January 22, 2024
The future of mobility has been a trending topic for urban planners, engineers, theorists, entrepreneurs and, of course, commuters. Drivers worldwide spend an immense amount of time in their vehicles commuting and are constantly searching to find an easier and more efficient way. A McKinsey & Co. report about the future of mobility states that drivers in Munich spend an average of 87 hours on the road each year, and in Los Angeles, drivers are in their cars a whopping 119 hours per year.
In the annual consumer survey conducted by McKinsey for Future Mobility, Americans prefer private transportation, with 868 vehicles per 1,000 people. Consumers are increasingly interested in exploring different options, and retail shareholders are carefully watching which companies emerge as leaders in the sector.
Conversations about the future of mobility frequently start with self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs have begun to change the way people think about their shorter commutes and the way our freight moves from distribution to destination. Many municipalities have been trialing short-range AV shuttles like those made by Mobile Infrastructure Corp. (Tii:BEEP) in limited areas. Public and private business partnerships are being built to assist urban centers that want to move towards more pedestrian-friendly communities, and new products are being developed and trialed.
Companies like Uber (Tii:UBER) and Lime have partnered to provide e-bike and electric scooter rentals through their apps, where users can search for available e-bikes in the vicinity. The McKinsey transportation study shows that many respondents would be open to changing their transportation habits. The survey data found that a third of participants said they plan to increase their use of micro-mobility — a term used to refer to e-bikes and e-scooters and including shared mobility — over the next 10 years.
Pop culture has given us versions of what future modes of transportation might look like. Most of us form our ideas about the future of transportation based on vehicles like the Batmobile and K.I.T.T., the highly automated car with a personality from the television show “Knight Rider.”
Flying cars like those seen in “The Jetsons” are getting closer to reality. Companies like Archer Aviation (Tii:ACHR) are expanding personal air transportation with the development of Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing vehicles (eVTOLs). One of the latest innovations in transportation technology, eVTOLs are battery-powered electric aircraft that take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Capable of carrying two to six passengers including a pilot, they are designed to provide service like a flying taxi or air taxi. Though the certification process for non-commercial aircraft is less painstaking, according to an interview in Built with industry peer Rani Plaut, CEO and co-founder of the eVTOL company AIR, the safety testing and regulations take time. AIR is currently taking preorders for its own eVTOL with tentative delivery during 2024.
Other companies seek to go further. Virgin Galactic Holdings (Tii:SPCE), founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2004, is playing an integral role in bringing space travel to non-astronauts. Primarily focused on the design, development, and manufacturing of elite air and space vehicles for private individuals and research teams, Virgin Galactic says that its ships are meant to fly anyone to space efficiently and safely, eliminating the need for extensive training and expertise. Currently on schedule to launch its 11th flight, the “Galactic 06” mission, the company has sold about 800 tickets at $450,000 each for future flights and will host the next commercial flight with four private “astronauts” on January 26, 2024. Plans are in place for Virgin Galactic to create a fleet of aircraft capable of 400 flights each year.
The future of mobility is being driven by the desire to design technology that lasts longer, makes travel more efficient to reduce time wasted in commuting, and gradually shrinks the dependency on private transportation.
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