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The Mobility Revolution Comes to 30A

Posted on Jul 01, 2016 in Moblity Project , July–August 2016 , Transportation

Electrification, robotics and on-demand collaborative consumption are among emerging mobility trends By Lukas Neckermann

There is a fundamental transformation emerging in transport that will change how we will move about. Seaside has the potential to become a leading model of this transformation — much as it did when it became the nation’s first example of new urbanism.

Electrification, robotics and the trend toward on-demand collaborative consumption are transforming our lives, work, relationships, shopping habits and even some of our most central beliefs. In 2014, I dubbed this confluence of trends, The Mobility Revolution. Its three core elements: Zero Emissions, Zero Accidents, and Zero Ownership complement each other and fundamentally question our presumed need (and desire) to own and drive cars.

Starting with Zero Emissions, we can already say that electric motors will gradually replace gas and diesel engines in vehicles (just as the internal-combustion engine replaced carriages). Tesla’s Model S already outsells every other premium manufacturer’s competing vehicles — BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Cadillac need to be very worried. Its launch of the mass-market Model 3 became the largest vehicle launch ever. More than 200 new electric vehicles are planned for launch in the next five years and many traditional manufacturers have already shifted much of their research and development investment toward electric vehicles.

Self-driving vehicle technology is also beyond debate by now; it will be implemented at great speed, with an aim toward Zero Accidents. By 2020, close to 100 percent of new cars will have some self-driving technology installed, after which we will begin to see steering wheels disappear. Autonomous cargo hauling trucks are already being tested throughout Europe and soon, in the U.S. (Florida can be proud of having the first autonomous road works vehicles to hit U.S. streets this year).

Finally, the notion of owning a car is fading. More than 80 percent of America’s population lives in cities and many urban-dwellers are simply opting not to be bound by ownership and the additional cost of cars. Zero Ownership mobility is becoming a reality: car-sharing, ride-sharing, and the availability of on-demand multimodal personal transport options will become as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi. Already 26 percent of Americans would rather be driven by a robot-taxi, rather than buy a new car. Imagine a solution whereby we have (and want) fewer cars, yet achieve greater mobility (especially in old age). Being driven will become a commodity, and owning a car will become an expensive hobby (like horses).

Car manufacturers are already feeling the impact. Each shared vehicle from companies like ZipCar and Car2go replaces eight to 12 purchased cars. Where there are ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, people have begun to give up on the car as their default mode of transport. Taking it a step further: companies like Local Motors are already printing cars in 3D made to order, breaking a design-production-distribution paradigm that has dominated the automobile industry since Henry Ford’s time. In short, having 120 years of experience in the “old” game” (building and selling internal-combustion-engine cars) is no longer a benefit to car manufacturers. Today’s new game is selling electric vehicles to operators and providing mobility solutions. The new players that are defining the future of mobility are Tesla, Apple, Google, Uber, Lyft, NEXT and a raft of foreign players, like BYD, Baidu and moovel.

This mobility revolution will mean that over time, city streets will become less congested, but more accessible and livable. The physical infrastructure that defines our lives will evolve, and city planners and developers are beginning to react. New York, Mexico City and others have pedestrianized busy streets; London, Copenhagen and Seville have built networks of bicycle “superhighways” where cars previously dominated. The Emirate of Dubai has committed to a transport strategy in which one-quarter of trips will be fully on-demand and autonomous. Dublin, Oslo, Helsinki and others have pledged to ban private vehicles from their respective city centers. As a start, developers in cities throughout the U.S. have begun to install electric-bicycle bays, charging points for electric vehicles, and parking areas exclusively for carsharing vehicles. The old notion of providing a particular number of parking spots for residents, employees or shoppers is yielding to providing access to mobility.

And this is where Seaside, and the 30A corridor come into play. Following are a few, but not limited to, conditions that could once again make Seaside (along with the other communities along 30A) a lighthouse of innovation for the country:

• Pressure makes diamonds, in other words, need is the greatest impetus for innovation solutions along the 30A corridor.

• Cities and states nationwide are amending driving regulations, building codes and planning documents in order to come to terms with autonomous vehicles. Yet it was the State of Florida that was among the first in the country to embrace and legally enable driverless vehicles. Furthermore, the geography, demography and the weather in Florida — especially along the Gulf Coast — are well suited to implement autonomous vehicles.

• Technologists and investors are lined up to support Seaside’s next big step: The 30A Mobility Project was initiated by the Seaside Institute and the International Transportation Innovation Center under the leadership of Robert Davis with Joachim Taiber and enjoys robust support; for the second time, contributors from throughout the industry, including IBM, BMW, VW, Panasonic, Proterra and others, have gathered in Seaside to work on solutions that could allow Seaside to lead.

Finally, Seaside has a crucial component for change: passion. Since its founding, Seaside has had a long history of breaking with the status quo; it carries an innovative spirit unlike most any other in the country. While there is surely still a lot to be done to build, develop and implement a new vision for mobility along the 30A corridor, it’s worth dreaming big — together.

Lukas Neckermann, author of “The Mobility Revolution,” is an advisor, keynote speaker and entrepreneur with a focus on transforming mobility.