How drastic will the transport revolution really be in the next 10 years?
And who will benefit?
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Since the birth of the motor car itself, there hasn’t been a more exciting time for transport. From completely changing our energy sources, to providing ever more efficient ways to get from A to B, our cities are becoming the proving ground for these new technologies. But who will be the winners and losers in this arms race to be the most efficient?
Take for example the ever-faithful Uber, with its 40,000+ drivers on the road and what has become the cornerstone of any night out for a Londoner. They are looking to introduce driverless technology to make it safer, put more cars on the roads and reach ever more locations around the UK. For someone who (very) often uses an Uber simply because it is cheap and convenient, this is music to my ears. But for the app that provided so many jobs, what will happen to them when the drivers are inevitably replaced by software?
Similarly, in the US, where transport employs 3% of the US population, will Uber be able to provide alternative job infrastructure to support this change in vocation? The majority of people who work in this sector are over middle aged and lowly educated. A change in their primary income source could be socially catastrophic. When questioned about wether Uber would become entirely autonomous, they ensured that there would be a ‘mix’ of labour sources in their fleets. They were also very quick to point out that we should be more worried about manufacturing right now due to mechanisation… missiles at the press ready indeed. In our race for technology we sometimes forget about the very real human cost for the ever insatiable need for efficiency.
Infrastructure is also the key word which has come to my mind when talking about these new wonderful ways of getting about. Greener energies are great, but what about actually being able to provide charging facilities? Neighbourhoods in London are already beginning to feel the effect of too many electric vehicles and not enough docking points. The idea of being able to provide enough charging points for every car owner post 2040 and the ICE ban seems pretty magical to me, but hey, I am ever the optimist.
I attended a panel discussion focused on the Future of Transport Systems hosted by Shell #makethefuture recently, and it highlighted how companies like Shell are working to ensure their fuel stations provide a range of fuel options including electric re-charging points (and hydrogen), but we still have a long way to go before we can really call ourselves ‘electric ready’.
I dug a little deeper and spoke to Vicky Boiten-Lee (General Manager - Fuels, Forecourt & Pricing at Shell), who said: “We are seeing a number of trends impacting the industry, from digital disruption, to increasing numbers of people opting for car-sharing ride hailing services and of course an increase in electric vehicles on our roads. We are responding to these trends by providing a mosaic of fuels on our 44,000 forecourts around the world including electric, biofuels, hydrogen and LNG.”
Interestingly the rate of people willing to convert to a car-less household is most definitely increasing. The generation coming through are more energy conscious than ever before and actively look to make greener transport options. Uber pool, public transport and also the resurgence of cycling as a primary method of commuting are all on the rise.
When asking the audience at the #makethefuture evening whether they would consider giving up a car in their household over half the audience replied that they would. In practice could this truly bring the car count on the roads down to a level we deem acceptable? We are entering an age where it is more socially acceptable to share lifts than to take a private car to an event, and who'd have thought that 10 years ago?
Regardless, there is a lot of white noise around the subject area currently. Sometimes I feel that this could be an effort to mask the political values and policy makers' agendas surrounding the financial melting pot of our countries’ transport systems. Green is trendy but is not always practical. With the new wave of options, are we going to make our lives more difficult in a bid to appear topical? I don't know right now. But what I do know is, there are a lot of great minds looking at this subject currently and I am excited to see how the next 10 years pan out. Maybe I'll give up my E21 for a hoverboard. Maybe…maybe not.
To listen to the podcast that got me going on this subject, click below to listen to the Disruption Ahead event held by Shell in collaboration with Intelligence2: