Inventing Mobility for All
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Inventing Mobility for All

Mastering Mobility-as-a-Service with Self-Driving Vehicles

Andreas Herrmann, Johann Jungwirth

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eBook - ePub

Inventing Mobility for All

Mastering Mobility-as-a-Service with Self-Driving Vehicles

Andreas Herrmann, Johann Jungwirth

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About This Book

Inventing Mobility For All: Mastering Mobility-as-a-Service with Self-Driving Vehicles explores 'Mobility-as-a-Service' and explains the impact of this mobility concept on social and societal life, as well as on global travel behaviours. In this volume, Andreas Herrmann and Johann Jungwirth powerfully illustrate that mobility is a fundamental human right that can best be fulfilled with new autonomous vehicle development and use, showcasing how these forms of mobility will improve accessibility for the disabled, aid protection for the environment and to open how we design our cities in completely new ways.

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Part 1

MOBILITY, PROSPERITY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

1

CAN WE STILL GO PLACES?

TRAVEL IS EDUCATIONAL

‘The best education for a clever person is found in travel’. With these words, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe encouraged people to go forth and see the world instead of sitting around bored at home. Many great authors and thinkers have expressed similar ideas – in particular Mark Twain, who considered travel the best antidote to ‘prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness’. Travel gives one ‘broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things’, he asserted. And, perhaps most importantly, travel makes people happy. Good reason, then, to keep exploring new things, seek out the wide-open spaces and not simply be content with what’s familiar and close at hand. All these pearls of wisdom are best summed up in a famous line by nineteenth-century German poet Wilhelm Busch: ‘Drum o Mensch sei weise, pack die Koffer und verreise’ (‘And so, my friend, the thing to do, is pack your bags and be off with you’) [1].
There are probably few pieces of advice that have been as widely followed as this encouragement to travel or, as we might put it today, to hit the open road. Mobility has become a core value of our society. Indeed, many even consider it essential to an interesting, engaging, appealing, and fulfilling life. It has long since ceased to simply be about the clichéd change of scenery or an occasional shift in focus. Mobility is the rule, remaining in one place, the exception. Almost everything that people used to do in one specific place, they can now do from anywhere and everywhere – working, meditating, surfing the internet, shopping, making phone calls, watching TV, having time for themselves, resting, and sometimes maybe even feeling at home.
Despite this enthusiasm that many of us share for being on the move, there is also a growing realisation that mobility is reaching its limits. Because this wanderlust causes such significant damage to nature and mankind, some are calling for a return to a slower and more leisurely pace. They think we have carried our restless roaming too far. People rush from one destination to the next without any discernible purpose or intelligible objective. This scepticism about our perpetual motion has manifested itself in debates about car-free zones, air travel, and too many parking spaces in urban centres. Do people really need to travel halfway around the globe – to go everywhere in person – when the inhabitants of many cities are literally suffocating in traffic?
Didn’t the coronavirus pandemic show us an entirely different path? We can do so much without mobility. Zoom and Teams make virtual meetings and travel possible – a click will take you across the world. You don’t actually have to go places! You can get everything done without moving from the spot. But, of course, there is a flip side: remote work, cabin fever, fear of missing out, in some cases even a feeling of being trapped – and the COVID blues. Is there perhaps more to mobility than just travelling from A to B? Doesn’t being on the road have something beautiful, uplifting, enriching and even exhilarating to offer – regardless of where the journey takes you? Don’t we need to be on the move even if our destination is not clear? Isn’t staying in one place a kind of personal stagnation?
Think back to a childhood road trip, driving to Italy or a national park on vacation. Remember how you looked forward to the sunshine and the beach or the mountains, despite the heat and the traffic. Eight hours to dream about the upcoming 14 days on the Adriatic coast or in the beautiful nature reserve. It’s not just your family that’s travelling in the car but your imagination and your emotions as well. Or picture your drive home from work. Finally, you’re alone, finally there’s peace and quiet – no co-workers, no phone, no to-do list. Being on the road is a way to escape from our dull and dreary daily routines, to open the door to different ideas and impressions. Think of the jogger who experiences a runner’s high, a state in which movement alone, and not the destination, induces a sensation of happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi referred to this feeling as ‘flow’. It sets in as soon as the challenge arising from an activity or, in our case, from movement is a perfect match for our skill level [2].
Of course, our primary concern is just as likely to be getting somewhere as quickly, easily, and safely as possible. Going shopping, to work, to sports practice, to school, to see a client or supplier – here it’s all about efficient transportation. It’s not the journey that matters but your speedy and convenient arrival at the destination. But there is more to mobility than even that! It’s not just a person who’s going places, but their ideas, dreams, wishes, and much more. Not on every single journey but often enough. That’s why we are usually so happy to get to wherever we’re going but then also feel empty until we’ve decided where we’re going next. All of us have experienced this feeling at different points in our lives. It seems that we are driven by the desire to reach a certain place but sometimes deflated when we finally arrive.
