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Transport – Impacts and Implications

I see multiple implications going forward. Foremost, driven by the inevitable rise in personal mobility, it is clear that we will see more small cars. These will not only be new, mass access, low-cost vehicles such as Tata’s Nano, but could also include some luxury marques: Aston Martin are reported to be currently developing a concept based on the Toyota IQ ‘commuter car’ named Cygnet. However, with advancing fuel and alternative power technology I am confident that luxury cars will still be able to offer a travel experience to the same standards as currently enjoyed by consumers – except that this will increasingly need to be “guilt free”. This is a challenge that car manufacturers must overcome in order to continue to offer true luxury which has always been a measure of spaciousness, refinement and exclusivity. For me, it will be interesting to see if any luxury car companies attempt to apply their brand values to the urban commuter segment and similar historically “no-go” segments. If they do, will they be able to do so successfully with integrity and authenticity?

With an aging population and the affordability of personal transport as certain mega trends, I can see a huge increase in the introduction of new traffic control systems including congestion charging and even a pricing mechanism based upon the size of your vehicle as well as the power of your car. Although the concept of intelligent highways has been much discussed over the years, the reality has taken a long time to become main-stream. With more embedded intelligence such as collision avoidance already available in some high end cars, over the next decade we can see smart mobility coming into place: Through combinations of the GPS and mobile tracking of vehicles that are in some markets today together with the need for wireless traffic management systems in overcrowded mega-cities, smart cars and smart networks will converge to deliver the first global phase of smart mobility. I believe that the consumer’s reaction to the effect on their freedom in such a world could prove pivotal to the development of these systems. After all, the car is possibly the most powerful expression of freedom and for a consumer product it offers the greatest possible level of user interaction whilst delivering great personal convenience and enjoyment. Design trends tend to last between 5 and 10 years; for designers, the ends of these trends cycles provide exciting opportunities for change as much as they provide a challenge for strategists to guide investments to capitalise on the opportunities.

I believe that the next few years will be the time when new products are launched that successfully balances sustainability and aspiration. Whether in small urban commuter vehicles or more efficient larger cars, consumer choice will continue to play a major role: Matching together sustainability and aspiration provides equal opportunity across the whole of the transport system.

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One Response to “Transport – Impacts and Implications”
  1. Returning to truck-based freight, surely trucks will be a key factor for the long term. Some will assert that you could put all that truck freight on trains and clear up the roads, but they don’t understand that some types of freight flows well on trains and other freight is more appropriate for trucks. And the truckers will say that just about anything you buy was carried by truck at some point in its journey, whether it also traveled on rail or ship or air. In the USA new truck-exclusion roads are being studied for construction in parallel to major interstate highways – for congestion relief. I think this will be become reality – and when it does trucks can start to cooperate with each other for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. This is the platoon idea, and in its fullest form you have roadways full of nothing but robotic trucks. This will be very much within our reach within 10 years and the implementation issues revolve around the business case, road facilities, etc.

    Getting to Smart Mobility – it will certainly come and there will be a benefit. Imagine a society in which car crashes are as rare as plane crashes, or even nonexistent. This is the stated goal several car companies, including Volvo and Mercedes (if I recall correctly). Then to stretch even further, what about traffic congestion being a thing of the past? This is a tougher nut to crack, since only so many cars can flow down a road. But intelligent and cooperative vehicle technology can make a major dent in that as well – this is core to my current consulting.

    So there’s a few thoughts for you. I’m intrigued by this process and glad to be involved.

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