Summit

The Future of Mobility – Autonomous. Sustainable. Inclusive.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) hold great promise, but they are also a source of heated controversy. Be that as it may, self-driving vehicles are coming. Tech giants such as Alphabet, Uber or Baidu are entering the field, as are old-school car manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford. But hitching the concept of autonomous mobility to public transportation seems to be a far more promising idea from a purely ecological and social standpoint.

STEERING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION – Autonomous driving, electrification and shared mobility are the three major trends that are shaping the future of mobility. Macif in France has set up a community of interest on the subject as part of the Movin’On ecosystem. The goal is to seize the moment early in the game and help steer the fledgling industry in a positive direction. Taking the bull by the horns, the community of interest is intent on promoting a type of autonomous mobility that is exciting, safe, practical, economical, sustainable and inclusive.

MOBILITY FOR ALL, AUTONOMY FOR ALL The Macif Community of Interest now includes 12 major companies that want to ensure that AVs contribute to the emergence of a more inclusive and sustainable mobility: BNP Paribas Cardif, Deloitte, Faurecia, Groupama, Kantar, Macif, Maif, Michelin, Microsoft, Orange, Sncf and Vinci. It brings together a wide network of researchers, experts, practitioners and elected officials who are helping to open up the debate around AVs.

BRIDGING SOCIAL AND REGIONAL DIVIDES – Mobility is at the crossroads of many major issues. Not only is it a key ecological driver, but it is also a powerful tool in the fight against social and regional divides. While autonomous mobility is generally associated with city driving, commuters in suburban and rural areas are usually left in the cold. So far, the subject of autonomous mobility has been broached through the lens of technology and urban transit. But in France today, some 15 million people are constrained in their travel, while 77% of people living in rural areas say they can’t access public transport on foot.

The economic, social, regional and mobility divides are intertwined. This situation also raises questions about social integration and access to employment. As urban sprawl continues to intensify, especially in the upcoming post-pandemic age, people will seek more affordable housing in suburbs or in the countryside, since they’ll be able to work or sleep in the vehicle on their commute. Taking a shared shuttle reduces the number of vehicles on the road, which helps relieve traffic and ultimately makes transportation more affordable for everyone.

The potential contribution of autonomous vehicles to mobility in rural and suburban areas is often presented as being out of step with the industrial and the economic ambitions of the major players in the sector. Rural areas are a blind spot in the thinking on AVs.

A SOURCE OF HOPE – Transit costs are the main barrier to mobility. The current situation illustrates the urgent need to think about a form of sustainable mobility that facilitates social and regional inclusion. The developments underway involving autonomous vehicles are therefore a reason for hope. In the long term, they could increase mobility within regions, facilitate the mobility of the most vulnerable populations, help improve access to employment, reinvigorate business and social activity in city centers, and accelerate the ecological transition.

MEETING THE NEEDS OF UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS – Deployed in an intelligent and judicious manner, autonomous vehicles could contribute to the emergence of a more inclusive form of mobility, by promoting the mobility of those who are excluded from it, including the elderly, the disabled, people with reduced mobility, and inhabitants of suburban and rural areas who are dependent on the automobile and have no access to public transport. For this reason, the development of AVs must be considered in the light of the services and uses that could be useful to these types of populations. Moreover, autonomous vehicles should not be considered competitors of the automobile, especially in rural and suburban areas. On the contrary, they should complement existing systems and offer a new mobility solution to underserved populations.

SHARING IS CARING With regard to the emergence of a more sustainable form of mobility, AVs can contribute to the fight against solo car uses and encourage the development of shared transport. Certain types of autonomous present a certain number of risks for the environment, notably an increase in traffic density and an intensification of urban sprawl. Their environmental impact will vary greatly depending on the way they are deployed. The widespread use of individual AVs is the riskiest scenario, while the introduction of autonomous public transport systems would significantly limit the environmental impact of mobility. The regulatory strategies to be deployed by public authorities will thus play a key role in promoting the emergence of a virtuous scenario in this regard.

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE & INCLUSIVE MOBILITY

On the strength and relevance of its observations, the Community’s work currently focuses on understanding the role of regions in the development of autonomous mobility through a concrete experiment of a replicable model in a sparsely populated area, designed to make sure that AVs can achieve real progress for society.

For the good of the many rather than the few, the future of mobility will be autonomous, sustainable, and inclusive.

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