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Mobility: Intelligent, Sustainable & As-a-service

Cities are working towards offering digital, clean, intelligent, autonomous and intermodal mobility, with more walking and cycling spaces, where transport is commonly provided as a service.

This is one area where cities should expect huge disruption. Are you ready for robot taxis? For passenger drones flying in the sky? For tunnels under cities? To give up on your car and embrace transport-as-a-service? What implications will this have for your urban environment?

A transformation in the dynamics of global urban mobility is primarily user-centred. Some major changes to how people move around in cities are already under way, but the trend will accelerate further in the next decade, with electrification, autonomous driving, smart and connected infrastructure, modal diversity and mobility that is integrated, resilient, shared and sustainable – powered by disruptive business models. In response to an ESI Thoughtlab survey, 54 per cent of city leaders admitted that they will rethink mobility and transport in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Less need to travel

It is expected that in general people will travel less than in the past. With new urban planning concepts such as the ‘15-minute city’ promoting compact environments, ‘connected corridors’ and changes in the way that people work, movements within town will decrease substantially. As Jeff Merritt puts it, “That's the future, its lots of options and hopefully less travel every day.” Bicycles, scooters and even walking will increasingly be the preferred options in community neighbourhoods. From Bucharest to Brussels and from Lisbon to Lyon, the coronavirus pandemic has triggered unprecedented investment in cycling around Europe. More than EUR 1 billion has been spent on cycling-related infrastructure and 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) of new bike lanes were rolled out between the beginning of the pandemic and October 2020.2


It is estimated that in 2030, electric vehicles (EVs) will have around 32 per cent of the total market share for new car sales globally.3 But there will be differences between regions. For example Deloitte projections suggest that in 2035, vehicles not powered by internal combustion engines will make up more than 80 per cent of new vehicle sales in China but less than 50 per cent in the USA and between 35 and 55 per cent in Europe, depending on the scenario.

Connectivity and automation

Recent Deloitte research in the United States estimates that by 2040 up to 80 per cent of passenger miles travelled in urban areas could be in shared autonomous vehicles.4 This development will be led by major technology-based companies or the automotive and transport sector and by technology-based start-ups. Solutions such as passenger drones by Ehang and drone delivery by Amazon are making rapid advances. Connectivity and automation will transform the mobility not only of people but also of goods, as logistics companies increasingly use autonomous technology to meet the rising demand for goods. A Deloitte article on autonomous trucks mentions that eight start-ups have raised a collective EUR 1.2 billion for self-driving trucking initiatives, in a move that could revolutionise logistics.5


Cities will also benefit from an increase in on-demand multimodal mobility and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms, such as in Helsinki. For instance, residents will be able to plan and book door-to-door trips digitally, use the same travel card for all transport modes and have access to automated last mile cargo shipment services and end-to-end real-time visibility of freight in transit, with seamless payment models.6 According to Deloitte projections, by 2025 shared driver-driven vehicles will account for more than 10 per cent of miles travelled in the United States.7 A study in 167 cities states that investments in real-time public transport apps and MaaS apps generate high returns8 as smart transport systems can help to reduce unnecessary trips and create asset efficiencies. MaaS and Mobility-on-Demand will also affect corporate mobility. Why not to offer mobility packages to employees instead of a car as part of their benefits package?

Intelligent mobility

With data playing a central role in some of these shifts, customised travel is something that cities will start to deliver - with convergence between all aspects of infrastructure, policy and technology powering the new era of ‘intelligent’ mobility. The value of this mobility is forecast to grow to EUR 850 billion by 2025, representing more than one per cent of global GDP.9 Huge amounts of data open up opportunities for a flexible mobile ecosystem with the capacity to make available solutions that are adaptable and capable of meeting the needs of different segments of the population, such as children, elderly people, families with children and tourists. Just like any company that wishes to operate in a particular market, cities will segment their customers (citizens) in a mobility context and implement strategies for each market segment.

These drivers apply to the transport of both passengers and goods, and will change the urban landscape. Sustainable, smart and resilient mobility is also a pillar of the European Commission Urban Mobility Strategy released in December 2020.10 This document states that in order to achieve a 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050, it will be necessary to prioritise the optimal utilisation of data, a deployment of automated mobility on a large scale and integrated mobility solutions such as connected electronics for multimodal transport.

“It took a pandemic for us to dive in and realise the capabilities of our technology—to prove that we can seamlessly convene individuals across the world and enable productive dialogues, to demonstrate that we can connect with medical professionals from our home without sacrificing quality or privacy. I'd like to see us embrace and further expand access to these technologies, which means travelling less.”

