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[chap.2] the mobility design

ARTEFACT

the blank page
[chap.2] the mobility design

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.
Discover the episode focused on the starting point of ideas, the blank sheet of paper. From the automobile object to mobility services, Artefact deciphers the evolution of design!

  • connectivity
  • design
  • shared mobility
  • energy storage
  • energy transition
  • transport on demand
  • electric vehicle

 

This episode on the design for mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact makes a revelation: the car object is perhaps no longer the alpha and omega of mobility. Mobilize design takes into account all the touch points between the user and their mobility. From automotive design to service design, mobility is resolutely multifaceted: for people and for goods… on demand, car sharing, or even subscription.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the evolution of car design…

 

the blank page
[chap. 1] the car design

The automobile, designed with the human being at its centre, is sometimes an extension of the individual. From car design to mobility design, the boundaries between the interior and exterior of the car are disappearing: the experience is becoming connected and seamless.

watch the video

[chap.1] the car design

ARTEFACT

the blank page
[chap.2] the mobility design

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.
Discover the episode focused on the starting point of ideas, the blank sheet of paper. From the automobile object to mobility services, Artefact deciphers the evolution of design!

  • connectivity
  • design
  • shared mobility
  • transport on demand

 

This episode on the design for mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact makes a revelation: the car object is perhaps no longer the alpha and omega of mobility. Mobilize design takes into account all the touch points between the user and their mobility. From automotive design to service design, mobility is resolutely multifaceted: for people and for goods… on demand, car sharing, or even subscription.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the evolution of car design…

 

the blank page
[chap. 1] the car design

The automobile, designed with the human being at its centre, is sometimes an extension of the individual. From car design to mobility design, the boundaries between the interior and exterior of the car are disappearing: the experience is becoming connected and seamless.

watch the video

the challenges of mobility decarbonisation and its financing

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the challenges of mobility decarbonisation and its financing

  • design
  • energy transition

Podcast Mobilize

Camille Combe talks to l’ADN – Camille Combe talks to l’ADN – 

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Camille Combe, project manager at the Fabrique de la Cité, talks about financing mobility in a post-carbon world.

symbiotic energy and its application to mobility

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symbiotic energy and its application to mobility

  • design
  • energy transition

Podcast Mobilize

Isabelle Delannoy talks to l’ADN – Isabelle Delannoy talks to l’ADN – 

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Isabelle Delannoy, environmentalist, talks about the theory of the symbiotic economy to minimise the impact of our mobility on the environment.

new infrastructures for sustainable transportation

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new infrastructures for sustainable transportation

  • design
  • energy transition

Podcast Mobilize

Julien Villalongue talks to l’ADN  – Julien Villalongue talks to l’ADN  – 

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Julien Villalongue, Managing director of Léonard, the Vinci Group’s foresight and innovation platform, shares his views on the mobility of the future.

towards decarbonation of our mobility

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towards decarbonation of our mobility

The first solar-powered plane trip around the world? You can thank him for that. When Bertrand Piccard isn’t advising the Pope, global leaders, or economic giants, he’s busy with another grand pursuit: namely, the reconciliation of economics with ecology.

  • design
  • electric vehicle
  • energy transition

As the aviation world undergoes a major existential crisis, Bertrand Piccard, aeronaut, psychiatrist, and president of the Solar Impulse Foundation, is busy holding interviews and roundtable discussions around the possible futures for an industry that’s being forced to reinvent itself. “Let’s not give in to dogmatism or the temptation of naming a scapegoat. If there’s one industry that can rise to the challenge of its own transformation, it’s the aeronautics industry,” he and world aerobatics champion Catherine Manoury wrote in an op-ed for French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche. But it’s not just the future of the aerial industry that Piccard concerns himself with. Lately, he’s got a new interest: the democratisation of hydrogen cars.

bertrand piccard
Bertrand Piccard, Swiss aeronaut and founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation

Profitable solutions that protect the planet

Dozens of business leaders and top-tier investors have already made their case to European authorities for the necessity of a recovery plan focused on a digital-powered, green transition. “Delivering Europe’s long-term ambition to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050 requires an extensive set of urgent measures to scale up action. From a business and investor perspective, clarity on the net zero transition pathway and timetables for each sector, as well as policy that enables substantial investments in carbon neutral solutions is essential. This in turn would provide us with the confidence needed to invest decisively at the necessary pace and scale to reduce emissions, create decent green jobs, drive innovation, and accelerate the rebuilding of a resilient zero carbon economy,” reads the letter signed by the European directors of companies like Microsoft, Unilever, and even IKEA. Among the signatories listed is a certain Bertrand Piccard—and for good reason: he’s been working hard on coming up with solutions and funding for such a green recovery plan. His foundation, Solar Impulse, is dedicated to presenting decision-makers with profitable solutions that help protect the environment. Today, the foundation boasts a selection of 1,200 solutions, plus 400 bearing an official ‘Solar Impulse Efficient Solution’ label. The selected solutions include sustainable technologies within the domains of air pollution, industrial manufacturing processes, water, agricultural production, and last but not least: mobility.

