Digitalization, automation, carbon emission reduction and MaaS (Mobility as a Service) are shaping the future of transportation, especially as a majority of populations are expected to settle in urban environments. In efforts to prepare cities for the human deluge, public officials are increasingly partnering with private-sector interests to reshape existing transportation capacity—both in the U.S. and worldwide.
The U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord was a tacit cloud hanging over many discussions at Movin’ On, an international mobility conference sponsored by Michelin in Montreal last week. The high-tech event included demonstrations of energy-efficient bikes and vehicles, exhibits by mobility-related startups and app providers, and modern dance routines between sessions.
Henrick Hololei, Director General of The Directorate General for Mobility and Transport at European Commission, noted that the agency has a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2030. “The Paris agreement is an important step,” he told the audience. “No single country can solve [carbon emissions]. Europe is in the forefront, it’s fair to say.”
Emphasizing the partnerships with the private sector, he noted that shipping and airline industry groups are also cooperating with the decarbonization goal.
That cooperation includes highway contractors, added Susanna Zammarato, executive director of the International Road Federation. “We are in the midst of a transformation of transport,” she said. “We cannot afford to work in silos anymore.” That’s why the IRF has expanded its base of highway industry to include “mobility at large,” she said.
Mobility at large includes MaaS, which Zammarato called a “digital tsunami” with the goal of utilizing existing infrastructure more efficiently. MaaS is the concept of using one device to plan and pay for a multimodal trip using information on parking, transit options, shared-ride options, biking, walking, etc.
Those options will eventually include driverless vehicles. Karl Iagnemma, CEo of nuTonomy, a software developer focused on autonomous vehicles (AVs) noted that his company has partnered with Lyft to test AVs in Singapore and Boston. He predicated that by the 2030s, there will be a “significant ramp-up” in autonomous miles driven. In the 2040s, autonomous taxi fleets could be roving the cities with up to 75% penetration. “Someday it may be illegal, or even immoral” for a human to drive, he added, noting that 40,000 people died from motor accidents in the U.S. last year.
Denis Coderre, mayor of Montreal, closed out the conference with the announcement that a $6-billion, 67-kilometer light-rail line connecting downtown would move forward this fall. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government would pitch in $1.28 billion. In another veiled nod to the current state of U.S. policies, he added: “There is no Plan B for the planet. We know the importance of the Paris Accord. We’re not building walls—we’re building bridges.”