The urge to go places does not just apply to physical movement from one location to another. It is more about wanting to move on, to move forward, to make strides – both literally and figuratively. Or maybe we should put it this way: The important journeys in our lives take place when we don’t just advance physically but mentally as well. Seen in this light, mobility encompasses both ideas [3]: The efficient transportation of an individual, as well as individual progress in an emotional, intellectual, and sometimes even spiritual sense. What does this tell us? When you focus on mobility, you are tackling a serious issue! It’s not just a matter of efficient transportation but of individual human progress. And we are planning to address both aspects in this book.
Let’s return to the aforementioned misgivings about people’s desire to be constantly on the move and the harmful side effects of mobility for society and the environment – up to and including global climate change. Such concerns often lead to calls for a fundamental rethinking of mobility. The paradigm shift being demanded by many involves moderation and renunciation, a return to nature and environmental protection, as well as an end to stress, haste, and perpetual motion. It’s about being contemplative, slow, unhurried, and leisurely, about being rooted in the local. You could say it’s about what would do us well in a time when our need for mobility has become overexcited, overheated and overly extravagant. You feel the urge to tell people: ‘Slow down, for goodness’ sake, both physically and mentally, and you’ll get more out of life’.
Without a doubt, criticism of mobility today, especially about how it is organised, is justified and necessary. The many accidents and the associated suffering, the substantial emissions and their effects on health, the massive amount of space needed for roads and parking, and the social costs of mobility have risen sharply in recent years, and they may be too high. But that is no reason to condemn mobility as such and strive to eliminate it. As we mentioned earlier, travel can educate us, broaden our horizons, enable us to gain a more balanced view and allow us to see the world from a variety of perspectives.
And we should not forget that mobility creates jobs and brings prosperity to many people. It may even be the deciding factor in a flourishing economy and a stable democracy. Therefore, it is essential to conduct our discussions about the future of mobility differently, and hopefully better, than we have so far. It is not a zero-sum game, where the options are either stay at home or pollute the environment. We believe that there is a middle ground. That people can go places, travel, and experience the world. But we also believe that new forms of mobility are required; forms that consider the environment.
Mobility is a necessity, as proven by a glance at the political map. It is no longer just bread, as at the beginning of the French Revolution, but substandard or expensive mobility that is now bringing governments to their knees. Remember the riots in Brazil in 2014 and in Chile and Ecuador in 2019, triggered by an increase in the price of train tickets or gasoline. In Sudan, Iran, and Haiti, increases in gasoline prices have also led to civil unrest. In 2019 alone, dramatic increases in mobility costs led to significant incidents in seven nations. Just think of the famous ‘yellow vests’ who were protesting every Saturday in France. What began as a grassroots movement against higher fuel taxes ended with calls to cut all taxes, raise the minimum wage and pensions, and hold referendums on all important political decisions.
This gives rise to two thoughts: YES, we must change the way we conduct mobility. The many criticisms of its side effects are justified, and it is important that they are voiced. There is no doubt that lasting improvements are needed. The traffic situation is catastrophic, especially in major urban areas. We can no longer tolerate these conditions. And at the same time, NO, we cannot simply abandon our right to be mobile. Mobility is the glue that binds our society together and is vital to the development of every individual. Mobility is a very special good, a hallmark of our civilisation. Giving it up would be an enormous step backward; it would be foolhardy in the extreme. Which is why this book has an important aim: To rethink mobility and sketch the contours of an alternative approach to transportation, with the sole purpose of ensuring that we can still be mobile in the future without destroying our planet.
At the core of all these thoughts is the idea of organising mobility as a service. It is not necessary to own the means of transportation – or specifically, the car – to go places. On the contrary: Intelligently linking multiple modes of transportation, such as trains, cars, scooters and bicycles, improves travel in many ways. And it is important to add autonomous vehicles to the mix, in the shape of self-driving pods and shuttles. This makes mobility safer, less expensive, more convenient, and often faster as well. But even more importantly, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) will play a decisive role in significantly reducing the social costs of mobility. This includes traffic congestion and accidents, land use for roads and parking, noise, and air pollution. We will address all of these in detail [4].
Just to be clear – the authors of this book have no interest in preventing people from enjoying cars. We are not trying to spoil the fun of driving. We are not looking for more prohibitions, more laws, or more infringements on self-determination. We also have no desire to curb anyone’s enthusiasm for travel, for movement; in contrary, we encourage exploration. But it is also true that our planet needs an alternative and expansion of our current modes of mobility. This observation should come as no surprise to anyone. The car was invented nearly 140 years ago; the train, almost 200 years ago [5]. Although the world has fundamentally changed since then, we still use these forms of transportation in much the same way. Mobility can be smarter; it can be better. It’s time to embark on an exciting journey!

