Barcelona_workshop_1The Barcelona workshop on automated, seamless, virtual and inclusive mobility was held over two days in October 2015 with the participation of 40 experts in mobility and transport planning, to analyse these four aspects in a MIND-SETS perspective.

The workshop built on the outcomes of a previous online expert consultation held in September. The consultation proposed 10 trends for future mobility mind-sets in the domains of mobility automation, seamless travel, virtual mobility, and inclusive mobility for the disabled and elderly. Respondents discussed to what extent they agreed with certain statements and assessed how current public policies were taking such trends into account. Some 141 experts participated from 104 institutions all across Europe, including researchers, civil servants, consultants, members of the transport industry, service providers, infrastructure managers and groups of interest.

Participants pointed out the role of new technologies in allowing for more customised, self-organised mass transport solutions, the need for transport project appraisal methodologies to reflect emerging social values to a larger extent (collaborative values, well-being, comfort), but warned that new technologies might not be a panacea, might not always induce behavioural change, and might not always be accepted by travellers.   Generally speaking, mobility policies are still not taking these trends into account.

At the workshop in Barcelona, experts debated these topics and came up with a number of key findings:

In relation to mobility automation, it is thought that the shift to autonomous cars will be a gradual one through an increasing number of driving-assistance technologies. There is also a good possibility that many of these cars will be shared, as this will reduce costs. Public, private and shared transport will continue to co-exist, and shared driverless fleets are likely to appear, though with regard to driverless fleets, there are still a number of legal issues to sort out.

In relation to seamless mobility, new technologies will allow for more customized and self-organized transport solutions. In fact, new organization of services like UBER will force public transport operators to provide more customer-oriented policies, flexible and reliable services and better comfort and amenities. As for smart technologies, real-time information may facilitate seamless transport if alternative options are available. It is still not resolved whether traveller choices will become less influenced by time savings as amenities and comfort improve (i.e. Wi-Fi, autonomous vehicles). Some commenters argued that speed remains an extremely important factor in mobility choices, though other factors, such as ease of use, reliability and safety are also important concerns.

Barcelona_workshop_3In relation to virtual mobility, the effects of ICTs might be different on short-distance trips than on long-distance trips in terms of promoting more mobility or reducing it. Much depends on the evolution of technology and prices in the energy sector, as energy costs will be a more important driver than technology. Big Data is an important issue in transport, as in so many other things. Privacy and security must be safeguarded, even if they limit the use and thus diminish the benefits of this data.

In relation to inclusive mobility, smart transport technologies have the potential to lead to increased social inclusion, but it is unclear whether this potential will be realised, as those who need these technologies the most may be technologically illiterate (the elderly) or may not have as much access to new technologies (low income users).

The workshop specifically looked at how public administrations can better take account of social criteria in their assessment methodologies and how they can better integrate public participation activities in their decision-making rationales. In the near future, social values, especially health, well-being and environmental considerations, will carry increasing weight in cost-benefit analyses, substantially more than today. Advanced polling and surveying techniques based on portable devices will increase the capacity to appraise and diagnose mobility problems and possible solutions. New participatory approaches like design-thinking or gamification may change and improve the capacity of mobility stakeholders to learn from citizens and transport users. New technologies will continue to appear as long as they satisfy needs that are not currently addressed by existing services or solutions, whether these needs are perceived by the public or not (as when the market offers something people “didn’t know they wanted”).

These and other findings related to the future of mobility will be examined in the MIND-SETS guidelines and Knowledge Centre.

For more information, contact Oriol Bosca of MCRIT