Carbon-free mobility: and if it was time for hydrogen cars?

When asked about the future of transport, Piccard responds: “Hydrogen-powered mobility is not a solution for the future, it’s a solution for right now. Electrification is the best option for carbon-free transport under 300km. Beyond that distance however, hydrogen is the fuel to use. In California, in Japan, and in France, hydrogen fuel stations are under construction. In Germany, the first hydrogen trains were introduced, replacing diesel trains. Cars, trucks and buses that run on hydrogen are already on our roads, and NASA researchers are exploring the possibility of powering an aircraft with nothing but hydrogen.”

To prove hydrogen’s potential for use in transport, this Swiss aeronaut certainly gives it his all: November 2019, Piccard broke the world record for the distance travelled by a car on a single tank of hydrogen. “Another important advantage of this technology is that hydrogen can make friends where batteries are making enemies,” he says.

pompe à hydrogène mobilize
Hydrogen pump

The French government has certainly gotten the message. They’ve agreed to invest more than €7 billion of their €100 billion recovery plan in hydrogen energy between now and 2030. “We saw a first wave of electrification with electric batteries. To achieve greater vehicle autonomy of between 500 and 700km, with a record charging time of five minutes, we’ll need another form of electric energy powered by hydrogen,” explained Pierre-Etienne Franc, global director of hydrogen energy activity at Air Liquide, France’s biggest hydrogen produce, speaking to French newspaper Le Figaro.

As Piccard says: “For 20 or 30 years, everyone’s been talking about hydrogen mobility, but no one is actually doing it. Because all this time, anyone who’s tried has found themselves faced with people saying, ‘It’s impossible!’ But ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist in reality—it’s just in our minds, in our beliefs, and in our existing paradigms.” From here on out, thanks to significant investments from Europe, it seems hydrogen is finally being taken seriously, moving out of its adolescent phase and being invited to sit at the table with the adults.

 

Sarah Sabsibo, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyrights: Renault Group

Tallinn, an example of smart city technology use

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Tallinn, an example of smart city technology use

You wouldn’t instinctively guess that Estonia would top the list of countries home to the world’s most advanced smart cities. And yet, its capital Tallinn stands as a global model for them. Following the fall of the USSR and a large-scale cyber attack in 2007, this small Eastern European nation was forced to reinvent itself. We got to sit down with Hannes Astok, smart city expert and head of development at the e-Governance Academy, as well as director of the Tartu Smart City Lab, a member of the Estonian Smart City Cluster. He explained how Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, is developing intelligent urban solutions—and painted us a picture of the smart city of his dreams.

  • connectivity
  • design

Could you explain what your role is, as well as that of the Estonian Smart City Cluster?

I’m lucky to wear two hats: a more admin-centered one with the e-Governance Academy, and a more tech-focused, cross-disciplinary one via the Cluster. These roles allow me to help create a bridge between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), companies, and public administration.

I work with cities and government councils on digital transformation projects. For the last six years, Cluster has been working to bring cities and companies together, around ICTs and transport for example, while asking the following question: how do we create a space for brainstorming and experimenting, all in service of a city’s residents? By working together, companies and public administration can invent new things. Companies don’t always understand how government councils work and vice versa, particularly regarding things like profitability and development. But for modern innovation to happen, we need them to work together, which the Cluster helps facilitate.

In Tartu, you’ve already helped modernise areas of the city that date back to the Soviet era. What’s the next step? Could Information and Communication Technologies help reduce carbon emissions from housing?

Yes, ICTs can offer solutions for reducing carbon emissions. With regards to mobility, yes, but especially in relation to housing. We’re currently looking at intelligent housing that could regulate its own temperature (through heating or air-conditioning) whenever necessary, and could even plan out temperature a few days ahead of time—a system that we could combine with solar panels, for example. We’ve renovated several buildings in Tartu, and from here on out, we’ll be thinking about how to use technology for improved building isolation.

