An Integrated Perspective on the Future of Mobility

McKinsey & Company (October 2016)

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-1-57-27-pmTo view a city from above is to observe a world in motion. Trains carry people to and from work; taxis circulate in abstract patterns; trucks deliver goods and carry away garbage; pedestrians hustle down city blocks; cyclists zip through traffic. Mobility is the lifeblood of our cities and essential for urban life.
Yet, our desire for mobility has consequences: cities can be noisy, congested, and prone to smog. Far too many urban residents spend hours stuck in traffic; no one can escape airborne pollution. Mobility is also a critical economic factor, both in its own right and as the means of providing the goods and services that are the foundation of economic life. Finally, mobility matters to people, whether this is getting to work or school with ease, visiting friends and relatives, or simply exploring one’s surroundings. In relatively few places, however, does the reality of what is available match the public’s aspirations for safe, clean, reliable, and affordable ways to get from A to B—and back again.

We believe, however, that the way people move around the urban environment is primed for dramatic change. Already, new business models, as illustrated by organizations such as Uber and Didi Chuxing, are changing traditional mobility patterns. Technological innovations in the form of electrification, connectivity, and autonomy are on the horizon. Increasing urbani-zation and the growth of “megacities” with more than ten million people provide the conditions for change.
What, then, will be the future of urban mobility? A new report, An integrated perspective on the future of mobility, seeks to answer that question. To do so, it explores how a number of existing social, economic, and technological trends will work together to disrupt mobility at the local level.
The result is a radically different future based around three models of advanced urban mobility that are achievable by 2030. Inevitably, individual cities will make different decisions, based on specific local conditions, and go in different directions—and, globally, mobility systems in 2030 will on average look very much like they do today.

Yet there is a cluster of some 50 urban areas that could lead the way toward one of the three advanced-mobility models. These areas have the potential to demonstrate the profound effects of mobility innovation on everything from power systems to the use of public space, while simultaneously introducing a new city dynamism.

The mobility systems of the future are likely to be very different from what exists in most of the world today. The individual traveler is at the heart of this evolution, so consumers will need to be open to adopting new technologies and services. However, both the public and private sectors will have roles to play in paving the way.

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