What Does Mobility Look Like in the Age Post COVID-19?
When we think about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on society, one area that has been perhaps overlooked is mobility. After all, during lockdowns across the world, people simply weren’t going out. Public transportation was highly limited or even shut down entirely. And with nowhere to go, fewer people were out on the road.
This had an interesting impact: Global CO2 emissions temporarily dropped by 17 percent! If you went for a daily walk at that time, you probably noticed first-hand that the air seemed cleaner. Unfortunately, as restrictions eased, the number of drivers on the roads seems to have increased while capacity of public transport systems has been somewhat limited to 15 – 35 percent of pre-pandemic volume.
It makes sense, though, given that social distancing in public transportation is far more challenging than being an individual or a family in a car. But this should be seen as a challenge that we work to overcome through design. In today’s world, mobility in a city is generally seen as a negative experience, with people reporting feeling uncomfortable using public transportation.
And yet, mobility remains a key investment for cities around the world, providing jobs, economic opportunity, and inclusivity for those with disabilities and with lower economic resources.
So how can we reinvigorate mobility in a post-COVID world?
Surely, this pandemic will not be the last of its kind. The future of mobility will rely on creating an experience that’s safe, efficient, environmentally friendly, and most of all, enjoyable.
But we also have to remember that mobility can apply to goods as well as people.
That includes grocery, fast food, and product deliveries, all of which have continued to explode during the pandemic.
We often see this as separate from public transportation,
but transportation and logistics systems must resonate each other
if we are to embrace the new world that the pandemic has forced us into.
Fortunately, the technology needed to achieve mobility goals is quickly maturing and becoming available. Specifically, the recent advancements in automation and semi-autonomous transportation systems have huge potential to remake and re-envision mobility in both dense urban areas as well as sparser rural communities.
At the same time, other technologies that impact our experiences can be assimilated into mobility. For example, the multi-user video game industry mixes reality and digital experiences in elegant and meaningful ways, and can be used to create mobility experiences that enable a deeper awareness of our surroundings.
What’s more, smart phones and location-based technologies can help us optimize transportation networks and traffic flows, while also providing a completely touchless system that’s far safer than what is generally available now.
While these ideas might seem like pie in the sky right now,
they’re achievable with vision, dedication, and inspiration.
Whatever the result, it’s clear that mobility needs to de-commodify the experience and reintroduce personalization and comfort.
It will take a variety of skills and talents, and input from multiple parties, but the goal should be common: Create a system that is reliable, resilient, responsible, manageable, and—perhaps most importantly—enjoyable.
David Carvalho – SVP Experience Design & Industrial Design