-Jeff Merritt, Head of IoT and Urban Transformation at the World Economic Forum

Innovative urban mobility and planning solutions help to create a convenient, connected, user-friendly and sustainable future.

Improves quality of living and reduces impact on the environment: New mobility models, particularly non-motorised, are being used extensively as a consequence of COVID-19. Cities such as Bogota, Paris, Jakarta, Sydney and Los Angeles created more cycling lanes and walkways in 2020 to provide physically distant travelling when public transport was most affected.11, 12 A C40 study highlighted that enabling next generation mobility (electric vehicles) can reduce emissions by 10 to 25 per cent.13

Reduces congestion and air pollution: A recent study led by ESI ThoughtLab found that smart urban mobility solutions can help cities tackle the problem of traffic congestion. The INRIX 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard14 cited Bogota as the city most affected by traffic congestion, with drivers losing 133 hours per annum. Investment in tech-enabled mobility solutions should therefore be a priority. Ride sharing, combined with a reduction in the number of private cars on the roads, will also contribute to a reduction in congestion– as well as in air pollution and noise.

Enhances convenience for travellers: Smart-safe mobility solutions provide highly data-powered integrated and automated offerings that deliver a better experience for citizens. This also creates a need for intelligent safe-mobility features that safeguard users' data. 15

Saves lives and reduces the number of accidents: Around 1.35 million people die in road accidents each year, with an average of 3,700 deaths each day.16 Low-income countries have less than one per cent of the world’s vehicles but 13 per cent of all deaths. Changes in mobility will reduce the number of deaths.

Fosters a better use of public space: A reduction in the number of rides leads to fewer vehicles on the road and fewer parking spaces. This enables a better use of public space, as it frees up areas for social interaction.

Some critical factors must be taken into account to ensure a successful transition.

  • Approach: Cities should aim to embrace a holistic approach. It is important to understand the total mobility mix and find ways to manage the entire transport system – which is broader than what cities and metropolitan areas are used to. In addition, in order to organise the supply side to fulfil the demand for ’smart mobility’, cities should start small to drive the transition, starting with a minimal viable ecosystem (involving or being led by private sector players) and then adding additional features over time, in an agile approach.
  • Infrastructure: Invest in infrastructure – physical, energy, digital and telecoms – that supports effective transformation. Due to the needed investment (in innovation and technology development, and also in physical and technological infrastructures), technology-based solutions will have a bigger impact in developed economies. Investment will define the leaders and the followers. Additionally, it is important to ensure that investment covers all segments of the population, so that mobility does not create exclusion.
  • Vehicles: A new generation of vehicles is needed — for example robots for the last mile, drones, flying taxis, autonomous trucks, or even the hyperloop. In addition, there should be a resurgence in the use of some existing vehicles, such as motorbikes and bicycles and a strong focus on micro-mobility.
  • Mobility management: Two key elements are the management of assets (infrastructure and vehicles) and management of users / clients (interface with clients, client data and information management), given the citizen-centric approach of the future of mobility.
  • Policies and regulation (governance): Regulation must adapt to the new circumstances. These should cover vehicle security and liability in cases of accidents, data management and privacy, interoperability, connectivity, risk and responsibility and cybersecurity.
Los Angeles, USA

Los Angeles is working towards implementing sustainable and smart mobility solutions. The city aims to reduce air pollution by accelerating the electrification of transport.

  • According to a recent study, LA accounts for about half the electric vehicles in the United States and has committed to having five million electric vehicles by 2030.17
  • LA’s urban mobility plan has a focus on improving the accessibility and environmental friendliness of its public transport system. LA has introduced CNG buses and in July 2020 deployed the first of 40 zero-emission electric buses on its orange rapid line.18The entire LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) bus fleet is expected to be electric by 2030.19

With a target to improve the air quality further, LA launched a Zero Emission 2028 Road Map 2.0 in 2019. The initiative involves advisory partners such as BMW, Tesla, Greenlabs, CSUN, Itron, PCS Energy and others.