Apart from housing, what other aspects of urban life are part of Tartu’s smart city plan?

A year and a half ago, we redesigned public transport routes with help from phone operators and data experts. The bus network wasn’t organised properly. By analysing people’s anonymous travel data, we realised that the main bus routes weren’t adapted to meet the actual demand. From that, we redesigned routes in accordance with peak travel hours and patterns, helping us optimise traffic flow. This also helps reduce our carbon footprint as buses are travelling fewer kilometers.

And you did this using resident data?

Communication is extremely important. In this case, all the data is anonymous and must be kept by phone operators for a certain amount of time for the authorities. But yes, in other cases, the primary issue is the importance of the data collected. We need to collect lots of data, to store it somewhere, but also to think about people’s privacy. Today’s cities don’t really know what data is collected, how to store it, or what to do with it. That’s the next challenge. If data scientists and cities work together, we might be able to find some ideas.

hannes astok
Hannes Astok, Executive Director and Chairman of the Management Board at the Estonian e-Governance

Tech innovations aside, smart cities are first and foremost designed to serve their residents. How do they relate to health and social services?

Unfortunately, in Estonia, health is not considered the city’s business. As for social services, the question we need to ask first is: how do we let people maintain their independence? Should we use sensors to help us get around our own houses? How do you monitor older people, or physically and/or mentally handicapped people without becoming a kind of “Big Brother”? We need to find a way to do that without being intrusive. We’ve thought about solutions like recording daily activity through say, refrigerator, toilet, or water use. If activity suddenly stops, someone could be called to come check on the person living there.

The idea here is not to collect data, but to be able to compare general patterns of a person’s daily life within a given period. The key is to keep it simple for people and families in a time when many Estonians would prefer to stay home rather than go to a nursing home.

To do that, we’re working with companies on solutions that take into account another very important consideration: sustainability and responsibility. These are the types of questions we need to address for clients, citizens, families, and the government.

Is it possible to extend this philosophy to the mobility sector in order to create more independent forms of innovative mobility?

Before we get to self-driving cars, it’s important to strengthen public transport and multi-modal platforms within the city, but also across the rest of the country. In Estonia, a third of the population lives in rural areas, and intends to stay there. And as more people start working from home, the question of mobility is going to become more and more important. Today, in rural areas, you need a car to get to the nearest transport hub. It’s even more of a crucial question for older people and doctors. Rural areas are less accessible, and that’s something we have to work on.

One way to respond would be by creating a public service where everyone can act as someone’s driver – a kind of Uberification of the neighbours, who could help people in difficulty to get around. It would also be possible to create a public mobility agency in isolated areas that would facilitate journeys, or help you travel that last kilometre. These are all things we’re thinking about. What’s important here isn’t data, but simplification.

How could we be sure this would work?

Cities need to adopt a test-and-learn mindset. It’s okay if it doesn’t work—the people and the government should be able to forgive them. The key thing is to try to make people’s lives easier.

What are three changes you think we’ll see in the next three years?

First off, using and understating data is the key to the future. City organisation is going to change, or cities will start linking up with others. Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who can understand and decipher these changes. Next is renewable energy. We’re planning to spend a lot more time looking not at how to store energy, but how to use and reuse it intelligently, for example within a closed-circuit. And last, I’d say it’s the ability to predict. Predicting needs through artificial intelligence. It won’t be Big Brother or Minority Report, instead, analysis will be based on predictable patterns that will help simplify people’s daily lives, and anticipate their needs and issues.

What’s the next project you’re working on?

We’re starting to think about the future of online shopping and delivery. How do we redesign the system to reduce its carbon impact? To do this, we’ll be asking people about their shopping habits and delivery preferences via surveys or studies led by research institutes. We’re looking at things like creating a collection hub for online purchases, simplifying pick-ups, and how to avoid having delivery vans making useless trips.

What’s your dream smart city?

I dream of a smart city where all the services and technology I need are invisible, but accessible in some way or another. The perfect smart city will predict what I need so that I don’t have to go get it myself. The city must run simply and smoothly for all in order to make life easier. If my children are going to school, I need to know the travel options in advance. Services could offer older people simple, non-intrusive solutions, or ask them if they need help with anything. The perfect smart city would let me handle all paperwork via smartphone. Overall, a smart city isn’t just about creating a hub for technology and apps, it’s about making admin, transport, public functions, and relationships simpler and more fluid.

