The world is constantly changing. 2020 will be very different from 2017, and 2050 and 2100 even more so. With that in mind, these are some trends that are shifting the way we think about transportation and mobility.
The population growth of the world is staggering. While it is expected to slow in the future, the world is projected to grow from its 7 billion people today to 9.3 billion in 2050 and 10.1 billion in 2100.
Not only is the world population going to grow, where it’s living will change as well, shifting further and further urban. More than half the world’s population lives in an urban area, and megacities—cities with more than 10 million people—are on the rise. Beginning in 1950 with the first megacity (New York City), the world had expanded to 26 by 2011, 37 by today, and is projected to have 52 by the year 2020. These growing size and urbanization of the world are making public transport and especially urban mobility important issues for the near future.
Population isn’t the only thing that’s changing transportation—transportation is changing transportation. There are growing trends towards shared mobility: even with a growing population, car sales have decreased in the US, from nearly 9 million in 2000 to around 5.5 million in 2010, and the number of licensed drivers is decreasing as well, particularly amongst people aged 16-19.
In place of these privatized, highly costly modes of transportation, cities are expanding ways to share mobility. The number of bikeshare programs in cities across the world has increased at an exponential rate, from 136 in 2011 to around 1000 just 6 years later. Taxi apps, such as Uber and Lyft, have seen incredible growth in the past decade. Uber now has 1.1 million ride requests per week and 3.8 million users across 50 countries. International competitors like Hailo in Europe and Asia, Didi Dache in China, and TaxiForSure in India, are emerging as well, recognizing the extraordinary potential of this burgeoning new industry.
Smartphones and Internet
Part of the reason Uber and Lyft were able to take off so efficiently is the staggering growth of mobile technology and internet usage in the past decade. In 2013, 61% of cellphone subscribers in the US had smartphones, and that number is expected to only go up from there. In Malaysia, a study found that 90% of homes owned a smartphone.
Across the world, the number internet users is making rapid gains, seeing an over 400% increase in internet usage from 2000 to 2009. By 2013, 2 billion of the world’s people are online. The fast pace of communication technology growth will be one of the driving forces that affect the future of transportation.
Communication technology is not the only technology sector that is advancing; there are new developments in green energy as well. These innovations come at an opportune time, as these trends will not only fight the growing transportation emissions in the US, but they will also provide alternative sources of energy as the world’s sweet crude oil supply diminishes. There have been improvements on existing technologies and development of new ones, but it is likely that more and more transportation systems will be powered by one of these forms of green technology.
Autonomous vehicles have gotten a lot of attention lately as companies like Google and Tesla work to make them an everyday reality. Automation of vehicle technology comes in levels. Level 0 is when the human driver does everything, with increasing levels of vehicle control until level 5, with an automated system performing all driving tasks. Most cars are already sold with some form of automation technology (cruise control, park assist, etc.), and the field is making rapid gains. Ford expected to sell fully driverless vehicles by 2025. From changes in population, to the increased practice of shared mobility, to greater smartphone penetration, to new energy and transportation technologies, it’s an exciting time to think about the future of transportation and urban mobility.