart of the system.

The smart city integrates many of the things that can be found in very different locations in urban and rural settings today. For instance housing, mobility services, agriculture, and energy production all operate within this autonomous environment. Energy systems, too, are decentralized. Pedestrians and cyclists, for example, help to supply the energy needed for a whole fleet of electric cars. Special coatings on sidewalks and cycle paths convert the surface pressure into electrical energy. Even children at the playground are a source of kinetic energy: Whenever they use the slide, the frictional heat is converted into electricity.

Scenario 3: The Smart Skyscraper

In this scenario of the future, the families live in a high-tech modern apartment block. The connectivity that comes with digitization is especially helpful for creating free time, which people can spend on their friendships, relationships, and other important aspects of life. And what’s more, connectivity also makes life easier. For example, a robot records which family members are currently home and serves them dinner in a way that’s tailored to the children’s preferences or their grandfather’s special diet.

The roof of the apartment block is home to a landscaped garden that is used to produce food for the building’s residents in an “urban farming” scheme. The building itself generates electricity – energy its occupants use to power the electric cars and bikes they use for trips to the countryside in their leisure time.

Overall, there is less of a need for mobility solutions in this scenario. The intelligent apartment block now incorporates several functions that are currently spread out over different locations, such as jobs that involve networking with the outside world. And when people feel like a break from being connected, they can still do that – by spending time in a special offline room that has no data connection.

Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG and patron of the BMW Group rad°hub.
Autonomous driving will revolutionize our mobility
Three questions for Peter Schwarzenbauer

Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG

Mr. Schwarzenbauer, what will mobility look like in the future, say in ten years’ time?

Peter Schwarzenbauer: By then, I’ll definitely have an electric MINI in the garage. That’s one thing I’m quite sure of. An electric scooter as well, probably. I think that in the future, two-wheelers will have a larger role to play in urban mobility than they do right now, as they simply can’t be beaten in terms of their small footprint. And I think I’ll also be using “on-demand” mobility services even more often than I do currently. They are already my preferred mode of transport when I’m traveling in other cities.

What was your biggest Eureka moment in the recent past, in terms of future mobility?

 It was when I traveled in a self-driving BMW for the first time. It’s definitely an unusual feeling to sit alone in a self-driving vehicle and hand over all the responsibility. That does something to a person. When this technology is coming to the streets, it will radically revolutionize mobility in the way we currently know and use it. We need to prepare for this change right now so that we can offer our customers the appropriate products and services in the future. In doing this, we must not focus only on self-driving vehicle technology. Rather, we should think about the overall transport ecosystem from our customers’ point of view.

In terms of new mobility solutions, you often emphasize the aspect of responsibility. What role will responsible business play in the future?

 In 20 years, responsible business approaches and actions will play an even greater role. Then, it will no longer be sufficient to offer a fantastic product or great service. Two aspects will become ever more important for customers: 1. How was a product manufactured and what is its overall impact on our environment? 2. What value do companies add to society? Only businesses that are able to give credible answers to these two questions will remain successful in the future.

Scenario 4: Smart Habitats with a Benevolent Spirit

This space is located within a smart city and is intrinsically designed to be intelligent. Everything is easy to use, multifunctional, and based on the principles of sharing, learning, and connectivity. In this connected city, self-driving cars are taken for granted.

People go to this smart habitat to cook and to meet other people. Or to work. The space automatically adapts to its visitors’ needs and preferences. However, people can also pay a virtual visit to the habitat. In terms of energy, it is self-supporting. It generates its own power for electric cars and even produces its own food, like fruit and vegetables. Similarly, any garbage is recycled within the habitat itself.

At the heart of this scenario is an entity that guides the operations – a kind of benevolent spirit. By this, we don’t mean a friendly algorithm or even a robot. Instead, the city’s inhabitants will select a real human being from within their ranks as the steward for this smart habitat. That person will understand the needs of every single visitor and ensure that everyone feels perfectly at ease.

Scenario 5: Smart Mobility with the Aid of Passenger Drones

This scenario is set in the year 2028 in a major European city. Thanks to the urban garden and urban farming movements, the boundaries between the city and the countryside have been blurred. The city is organized de-centrally in so-called “hubs.” These hubs contain everything you need, reducing the demand for mobility solutions in this smart city. Even so, in this scenario people can still travel whenever they want.

Going way beyond self-driving cars, the infrastructure is built around a sophisticated mass transportation system that relies on magnetically levitating trains and flying shuttles. These are accessible and affordable for everyone. For an extra fee, guests can also book individual mobility services, such as passenger drones.

Five Experts Outline Their Ten-Year Vision for Mobility

“A virtual driver for my daughter”

Photographer, polar explorer, and environmental activist Sebastian Copeland was born in France and now lives in Munich.

“In ten years, my eldest girl will be 14. I trust that the transition to a sustainable economy will be well under way, especially in transportation, and that she will mostly know emissions-free and autonomous transportation. I suspect that the shared economy will dominate urban mobility, and that I’ll be able to call a virtual driver to send her to school while being able to monitor what she does in transit from my place of work. In that context, I will hope to interact with her virtually with the equivalent of a 3D hologram. But I also hope that individual mobility will have expanded beyond roads, and that the air will have opened up for faster and less congested individual transit – emissions-free, of course.”

“From being an owner to being a user”

Lior Fisher Shiloni, Creative Strategy & Design Management, Tel Aviv.

“The future of mobility as I envision it comes from forward-thinking approaches based on a synthesis of design and technology. Design must act as a means to creating sustainable systems, services and products that are customer centric, reliable and efficient. As our needs as customers are rapidly changing, the future of mobility lies in the shift from being an owner to being a user. Mobility as a concept must be able to adapt quickly and easily to different needs and constraints. An emotional connection to products will transform into a shared sense of commitment towards the environment and the community we are part of, creating mobile solutions which are not only convenient, but also ethically responsible.”

“Transportation that connects people”

Georgine Paltzer, Initiatives Manager The LEGO Foundation, Billund, Denmark.

“In a future where AI-driven technology is omnipresent, mobility will not only be about individual transportation needs, but be more efficient with resources by using sustainable materials and sustainable energy, as well as building on a sharing economy. With this, transportation could be an opportunity for meaningful human interactions. Though in order for humans to thrive in such a tech-enabled future and make meaningful connections, we will need to foster our social and emotional skills, for example through play.”

“Safe, quick and emissions-free”

Oliver Lange, Head of H&M LAB Germany, Berlin.

“I believe in a disruptive change of mobility and the usage of vehicles to go anywhere. Digitalization, Automation, AI and Shared Mobility create frictionless experiences and a new possibility of using time. No matter where I go, what kind of transport I use or how long the trip takes, I will be brought where I want to go safely, quickly and emissions-free. And I will use the time to go to a rock concert, meet colleagues in a video call, or learn new stuff during the trip. Since a lot of things will be managed by my personal assistant device at home, in the vehicle or elsewhere; I can concentrate on the important things. But always with an on-off switch that gives me the freedom to really decide.”

“Radical changes”

Francesca Arcuri, Senior Consultant Mobility in Chain, Milan.

“New technologies are radically transforming mobility options. They’re changing both people’s habits and the dynamics and structure of the city. However, the connected city of the future is also about the future of its citizens. Changes in social habits and trends will inevitably affect the role played by future mobility. The three most important trends are sharing, the electric car, and the self-driving car. They open the door to the possibility of many potential hybrid solutions.”

BMW Group rad°hub

Shaping Future Mobility Together.

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