 

Interview by Vincent Thobel, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyright: Joonas-Sisask

shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively

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shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively

For most, the term ‘shared mobility’ immediately brings to mind the practice of car-sharing but in reality, its scope and ambitions are much larger. From questions of inclusion, to the reduction of greenhouse gases, to rethinking the way we innovate, in this interview, future mobility and open innovation expert Judit Batayé explains how shared mobility will help build better transport in the future.

  • connectivity
  • design
  • energy transition
  • shared mobility

In light of social distancing measures introduced during the pandemic, the idea of sharing seems to have taken a backseat for now. What consequences has the pandemic had on shared mobility and carpooling?

As a member of the board of directors for Som Mobilitat (a vehicle-sharing cooperative based in Catalonia), I got to experience this crisis from the inside. We’d experienced tremendous growth over the last two years, and overnight, everything collapsed with the lockdown. Between March and May, we experienced a brutal 85% drop in reservations.

This period also taught us a lot. We of course increased health and safety measures by putting gel and masks in every shared vehicle, and by airing out each one between uses—but what this crisis also provided was a lesson in community solidarity. Very quickly, we made vehicles including the Renault ZOE available to health professionals so that they could travel to and from the hospital more easily.

We also gained important insight into general public feeling. Though lockdown was a difficult time, we noticed that the public nevertheless seemed to appreciate having a city that was less crowded and less polluted, as much in terms of sound and visual pollution as in terms of CO2 emissions.

This kind of clean city is something shared mobility can help make possible. We’re contributing to it with low-emission vehicles and optimised trips. We think this experience should motivate local councils to adopt shared mobility policies in the future.

judith bataye
Judit Batayé, future mobility expert

We tend to think of shared mobility in terms of connecting people — but could we say that the future of shared mobility depends more on successful data-sharing than on sharing between people?

Absolutely. Creating efficient shared transport is largely a question of how to handle data in order to make trips as fluid as possible. The goal is to arrive at a real MaaS (Mobility as a Service) model in which you can easily share information, book vehicles, or even calculate the best way to get from point A to point B (in terms of travel time or environmental impact), using a mix of public transport, private transport, and the other complementary services available. This is not a new model: it was invented in 2006 by a Finnish man named Sampo Hietanen, who describes it as “the Netflix of mobility.” But putting it in place can be complex sometimes due to the data-sharing that’s required to develop these kinds of services. I’d nevertheless say that there are many projects being developed that indicate things are going in the right direction.

Creating efficient shared transport is largely a question of how to handle data.

If I had to highlight one in particular, it would be the test project Renfe as a Service (RaaS), an A-Z mobility experience that allows you to access all Renfe services (Spain’s national railway company) alongside third-party services within a single app. By making multiple mobility services available, you make the user journey more efficient to and from train stations. By sharing data, we can create a truly integrated system that makes passenger mobility truly fluid. I think we have to move towards this model of data integration.

Your consulting firm Six-Ter champions the idea of a sharing economy that fosters inclusion using the principles of a social solidarity economy. Could you give us some examples of how shared mobility contributes to inclusion?

I think that the idea of inclusion underpins the sharing economy philosophy. Once again, there are many projects I could cite, but I’m a particular fan of what Taxistop is doing in Belgium by making social solidarity initiatives an integral part of their objectives, whether in terms of housing or mobility. I could also cite Mobicoop, a company that’s bringing transport services to the populations and places that need the most.

And in a larger sense, I think that technological advances like self-driving vehicles will also help contribute to greater inclusion. I still remember my 72-year-old mother’s reaction upon discovering Waymo and its self-driving car service. She was extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities a service like that could offer her.

By reducing the number of vehicles per person in service, the very nature of the sharing economy can help us reduce our environmental impact. What else is the shared mobility sector doing to take this even further?

To have real environmental impact, shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively, and involve all key players: cities, infrastructure, manufacturing… but also all the different sectors that are linked to mobility: delivery services, ports… Everything is interconnected. Shared mobility is a collective pursuit—and each link in the chain has to work towards sustainability. If, for example, infrastructure makers decide not to get involved, manufacturers won’t have enough reason to develop electric-powered services.

To have real environmental impact, shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively.

Returning to the example of delivery services, in Barcelona, the growing number of “Amazon-type” deliveries taking place is creating real congestion issues. So logistical solutions like building more pickup points can help reduce traffic and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Logistical optimisations like these are also a part of shared mobility.

It’s clear that working together is essential, and that such efforts will require a kind of collective coordination — if only to avoid ‘silo-thinking’ in which everyone works alone on their own solution. How do we encourage this?

