In 10 years, your commute will be short, cheap and, dare we say, fun.
America is a culture of mobility. Geographic and social mobility have always played a critical role in our nation’s promise–they are part of our DNA, tied to the American Dream and our values of freedom, independence and exploration. For the last 100 years this dream manifested itself in the automobile. In the last 50, the airplane played a critical role. But things are changing, as the auto industry undergoes radical transformation, fear of terrorism makes air travel a chore, and uncertain energy supplies destabilize the world. These shifts are reshaping American attitudes about mobility. In 2020 a new generation will emerge from a period of frugality into one of resourcefulness and resilience. Americans will start searching for transportation solutions that are smarter, healthier, slower and more social.
Smart will be the new status. In 2020 blatant overabundance will go from being a symbol of status to one of ignorance, as people actively seek new forms of transportation to match specific travel needs. Driven by increased living costs and shifting social values, behaviors once confined to the mobile fringe will begin to spread, displacing the SUV as the suburb’s emblematic transport mode. In its place, a network of smarter mobile solutions based on trip length and purpose emerge. His and hers cars become near and far cars–an electric city car for short-range commutes, for example, and a clean diesel car for road trips–as energy sources align with travel needs.
People in 2020 are more open to sharing mobility resources, as pride of ownership gives way to smart utilization of resources, effectively and cheaply increasing mobility options. Forget loans and leases. New business models will emerge, including mobility memberships that provide access to a range of vehicles when and where they’re needed. Ride sharing, fractional ownership and neighborhood fleets will comprise this new smart mobility lexicon, making the No-Car Family a reality. In 2010 sharing programs like SmartBike and ZipCar show the way; by 2020 they’re ingrained, and joined by a host of similar mobility services, creating an entire mobility ecosystem.
Health and mobility will reunite. No longer the default for all activities, the car persists in 2020, but is augmented by alternative modes of transportation that provide bonus benefits for health and well-being. Driving five houses over to pick up our kids from a play date now feels absurdly excessive. Walking and biking to work are considered smart, healthy alternatives to the car-plus-gym-membership solution. Kids walk to school (some through the snow, uphill both ways, like their parents did) or ride their bikes as a means to reduce greenhouse gases, obesity and the cost of education. Even in 2010, such tendencies are manifested in parent-organized “walking buses” (a curious need to leverage the metaphor of a bus to reinvent the idea of walking to school), and the occasional city-dweller in London, San Francisco or New York running or biking to work, backpack in tow.
Slow will displace speed and power. Yes, there will be space tourism in 2020. But most of us will follow in the footsteps of Slow Food, become more localized and seek better travel options within 20 miles of our home. People will continue to urbanize (a projected 75% of the world will live in cities by 2050) to be closer to work and play, and to eliminate the detested 20th-century commute. Localization will drive demand for new types of light vehicles that make local travel convenient, efficient, and fun, and put pressure on cities still struggling to integrate them into infrastructures once optimized for cars. Bike avenues and light vehicle paths will proliferate, as cities compete for creative talent and economic prosperity by promoting these alternative modes of transport. By 2020 this new approach to getting around locally drives a market of single-seat cars, electric bikes, scooters and maybe even a P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle) or two. Not quite the jet pack, but close.
The journey will be more social and connected. In 2020 people will look for mobility experiences that are enjoyable and social, not just convenient and efficient, as a new class of connected vehicles offers value propositions beyond performance and power. Social technologies migrate from desktop and mobile applications into cars, making cars connected devices that enhance the user experience. Talking safely on the phone while driving is just the beginning, as vehicles’ abilities to inspire, share and record experiences deliver what Ford is calling “the American Journey 2.0.” The road trip in 2020 is an entirely new experience–social, engaged, and memorable.