Future mobility: on the road to greater inclusivity

Published by on 11.04.2020 - 4 min

How do you design the mobility of the future without considering the question of inclusivity? From self-driving vehicles, to real-life assistance, to apps, a number of solutions are emerging that can help make transport more accessible to all. Here, we spotlight initiatives that are helping drive greater inclusivity in mobility.

According to a recent national survey conducted in France entitled Mobility and ways of living in 2020, 3 out of 4 people in France say they’re limited in their ability to get around. It’s a form of inequality with terrible day-to-day social consequences: for example, 1 out of 4 French people have had to give up a job due to difficulty getting around. But key players in the transport sector are doubling down on their efforts to create a model that’s more accessible to all to better fulfil mobility’s original promise: to enable all to move around freely. What’s at stake: a reduction of the societal consequences such inequalities can create, the removal of constraints across the country, and potential access to new markets.

Overhauling territorial transport services

“The first, most urgent question is that of social and territorial divides, and ultimately that of the equity of France’s mobility offer,” says Valérie Dreyfuss, managing director of France’s Laboratoire de la Mobilité Inclusive (Inclusive Mobility Lab). Social fractures within a given region highlight the role of local councils, and the question of how to best accompany them in the creation of new, more inclusive services. But making the transport offer more equitable often requires a redesign of infrastructure. One example is French transport operator Transdev, who’s working to offer those who are handicapped more solutions for getting around. These include redesigning stations and vehicle access ramps, building trams and buses with lower platforms, and improving signage as well as visual, audio, and tactile forms of communication.

Making assistance a priority

Elderly person on their phone

Is ‘travel companion’ set to become a bonafide future profession? If mobility is to move towards greater inclusivity, all signs point to handicap-oriented journey assistance becoming a crucial service across the country. An online platform called Mon Copilote (My Co-Pilot) is already leading the charge. They provide travel assistance to those with reduced mobility, whether for work, leisure, or for completing day-to-day tasks. The platform lets “pilots and their co-pilots choose their mode of transport: car, train, plane, bus, metro, or even walking,” and find someone to travel alongside them. Another startup founded by Charlotte de Vilmorin, Wheeliz, defines itself as ‘the Airbnb of accessible vehicles’ and lets individuals rent out handicap-accessible vehicles to those who need them.

Are self-driving systems the future of inclusive mobility ?

With all the focus on their potential speed and reliability, it’s easy to forget that self-driving cars also have much to offer by way of inclusivity. Shelley Lin, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern University in the US is trying to revolutionise transport for the blind and visually-impaired using AI. It’s quite the challenge, requiring the system to analyse data in real time, and understand passenger behaviour and movement in order to provide the car with reliable instructions. In short, you’ll need to have two-way communication between the vehicle and its passengers, which can ultimately benefit everyone: “In an autonomous vehicle, sighted people are going to be highly distracted,” says Nicholas Giudice, a professor of spatial informatics at the University of Maine. “They aren’t going to be aware of their environment, much like a blind person will be, so in that instance, the types of things that we’re talking about could support them as well, which is a huge amount of people.”

The mobility of the future will have to account for questions of gender, handicap, age, and even the differences within regions, including their economic realities. Could the pandemic help speed up mobility’s transition to greater inclusivity? That’s certainly what the World Economic Forum is hoping for: they’ve called for the creation of ‘universal mobility’ through innovation, cooperation, and partnerships between the public and private sector to make future transport a reality for all, no exceptions.

 

Vincent Thobel, L’ADN journalist
L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

 

Copyrights: Unsplash – Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash – Robert Ruggiero