Vignette one paints our most hopeful future. We asked experts from a variety of backgrounds how the future of transportation will play out in this best-case timeline?
Transit was in decline virtually everywhere in the country before the pandemic. It was even beginning to decline in New York. Traditional transit is not likely to come back in significant amounts. Just the words “social distancing” make it impossible.
The biggest change in transportation will be people working at home, full time, part time, or working in in less expensive, more socially-distanced offices where people can, say, drive 10 minutes. Longer term, the thing that would probably work best would be solar-powered, self-cleaning, autonomous vehicles. People will have to drive less.
There’s this idiotic idea that we have here in California where we’re saying, “We have to stop people driving no matter what they’re driving.” OK, so we’re going to force all development into the already most expensive, most congested areas? And by the way, when you put yuppies and or hipsters or whatever you want to call them in areas which used to be inhabited by poorer people, guess what happens? Transit ridership drops because these people don’t take transit, whereas the people they replace did until they were forced to get cars when they moved. Then those people end up buying cars. We have to think about this in terms of geography and how we lay cities out and where we put jobs.
Author, urban theorist
The coronavirus, corresponding pandemic status, and following social isolation period have drastically changed our lives, our practices, and also our consumer culture. The friction between utopia-dystopia narratives shapes up our lifestyles, moods, and mindsets, as well as our vision of the future. Pre-COVID-19, the fluidity of home and work — with overlapping, shifting, and dynamic boundaries and meanings — has already been changing the meanings around and about cars. Cars have started to embody and extend the meanings of home: privacy, cleanliness, and security. With COVID-19, the social-distancing routines have perpetuated these meanings about and around cars as a safe and private place. In the future, this dynamic will persist, transforming the car into an entertainment and lifestyle space. Several brands are already trying to capitalize on the free time and freed-up hands that drivers would have in autonomous cars. Soon, the automobile will become an economic agent that earns, saves, and spends money and takes part in the automation workforce. Yet, the future of the car hinges on the evolution and maturation of several other technologies. Its performance will be dependent on the performance of the other technologies in this interdependent technological ecosystem (5G, Internet of Things, signaling, smart city, mobile technologies, etc.). Cars will get more autonomous and smarter because of their connections with other smarter technologies like smart cities, and smart signaling systems. But cars will also be getting more autonomous as their parts become smarter and connected (tires, mirrors, front window, etc.). Tires will be a very important part of the future of the car as they are the boundaries between the car and the other systems (roads, signals, etc.). The future will bring us 3D movement in transportation, and also multiskilled tires.
Senior trend strategist, Mintel
Universal virus tests make all types of transport safe and people flock back onto subways, planes, trains and buses. The broad exposure to bikes and moves by cities to become more bike-friendly stoke micro-mobility, keeping more cars off the road. It’s a win-win all around. Controlling the virus removes stigma from regional travel and makes it safe for New Yorkers to flee to Florida for sun. The U.S. transportation infrastructure gets the massive overhaul it so richly deserves. Companies use stimulus bucks to create and propagate tech-enablement of transportation—for improved safety and paving the way for autonomous to operate with faster data connectivity. The stimulus also rewards battery production as an essential national industrial priority and the cost of electric vehicles plunges, driving further adoption. Transportation employment quickly rebounds to previous levels and beyond. Autonomous vehicles are enabled on a wide scale but it turns out they create more jobs than they kill through new services and new capabilities unlocked by the shift. Amazon deploys drones which kill delivery jobs but create far more secondary and tertiary jobs as drone fleets multiply and create entirely new business use cases and economies of transportation scale. After the elections, the winning president recognizes that borrowing at effectively negative interest rates to improve transit infrastructure is a no-brainer due to the long term economic benefits accrued by high function transportation in a country.
Author, futurist, technology leader
In this scenario, we are bullish on a V-shaped recovery for automotive sales which could limit the major loss to sales volume through Q2. Here, automotive manufacturers and the government come together to provide attractive incentives to maintain demand, including 0% financing, protection against job loss, deferred payments, plus free services such as connected car features and Wi-Fi. Consumer confidence returns rapidly when they see and experience unemployment rate declines and the economy opening up again. Manufacturers open up factories and ramp up production and work with the supply chain to restore the supply needed to meet and beat the demand for the American consumer. We see demand and interest for the most popular segments to be restored, and even stronger demand for battery-electric vehicles and vehicles with advanced driver-assist safety features and autonomous / self-driving features.
Ipsos US Automotive Quality Practice Leader
As cities come back to life anew, dedicated spaces are being created throughout our cities for pedestrians, bikes, scooters, outdoor dining, etc. This is being created through cooperation of our cities and local businesses to enable safe social distancing to enjoy the unique landscape of our cities, including local restaurants and shops.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new opportunities to push the status quo and re-think how transportation is done. This includes getting to and from the city. We are seeing new investment in intracity lanes to autonomous-only vehicles to enable safe, efficient and productive traveling for commuters. These dedicated lanes can be used at night by autonomous delivery vehicles to efficiently transport goods without causing increased congestion on our U.S. freeways. The future “winners” will be those that embrace this change and prepare services for this new mobility future.
Senior vice president, Ipsos Auto & Mobility
As the economy opens and those consumers who were furloughed or laid off get back to work, we will see unemployment drop. The second round of stimulus money will provide the needed resources to enable consumers to get back to normal and fill the gap of the lost income of the last few months. Consumer confidence will be restored and spending will shift beyond the necessities and include large purchases such as homes, automotive and large durables. Consumers will also get out and enjoy entertainment again, including movies, concerts, sporting events and will be planning for vacation season. But in our data, we already see a shift in how they do that. We see people moving toward road trips to rural and scenic destinations. Creating safe rest areas—perhaps in a public/private partnership with auto companies—will enable the confidence people need to get out on the road again. Drive-in and drive-through options will increase even for events like concerts and movies.
Senior vice president, Ipsos Automotive Advisory