Ahead of the curb

Audio - 00:00

Our cities are changing.

Around the globe, lines are blurring between public and private transport, passenger transit and item delivery. The problem is that cities aren’t keeping up, so insufficient regulation and lack of central planning has resulted in a free-for-all that’s leading to urban mobile service clutter and a fragmented user experience.

In 2019, organizations must start to consolidate mobility services within a single, coherent ecosystem built on real-time needs.

Key sectors:

  • Health & Public service
  • Utilities & Energy
  • Travel
  • Automotive & industrial
“Vahana” is a self-flying taxi pioneered by Airbus.
“Vahana” is a self-flying taxi pioneered by Airbus.

What’s going on?

Transport in cities used to be simple. Everyone knew their place: There was delivery, private transport for individuals, and public transport to move the masses. Now, a rapidly expanding and diverse array of mobility players are moving in lots of directions, fast.

It’s all driven (pardon the pun) by a shift in population from rural to urban areas. Then different transport modes started to overlap or become cross-purpose when cities began publishing their APIs, creating a playground for anyone interested in meeting growing demand for new models and services.

Bike-sharing service Mobike is now in 200 cities worldwide.
Bike-sharing service Mobike is now in 200 cities worldwide.
The “Nike by Melrose” store in LA has a curbside pickup service.
The “Nike by Melrose” store in LA has a curbside pickup service.

Today, the sheer volume of interest and the lack of any centralized mobility systems have led to mobility providers hacking old models. And with the arrival of many new private players, our cities are overwhelmed.

Bird dockless scooters.
Bird dockless scooters.

For example, the streets of Paris have become so crowded and dangerous due to hundreds of electric scooters from Californian operators Lime and Bird competing with Chinese-run and city-operated dockless bicycle sharing schemes that the French government banned scooters in October.

The world’s first driverless tram by Siemens.
The world’s first driverless tram by Siemens.

Those who’ve historically worked in one transport mode are exploring other options. Delivery companies UPS, DHL and FedEx, for example, are building up fleets of electric cars on the ground, and transportation firms like Uber and Airbus are racing to pioneer flying cars.

Despite efforts to address the clutter and confusion, by late 2018 mobility in cities was still a fragmented ecosystem of private companies, individuals and government – often unregulated, universally unorganized.

Transport companies are diversifying the services they offer - Uber.

What's next?

Over the next year, we’ll see a race for clarity in the fragmented city mobility ecosystem and also for dominance of cities’ mobility.

Multimodal and intermodal services and platforms will grow commonplace – as will mobility planning tools. Services will integrate across multiple modes of transportation and offer subscription-based payment models, including a flat fee across all options. Future payment systems will be integrated, spanning multiple operators and providers.

Muji and Sensible 4 designed this driverless shuttlebus.
Muji and Sensible 4 designed this driverless shuttlebus.

A driverless shuttle bus designed by minimalist Japanese retailer Muji in collaboration with Sensible 4 for the streets of Helsinki is an early example of something else we can expect to see a lot more: brands with no history in mobility integrating it into their primary service layer.

New city data and new partnerships will shape the future of mobility, which will be a balance of existing systems and new initiatives. City planning and design will take a more agile approach, resulting in systems that respond to real-time data and citizens’ changing needs.

UPS is building a fleet of electric vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions.
UPS is building a fleet of electric vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions.

In online retail, the number of packages delivered annually in the US alone is expected to rise to 16 billion by 2020 from 11 billion in 2018. As online shopping grows, “last mile” delivery services will need to innovate to tackle the challenges of traffic congestion and failed deliveries when recipients aren’t home. Deliveries will become branded experiences.

Evidence update

What you should do


Design for moving from A to B

People will soon stop thinking transport mode and start thinking simply getting from A to B. Allow for customers’ needs that ebb and flow depending on context and over time. Provide hassle-free pick-and-choose services. Think beyond classic market segmentation and address regional archetypes and places sharing the same mobility characteristics – beyond borders.


Go for gains, not pains

You don’t have to be a transport provider today to embed mobility in your service. Consider new business models that capitalize on the benefits of adding mobility into your service layer.


Remember the last mile

As mobility becomes an ecosystem, many aspects will connect or merge. At this point, the main economic and social value lies in smart system management. It’ll be critical to connect this mobility system to existing infrastructure, manage access to it and allow seamless access to other adjacent service areas.


Partners trump platforms

Many mobility needs are not currently met – anyone can unlock this with the right partner. The critical mass required to deliver a working ecosystem will require collaboration and white label platforms, APIs consolidation and partnerships – both public and private.