Recently I spoke with Tom Voege, Policy Analyst at the International Transport Forum (ITF) within the OECD. In his role at the ITF he leads activities relating to Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), including working groups, roundtables and research into vehicle automation, new mobility concepts, and Big Data/Open Data. He is one of the key thought leaders and experts advising government ministers and policymakers on these issues, so it’s important to hear his views on the future of mobility; in particular, autonomous ride sharing, big data analytics and other technologies. Following are a couple of highlights from our discussion. You can listen or download the podcast below or listen to it in ITunes.
“…The role of government then absolutely has to be to steer this development away from the horror scenario, more towards positive shared mobility kind of scenario. As usual, it’s carrots and sticks that can be used for that. We had a roundtable a while ago where we were actually discussing exactly that — shared mobility in cities enabled by vehicle automation, and where we are talking about these positive and negative scenarios. It certainly was felt by the people attending this roundtable that, left to its own devices, probably there will be at least an element of these horror scenarios. So, certainly there will have to be a role for government…”
“I think on the city level, the citizens are very important. As I said before, it is probably is a good idea if we don’t just leave it to industry to come up with C-level business models, and then just allow them to push them into the market. If shared mobility can come in, in kind of a controlled way, then there needs to be more oversight from the city. It needs to be tailored on a slightly higher level of mobility policy, but it needs to be accepted by the citizens.
So, in France over the last month, there was a series of large citizens’ debate events where they tried to present different kinds of scenarios, different kind of futures, and get feedback from citizens on how they would feel about a system like that being available. I think that is a very important element to talk to citizens about mobility, about these new kinds of technologies. And to go further than what we see now, where you have a shuttle like that in a pedestrian area on a weekend and people can look at them, and maybe take a quick ride. I think there has to be a debate on it, and ideally, they should be involved in the design of the system. There needs to be a buy in from them.
And the second element I think we haven’t mentioned yet that is very important is research. We need to look at other ride sharing, ride hailing, other kind of systems out there, and have a very close look. How have they affected mobility behavior? Many of these systems on first glance could look quite beneficial, but we need to look exactly at the model shifts. If these shared systems get people out of single occupancy cars, that’s great, but if we see a model shift of people who are able to walk to a system like that then, from a health perspective, that is not a good idea and from a mobility policy point of view, that is not a good idea.
If we get people to use a shuttle for six people, instead of a bus or a metro on a high demand corridor, then this is not really a good idea. I think getting to these conclusions is not trivial. I think it’s absolutely essential to have research into mobility behavior, and how it is affected by any of these new kind of mobility services we are seeing.”