I very much believe in mobility hubs. For me, they’re the best way to encourage open innovation that truly involves all parties. There are already several exciting projects like this underway—for example Railgroup, the most innovative cluster in my opinion, which is a perfect example of how to apply the principles of open innovation. In Europe, I could cite EIT Urban Mobility, which is made up of 40 members (cities, public transport providers, universities…) that work together to envision the future of mobility. Here in Barcelona, industrial actors come together at Cámara de Comerç de Barcelona to invent future mobility systems. And the Barcelona Global consortium — a group of the most important companies in the region who are working to promote a new model of mobility that’s more sustainable, safe, efficient, and inclusive. In their manifesto, they presented policy leaders with 15 concrete mobility solutions, from parking projects, to the use of big data, to an overhaul of public transport. So, I think that the future of mobility will have to be shared.

Not only in the sense of sharing between the final users, but in the sense of sharing the design and ideation process, too.

About Judit Batayé

  • Over 20 years of experience working on innovation projects in the mobility sector
  • Director of Six-Ter, a consulting firm focused on social innovation and sustainable mobility.
  • Member of OuiShare, advising on themes related to the future of sustainable mobility
  • Co-founder of COVIDWarriors, a non-profit organisation working to accelerate social, technological, and health-related projects that address the current crisis

 

Interview by Jérémy Lopes, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyrights: Kaspars Upmanis via Unsplash, DR

speeding up the development of sustainable mobility through behaviour sciences

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speeding up the development of sustainable mobility through behaviour sciences

When choosing our methods of transport, we’re anything but rational. That’s the thinking behind the work of Professor Jinhua Zhao, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher who believes behavioural science can help cities create and develop more sustainable mobility systems.

  • connectivity
  • design
  • energy transition

REBOOT 1: developing new forms of mobility with the help of behavioural science

According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, transport is the number-one source of greenhouse gas emissions in France. This places urgent pressure on decision-makers and leaders in the mobility sector to propose alternative solutions and create a more sustainable transport network. What if behavioural science was the key to making the change? From French research campus Paris-Saclay to MIT, more and more researchers are asking this question…

“The main part of my own thinking is the recognition that transportation systems are half physical infrastructure, and half human beings,” says Jinhua Zhao, director of MIT’s JTL Urban Mobility Lab. And yet, over the last decades, transport decision-makers have mostly focused on pursuing technological advances and diversifying urban transport services, without giving much consideration to how passengers actually behave. Transport providers tend to assume that passengers are strictly rational when it comes to their daily commutes, and so the majority of transport systems are built on the idea that people base their travel decisions on journey time and cost.

And yet, this normative approach has had little effect on changing user behaviors. “It seems necessary to take behavioural science, and particularly social psychology, into greater account in order to create solutions that will lead to a lasting change in transport decisions,” wrote Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz in 2019. “People make decisions in all sorts of different ways,” says Professor Zhao in an MIT article entitled What moves people? “The notion that people wake up and calculate the utility of taking the car versus taking the bus — or walking, or cycling — and find the one that maximises their utility doesn’t speak to reality.”

REBOOT 2: encourage citizens to change their behaviour

Given all this, precisely what data should transport providers be focusing on to help them develop more sustainable mobility systems? After 20 years of teaching and research at MIT in particular, Zhao’s work now revolves around three main themes: the emotional aspects of transport, how these apply to mobility design, and how mobility relates to public policy. It’s an innovative approach that has helped him better understand, among other things, the success of multimodal travelcards, the impact of off-peak prices on crowding, the consequences of the sense of pride felt by many car owners, and even how discriminatory attitudes around race and class may affect people’s preferences around ride-sharing.

Used strategically, this data could provide multiple opportunities to anticipate, and thus modify user behaviour. “Each of the different disciplines within the social sciences can help us understand behaviour, identify and anticipate blocks, and shape the transition to more sustainable forms of mobility. Nevertheless, for them to be most effective, they need to be combined,” writes Anaïs Rocci, a specialist in the evolution of mobility practices, for a conference organised by Paris-Saclay entitled “New forms of mobility through the lens of the social sciences”.

