It is estimated that innovations in mobility, including autonomous vehicles and electric cars, will add an additional USD$10 trillion to USD$22 trillion annually to the global transit market by 2030, thanks to added productivity and changes to the insurance market. On May 9, Sixth Estate Spotlight hosted a session in Toronto that gathered industry leaders and experts in Toronto to talk about the future of mobility and the infrastructure needed to make it happen.
In a keynote address, Richard Threlfall, partner and global head of infrastructure at KPMG, said that we are on the verge of a transport revolution brought about by three major transformational changes in the industry – the electrification of transport, the automation of vehicles, and the rise of platforming known as “mobility as a service.”
According to Threlfall, these changes will result in accident reduction, emissions reduction and improvement in service to people with disabilities and in rural areas where public transportation isn’t economically viable.
“From a public policy point of view, there are both social and economic reasons to want this transport revolution to happen as soon as possible,” said Threlfall. “The reason the impacts are so great is because we are talking about something that affects such a vast proportion of the population.”
Threlfall added that the concept of shared mobility is still a long way off, given that there could be a tripling of car ownership with the advent of autonomous, electric vehicles, and that it’s incumbent upon governments today to move policy levers in order to keep congestion from becoming an even bigger problem than it is.
“If we go into this in the right way, we could have way more liveable societies than we have today,” said Threlfall. “But if we do it wrong, then we waste this fantastic opportunity that comes out of this period of seismic change.”
During the panel discussion hosted by Catherine Clark, Greg Overwater, director of technical and regulatory affairs for the Global Automakers of Canada, said that the customer profile for automakers may change in years to come, perhaps with ridesharing companies buying cars outright.
“It all comes down to satisfying a customer need,” said Overwater. “You have economic considerations — affordability for vehicles — and the regulatory side, with both safety and the environment. There is a great impetus to move societies to the point where transportation is a much cleaner prospect, and fewer people are losing their lives on a daily basis.”
Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, chief customer officer with the Toronto Transit Commission, said that Toronto’s transit system is looking to respond to the growing call from the public for mobility-on-demand services.
“In small communities, we are looking at micro-transit, and we’re hoping it will eventually be autonomous, but are actually doing an [autonomous vehicle] pilot with the City of Toronto next year,” said Llewellyn-Thomas. “The idea is that it would be on-demand and there would be an app so that the person can say I need the vehicle that’s in my community to take me to the mainline service.”
Raed Kadri, director of automotive technology and mobility innovation at the Ontario Centres of Excellence, said that behaviour drives technology at first, but when it comes to automation and connectivity, the premise becomes whether people want to even own a vehicle when shared vehicles become more widespread thanks to connectivity.
Kadri added that there is potential for shared mobility in communities where they don’t have the established transit infrastructure, and options like ride-sharing are available, such as the pilot project in the Ontario municipality of Innisfil.
“The opportunities are endless,” said Kadri. “Collaboration is paramount between private and public, and things are changing. Economically, the opportunities are there. We have companies that are smaller, that potentially would never have the opportunity to enter the mobility supply chain, now talking directly with potential customers or potentially public transit agencies.”
Watch the full edition here.