“We are committed to help the Greater LA region go further, faster. That's why we are moving toward an additional 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution — through accelerating transport electrification — by the time the world arrives in Los Angeles for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.” - The Transportation Electrification Partnership’s Leadership Group.20

Although not exclusively the result of mobility initiatives, studies show a drop in air pollution in LA by 10.6 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and by another 11.8 per cent between 2018 and 2019.21

In December 2020, the city launched an urban air mobility programme to analyse the issues identified by diverse local stakeholders in the public air space and property rights. The programme is likely to support the development of solutions to build and integrate a community-centred aerial mobility technology with its other multimodal platforms.22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen has been a frontrunner in switching to electric mobility, particularly in its public transport system. In 2017 Shenzhen became the first city in the world to electrify all public (16,000+) buses with a view to cutting emissions, reducing noise pollution and improving air quality.27, 28

The impact of this switch became evident in 2018, when the city recorded some of the cleanest air among all Chinese cities. The average amount of fine particles (PM2.5) in the air throughout 2018 dropped to 26 microgrammes per cubic metre, one of the lowest levels in 15 years. 29

Further building on its aim to boost sustainable mobility, the city announced in January 2019 that 99 per cent of its entire taxi fleet (over 21,000 vehicles) was now electric-powered. 30

The city continues to see an increase in investment by EV car manufacturers. For instance, in May 2020 Volkswagen announced plans to build a new factory near Shenzhen.31

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen has been one of the frontrunners in establishing a strong urban mobility infrastructure with a focus on non-motorised transport.

According to 2020 data, 45 per cent of the city’s inhabitants commuted by bike, travelling around 1.4 million kilometres every day. The city is also the home of the world’s busiest cycle path with around 40,000 cyclists a day32.

A focus on urban mobility solutions has helped Copenhagen to provide affordable mobility to its citizens. For instance the cost of public transport is just 1.83 per cent of average monthly income. Furthermore, 100 per cent of the city's metro rail system is automated to level 3 or 4 of Grade-of-Automation as defined by the IEC 62290-1 standard, making it one of the leading cities for new technology adoption and changing mobility infrastructure.33

Smart and sustainable mobility initiatives are part of the plan to become a carbon neutral city by 2025.

“Transport is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. It is really a sector where we need to ensure a transition to clean systems.”

-Carole Mancel-Blanchard, Member of Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Cohesion & Reforms

Video Interviews


End Notes :

  1. ESI ThoughtLab: Smart City solutions in a riskier world. (2021)
  2. BBC News: Coronavirus: How the pandemic sparked European cycling revolution. (2020)
  3. Deloitte Insights: Electric vehicles; Setting a course for 2030. (2020)
  4. Deloitte University Press: Gearing for change. (2016)
  5. Deloitte Insights: Autonomous trucks lead the way. (2021)
  6. WBCSD: WBCSD releases foundational data-sharing principles for mobility. (2020)
  7. Deloitte University Press: The Future of Mobility: what’s next? (2016)
  8. ESI ThoughtLab: Smart City solutions in a riskier world. (2021)
  9. Deloitte: A data-powered Future of Mobility. (2020)
  10. European Commission: The Transport and Mobility Sector. (2020)
  11. World Economic Forum: A vision for post-pandemic mobility in African cities. (2020)
  12. The Guardian: 'Cleaner and greener': Covid-19 prompts worlds cities to free public space of cars. (2020)
  13. C40 Cities: Green and healthy streets. (2020)
  14. INRIX: INRIX 2020 Traffic Scorecard report.
  15. Deloitte University Press: Securing the future of mobility. (2017)
  16. Association for Safe International Road Travel.
  17. International Council on Clean Transportation: Update on electric vehicle adoption across U.S. cities. (2020)
  18. Metro: Metro Deploys First 60-foot Zero Emission Electric Bus for Revenue Service on the G Line (Orange) in the San Fernando Valley. (2020)
  19. Act News: Los Angeles takes steps to improve air quality and public health. (2020)
  20. Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator: Transportation electrification partnership. (2018)
  21. IQAir: Air quality in Los Angeles. (2021)
  22. Smart Cities World: Los Angeles launches urban air mobility programme. (2020)
  23. Robb Report: Los Angeles Will Be the Next Major City to Launch an Air Taxi Network. (2020)
  24. Evtol: Los Angeles pushes ahead on urban air mobility without Uber. (2020)
  25. International Council on Clean Transportation: Update on electric vehicle adoption across U.S. cities. (2020)
  26. Deloitte: Global Smart Cities Market Study. (2020)
  27. BBC News: The uncertain future for China's electric car makers. (2020)
  28. CBC News: How a shift to electric vehicles is driving change in 'China's Silicon Valley'. (2020)
  29. That's Magazine: Shenzhen Had the Cleanest Air in 15 Years in 2018. (2019)
  30. Giving up gas: China's Shenzhen switches to electric taxis. (2019)
  31. ETEnergyWorld: Costly electric vehicles confront a harsh coronavirus reality. (2020)
  32. Next Visions: Mobility in Copenhagen: Blueprint for Sustainable Cities. (2020)
  33. HERE: Urban Mobility Index. See Copenhagen in motion. (2020)

You may access the links to these sources, where available, on page 148 of the Urban Future with a Purpose study.

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