MOBILITY AS A HUMAN RIGHT

Worldwide, some one billion people suffer from a disability of some kind – that’s around 15% of the world’s population [6]. Most of them live in developing countries, where there is usually no way to get from one place to another without assistance from others. Buses and trains are often not accessible. As a result, many people with impairments must endure a life of poverty, with no opportunities for professional and personal development. Many people with disabilities in these countries do not have access to education, the arts, and other cultural activities simply because they are unable to leave their hometowns. Poverty and disability are often interrelated: Poor individuals have a greater risk of suffering a disability, and those living with a disability have a greater risk of poverty [7].
The discussions of how people with disabilities can best be integrated in public life often focus on fair pay, comprehensive health insurance, access to job training, and career opportunities. Such discussions often overlook the fact that the provision of accessible, reliable, and safe modes of transportation is at least equally important. A system of mobility that can be used by everyone opens personal and professional opportunities and gives individuals a sense of freedom, independence, and societal inclusion.
Let’s listen to what two powerful voices have to say on the matter. Anil Lewis, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind in the United States, describes his loss of sight and the impact it had on his mobility as follows: ‘The worst thing was that I had to give up driving. Before I lost my sight, my car was like a form of therapy – I got in and started driving’. Myreo Dixon, representative of the United Spinal Association in the United States and a wheelchair user, had the following to say about mobility: ‘It’s about independence, self-confidence and self-respect. All of these are important to the personal development of persons with disabilities …’ [8].
Studies across the world repeatedly paint the same picture: People with disabilities often have no access to buses and trains, whether due to a lack of accessible vehicles or to structural barriers at bus stops and train stations. And shifting our attention to London, from first-hand observation, the authors can report that even Uber drivers repeatedly refuse to transport blind people. Why? Visually impaired people are not always able to accurately describe their location and are therefore often difficult to find. In addition, they are usually accompanied by a service dog that also must be placed in the car. All this is inconvenient and costs time and money.
Considering these and other stories, more and more voices around the world are calling for mobility to be regarded as a human right. This idea is not new: Article 13 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes freedom of movement as a fundamental right of every human being, stating that
everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
A clear statement, but one that is not yet being universally practised.
A basic right to mobility may be inferred from Article 13. But that does not go far enough for many. They take a further, bolder step in demanding universal basic mobility for everyone. All people – including the young, elderly, sick and disabled – must have access to modes of transportation that can be called on whenever needed. This is the vision shared by the authors of this book: Mobility for all, MaaS − for everyone. Transportation needs to be inclusive and accessible by design! It’s a question of equal opportunities. Every individual should receive a fair chance. We cannot allow 10%–30% of the population, depending on the country and region, to be excluded from mobility.
Not just disability but the social situation can also be an almost insurmountable hurdle. Consider Delhi: the lowest income, poorest housing, most meagre lifestyle, and worst of all – people who are trapped in their own city. Many of them have zero opportunity to participate in economic development or community life. Tickets for buses and trains are beyond their means. Mobility is too expensive. As a result, they are also excluded from many of life’s opportunities, unable to reach schools or workplaces in other parts of the city. Most of them spend their entire lives in their own neighbourhoods.
What does all this tell us? Mobility is the primary requirement for giving people access to jobs and wages and empowering them to social and professional advancement. Buses and trains, and of course bicycles, scooters, and, above all, cars, make it possible for individuals to expand their range and their reach, attend schools, acquire professional skills, and advance their personal development. Seen in this light, there is nothing more important for society than providing access to mobility that works – and we mean really works! In other words, it must be safe, accessible, clean, reliable, and affordable. For everyone.
Let’s wrap up these thoughts with some news that give us hope: Tokyo’s light rail is in the process of eliminating as many barriers as possible, like steps was well as entrances and exits that are impassable for wheelchairs. The Bangalore government is working to provide people with very low incomes access to other parts of the city by offering special buses with extremely reduced fares. In Mexico City, people with disabilities can use all express buses for free, and in Estonia, the entire population can use the public bus network free of charge.

2

MOBILITY MEANS PROSPERITY

Let’s return to an important idea. In our public discourse, there is increasing recognition that people’s prosperity hinges on their mobility. Improved mobility, in cities and...

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