REBOOT 3: inspiring future public policies on mobility

Faced with certain value systems still deeply-rooted in society — for example, car ownership as a status symbol — will, or should, local authorities be able to use this data to create more transparent, inclusive, and sustainable mobility systems? “We are at the dawn of the most profound changes in transportation: an unprecedented combination of new technologies, such as autonomy, electrification, computation and AI, and new objectives, including decarbonization, public health, economic vibrancy, data security and privacy, and social justice,” says Jinhua Zhao. He continues: “The timeframe for these changes — decarbonization in particular — is short in a system with massive amounts of fixed, long-life assets and entrenched behavior and culture.” Naturally, he jumped at the chance to enact transport policy reforms within MIT — including offering fully-subsidised public transport for employees, and making changes to campus parking fees. As a result, single-occupant car use has fallen, and employees report increased overall satisfaction. Could this be the future of transport policy for the rest of us?

 

Sarah Sabsibo, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyrights: Ishan, Tom Chen

from space conquest to electric flying

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from space conquest to electric flying

A few years from now, electric-powered aerial cars may begin zipping through the air. Anita Sengupta, a leading figure in spatial engineering and alumnus of both NASA and Hyperloop, is working on how to democratise them. But there are lots of challenges to overcome before aerial mobility becomes a reality…

  • connectivity
  • design
  • electric vehicle
  • energy transition

A new kind of road map for the mobility sector has been published across the Atlantic. The World Economic Forum and the city of Los Angeles laid out seven principles for ethical urban air mobility. Is this the last step before we’ll be able to get around cities… through the air? In any case, interest in the aerial transport sector is building: transport builders and manufacturers are seeking out more partnerships and increased funding, working to improve technology, and are well on their way to turning the sky into a new space for clean, quiet transport.

CHALLENGE 1: democratising urban air mobility

After 20 years spent developing the technology that’s allowed us to explore Mars, asteroids, and deep space and earning a PhD in ion research from NASA, Anita Sengupta worked at Virgin Hyperloop as Vice President of Engineering Systems. Her impressive career path paved the way for the creation of Airspace Experience Technologies, which she co-founded. Based in Detroit, A.K.A. The Motor City, and historic capital of the American automobile industry, this startup is working to design the future of aerial mobility.

According to the Roland Berger consulting group, this sector will be worth 80 billion dollars per year by 2050: “To start with, we think aerial services will be quite highly-priced and exclusive, but in the longer term as operating costs evolve, it will be more like today’s premium public transport services, such as taxis,” says Manfred Hader, director of Roland Berger’s aerospace and defense practice. These taxis are exactly what Sengupta is working on. This certified rocket scientist promises we’ll have on-demand flying cars that will get you to your destination five times faster for the same price as an Uber ride—and in just a few years from now.

CHALLENGE 2: solving the economic equation of the car of the future

Safer, cleaner, and quieter than helicopters, these flying vehicles would also be capable of carrying more passengers. The result, according to British consulting firm Ayming, is that more than 100 companies are currently working on the development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts. These include Sengupta’s company, which joined forces with global aircraft manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems to develop Mobi-One, a quiet, eco-friendly aerial transport vehicle that will be able to carry up to five people at a time.

Their goal is to mass-produce vehicles and minimise costs before Mobi-One arrives on the market. The first challenge aerial vehicle makers will face is how to commercialise these futuristic mobility services. Flying is expensive: Japanese company SkyDrive is planning to sell its two-seater VOLT, scheduled to arrive in 2023, at anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. German startup Volocopter offers 15-minute rides for $354. And then there’s the question of energy storage. Specialists say that achieving the level of battery autonomy necessary to run vehicles like these will require us to develop new, higher-cycle lithium-ion batteries. Both engineers and cities are also concerned about security: how do you avoid collisions and traffic jams in the air? According to an article featuring Sengupta in the Financial Times, “They would not be crowded with air taxis zooming along in proximity… aerial taxis would need to be properly spaced for safety… with ‘an airspace bubble’ around them in case of emergency. Take-off times would be regulated, possibly by an air traffic control system that would have human overseers as long as safety considerations required it, before eventually becoming autonomous.”

anita sengupta
Anita Sengupta, spatial engineering specialist

CHALLENGE 3: registering the aerial car in the regulations

Further challenges exist in this space race around safety certification and infrastructure. What kinds of standard regulations should apply to eVTOLs? Where will they take off and land in large cities full of skyscrapers? And that’s all to say nothing of what the public’s enthusiasm will be for transport like this. “Generally speaking, the use of urban airspace means there will be less pollution and a more pleasant environment for pedestrians,” predicts Sengupta. It’s a strong argument that could help convince everyday citizens to climb aboard an aerial electric taxi in the future, from an engineer who likes to regularly remind people that “the sky is not the limit—only the beginning.”

 

Sarah Sabsibo, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyright: Lloyd Horgan, iflyasx.com