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Movin' On: Transportation Trascendence

by James Messeder | Feb 08, 2019

I get in my car every day and I ask myself: Really? Is this the best we can do? Is this as good as it gets? There’s got to be a better way.

I am at the age where driving is a dangerously unconscious activity – this is just a decade or two before driving for me may become simply dangerous. Of course, driving a car in the U.S. is a uniquely dangerous activity with more than 100 people killed by cars on U.S. roadways every day.

To the North, in Canada, fewer than six people are dying each day with an overall highway fatality rate per 100,000 residents nearly half that of the U.S. Canada is not the safest place to drive a car in the world – that honor goes to places such as Sweden, Iceland and the United Kingdom – but Canada may be the ideal location to debate the future of transportation. Michelin will be facilitating that discussion in two weeks in Montreal at Movin’ On 2017.

https://movinon.michelin.com/en/ - Movin' On 2017 Edition

Canada is second only to Germany in the enthusiasm expressed by its population for car sharing, so it is appropriate that Michelin is holding its nearly 20-year-old Bibendum Challenge event – renamed Movin’ On – in Montreal, June 13-15. The time has never been better for an in-depth look at transportation.

Better yet, Movin’ On will consider transportation in the broader context of its impact on society, cities, citizens and the earth. Constituencies represented at the event will include individual Canadian provinces and cities, car makers, car sharing and ride hailing solution providers, airlines, infrastructure provides and public transportation authorities.

The importance of the participation of these constituencies is the need to bring all parties together to better understand the roles each plays in redefining transportation toward some sort of transcendent vision. There is something more. It can get better. We can all do better.

Car sharing is something of a canary in the coal mine offering today - though car sharing itself has been around for more than a decade. There appears to be oxygen available to keep the canaries – car sharing companies - growing and thriving, but perhaps not enough for them to firmly take hold and fundamentally alter the transportation matrix.

Canadian Car Sharing Status

SOURCE: Equiterre, Dusky Energy Consulting

German Car Sharing Status

SOURCE: bcs

The dreams that urban planners have of a transportation landscape transformed by new forms of getting around remain distant. In fact, the dreams of urban planners may be infused with visions of far fewer cars and far more shared, networked and managed vehicle traffic.

Car sharing advocates broadly estimate – based on surveys and other observations – that every single shared car made available to consumers removes as many as 20 cars from the road either from users deferring a vehicle purchase or selling off an extra car. Yet statistics show that car ownership remains stubbornly high with the only significant car ownership mitigation coming from millennials (Seattle is a standout here.) or from economically disadvantaged populations. 

In other words, the only readily identifiable populations choosing not to own cars today are those for whom the expense is too great – young people or those living in high poverty zones. It is for this reason that car sharing is seen as a socially liberating proposition – but thus far its impact on vehicle sales has been minimal.

It is arguable that should car sharing begin to have a negative impact on car ownership for some populations, it might stimulate interest in owning among non-owning populations. In the same way that adding capacity to the roadway infrastructure stimulates vehicle use - recreating traffic problems where expanded capacity was intended to mitigate congestion - car sharing may stimulate interest in car owning.

In this context, the Movin’ On event in Montreal is the ideal venue for this ongoing conversation. Goldman Sachs has just published its own perspective on mobility suggesting that, while people will continue to buy cars, the world is facing peak car at approximately 1.2B vehicles on the road globally.

http://tinyurl.com/y7nnztrw - Rethinking Mobility - Goldman Sachs

With more cars being sold every year – on a trajectory to reach 100M units annually – and with cars lasting longer than ever, the expectation that the global car park will somehow max out at 1.2B is wishful thinking at best. The only scenario that might deliver such an outcome would be if the current discussions in Europe around another round of scrappage initiatives – to remove older and more polluting cars from the road – actually takes hold en masse – an expensive proposition to be sure.

Movin’ On with its attendees, speakers and exhibitors drawn from the rental car industry, airlines, car companies, app developers, regulators, public authorities and infrastructure providers is the ideal platform for getting at the heart of transportation transcendence. Because, really, there has to be a better way.

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