Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Do you remember when Uber started? Almost overnight, a new form of transport was created and deployed with a speed that simply could not have been achieved without digital technology and powerful algorithms. New forms of work were created, huge wealth generated, and the whole idea was that this was going to be 'win-win' for everybody. But perhaps not, with research now starting to suggest that Uber and other ride-hailing or sharing apps are contributing to traffic congestion and a lack of mobility in cities, suspect working conditions for drivers, and an opposition to mass transit solutions by design.
From the research, it's clear that new and emerging forms of transport are going to transform how we move and live, so today we're taking a look at where the investment is happening, likely trends that might develop, and what this might mean for us as teachers, parents and school leaders.
It looks like we might be reaching peak car, with more people not buying cars and instead using ride-hailing apps or other transport options such as car sharing to get around. Even if cars continue to be sold, it's becoming clear that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future, and they are exploding. Globally, carmakers are investing $300 Billion in EV technology and production, and EV adoption figures and far ahead of projected estimates. This is good news for emissions, and it's likely that how cars are used will continue to change with increasing rapidity.
Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) are about to explode. An LEV has one to four wheels, is powered by a battery, and weighs less than 100kg. They can travel more than 20 miles (just over 32km) at speeds of up to 18mph (30 km/h), and are looking like a good option for people who want to move around cities quickly without spending a long time stuck in traffic.
Travelling using an LEV is called Micromobility, and it has the potential to change cities. For young people especially, "Wages are lower, vehicle costs are higher, and they would rather get to where they're going than wait in traffic and try to find parking." This article describes how micromobility delivers five promises:
1. Cleaner and more efficient energy - LEVs are 4000% more efficient than cars, according to the article.
2. More space efficient - no carparks required.
3. Safer - a slightly controversial point, as serious injuries certainly do happen.
4. Making the city a better place - fewer cars, more pedestrianisation, more people on the street, more community.
5. A force for economic inclusion - it's cheap and accessible to all income groups.
If you're interested in finding out more, visit https://micromobility.io/ - it's an excellent source of information with all the latest developments in the blog.
Continuing in the LEV theme, E-bikes are selling more than any other bike in the Netherlands. Experts thought that the E-bike market might have been saturated there years ago, but apparently not, and the trend is now that eventually almost all bikes sold in the Netherlands will be E-bikes. The article looks at whether this might happen in the UK as well, but inadequate cycling infrastructure, concerns about road safety and long commuting distances are challenges.
Speaking of bike infrastructure, it looks as though good bike infrastructure actually makes neighbourhoods healthier. Well-designed green spaces close to homes mean that people are motivated to get up and move, and this project in Vancouver, Canada has directly linked the construction of a new greenway to a healthier local neighbourhood. Interesting.
Excellent design is essential, and it makes a huge difference to how well things work. Here's a public transport example from Birmingham - its public transport infrastructure consists of one tramway line and buses. This leads to congestion, and congestion is inefficient, in Birmingham's case significantly so to the point that Birmingham has a 33% productivity shortfall compared with similar-sized cities. In short, larger cities are generally more productive in most modern Western countries, but not in the U.K., and poor public transport design is why. There may be future opportunities here.
Here's another example of what that opportunity might look like. The Boring Company by Elon Musk is doing some interesting work, investing private money in improving transport infrastructure and overcoming congestion through a Loop Transportation System, and recouping some costs by providing traditional infrastructure services such as water and conduit tunnels.
Self driving car technology, while still in its infancy, has major implications for the future of transport. Over 100 Billion U.S. Dollars has been poured into developing driverless car technology, and it's clear that it will exist in some form in the future. With this sort of money comes the need for software engineers, data and materials scientists, designers, toolmakers, and other trained specialists of all stripes. Opportunity.
The future will provide not only fast-moving disruption in transport, but opportunity as well. Designers and engineers are creating solutions and taking the technology further, financiers are investing money, national, state and local governments need help understanding what's happening through effective communication, updated legal and insurance guidelines need writing, unintended consequences happen, and they all provide opportunity for people who know what they're doing.
It's our responsibility to have conversations with our young people about how things are changing, and the opportunities that these changes bring. If we are open to change, become informed and are prepared, we can all benefit.
Thank you for joining us this week. We welcome any and all feedback and comments, and please contact me with any questions or suggestions you have.