Op-ed articles

Experts Give Their Opinions on Mobility

Portrait Cécile Maisonneuve
Cécile MaisonneuveChief executive, La Fabrique de la Cité, France

"Urban mobility is undergoing a dramatic transformation shaped by the digital transition as well as increasing environmental awareness."

Getting Around the City of the Future: Urban Mobility Challenges

Urban mobility is undergoing a dramatic transformation, as evidenced by emerging trends such as multimodal mobility, car-sharing, the widening gap between usership and ownership, the slow but quickening move toward vehicle electrification, partnerships between public operators and on-demand mobility service companies and the imminent autonomous vehicle revolution. These trends are being shaped by the digital transition as well as increasing environmental awareness. In this article, Cécile Maisonneuve, Chief Executive of French think tank La Fabrique de la Cité, offers her analysis.

Despite considerable inertia in the field of mobility, the emergence of powerful, digital-related changes has created an impression of accelerating development. Just five years ago, no one had heard of names such as Waze, Citymapper, Uber and Blablacar, or YoTrain in New York and Kappo, the bike app, in Santiago de Chile, or even recent trends like two-wheel delivery of meals and packages. Today, however, they are fully integrated into mobility users’ everyday lives. This Copernican-like revolution in user behavior applies to the mobility of both people and goods. Over the past few years, we have gone from the notion of transportation, focused on infrastructure, to the concept of mobility, focused on users. In France, an initial semantic shift occurred on January 27, 2014 when the MAPTAM law aimed at reforming the country’s territorial organization replaced the former urban transportation authority, AOTU, with a new mobility authority called AOM. Then, in June 2017, the plural form “mobilities” entered the vernacular when the public transportation authority for the Greater Paris area, Syndicat des transports d’Ile-de-France, was renamed Ile-de-France mobilités.

Are these rapid changes sufficient to draw up a blueprint for sustainable mobility, one that ensures fluidity of movement and is compatible with our quest to create a city of well-being? Clearly, digital technology offers new services that reveal user behavior trends and allow consumers and mobility service operators to make more appropriate and better informed decisions. But how deeply does it change them? Because, at the same time, people continue to travel more, as can be seen by statistics on the number of kilometers driven per vehicle in the United States. In addition, traffic congestion figures confirm what users already know all too well. In New York City, for example, where competition between on-demand vehicles and public transportation is rife, gridlock is getting worse. According to a recent survey on mobility expectations in Europe conducted jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and Ipsos, Europeans spend a lot of time commuting (almost two hours per day), 65% drive to their place of work or study every day and 58% complain about rush-hour traffic jams.

What these statistics and surveys tell us is that the shift toward dense modes of transportation, such as public transit and full-car travel, has not taken place. Pollution figures bear this out. They also highlight the extreme complexity of the problems that need to be tackled – which aren’t new – beginning with the critical issue of urban traffic congestion. A smart city in which it is impossible to get around is meaningless. For all its revolutionary worth, digital technology is not the only key to providing genuine, future-need-based mobility. The other key lies in the physical world, that is, in urban planning and development. The city of Oslo, for example, has taken a direct shot at private cars by proposing to ban them from the city center.

The situation provides food for thought. No matter how innovative, there’s no magic solution to two contradictory demands: on the one hand, city dwellers’ growing concern about environmental and health issues, and on the other, their constant wish to be able to get around freely. In the future, usage-based mobility services will depend on our ability to combine the tools and players of the digital revolution with efficient and effective initiatives for improving infrastructure, buildings and public spaces. To put it another way, there must be continuous interaction between the physical and digital worlds.

This is in line with what the Europeans who participated in the above-mentioned survey are saying when they express their unwavering optimism in the ability of digital technology to improve everyday mobility, while at the same time exhorting government authorities to invest in roads, urban transportation networks and intermodal connections, not to mention railways and electric vehicle charging stations.



Cécile Maisonneuve is Chief Executive of La Fabrique de la Cité, a French urban-innovation think tank created and supported by the Vinci group. She is also a Senior Advisor at IFRI, a French research institute devoted to international issues, which she previously headed. Her research here focused on European energy policy and energy geopolitics. From 2007 to 2012, she was in charge of forecasting and European and international public affairs at Areva. Cécile began her career in the French National Assembly as a staffer. She is a graduate of École Normale Supérieure and of Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) and holds a degree in history from Université Paris IV-Sorbonne. She has coauthored a biography of Benjamin Franklin (Perrin, 2008) and written various energy-related papers and studies. She is a member of Vox Femina, an association that promotes a higher profile for female experts in the media.


Jean-Pierre Corniou
Jean-Pierre CorniouDeputy CEO of the global management consulting firm SIA Partners

"Over the next 15 years, the automobile will experience more change than it has during its 130-year history."

With more than 1.2 billion vehicles on the road today, and about 90 million rolling off the production line every year, the car is a mass-produced technical product that has become a global phenomenon in 130 years. A useful and desirable object, the automobile also takes up space, consumes energy and produces unwanted emissions. With the threat of crowding and global warmingGlobal warming, also called planetary warming or climate change... looming over the planet, the future of the car will depend on finding solutions to these issues. As automotive and information technology expert Jean-Pierre Corniou explains in this article, the auto industry is pulling out all the stops.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an energy miracle when it comes to cars. Transporting a weight of 1.5 metric tons at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour will always require energy.

For the past ten years, automakers have been fully aware of the need to improve vehicle weight, engine powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... and powertrain efficiency in order to lower fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... consumption and, consequently, reduce emissions of gas pollutants, particulate matter and greenhouse gases, especially CO2See Carbon Dioxid . New models are much more efficient. Average CO2 emissions per kilometer in Europe fell from 132 grams in 2012 to 118 grams in 2016. However, these results still aren’t good enough. The International Energy Agency (IEA)An independent, intergovernmental organization founded within the framework of the OECD... says that average CO2 emissions from new cars in Europe should be reduced to 80 grams per kilometer in 2020 and 60 grams per kilometer in 2025.

Other strategies aimed at curbing emissions include the development of electric and hydrogenThe simplest and lightest atom, the most abundant element in the universe. cars and greater integration of digital technology into the vehicle and its environment.

A Brave New Electric World

In early 2017, electric vehicles (EVs), which were nonexistent in 2010, accounted for a tangible and expanding share (approximately 1%) of the new vehicle segment in the world’s three largest markets: China, the United States and Europe. Growth was at first held back by several factors, including driver concerns about the limited range of the early models (200 kilometers), charging issues, charging station availability, resale value and battery life over time. However, growing familiarity with the concept over the last few years, the expanding number of EVs on the road and the introduction of services like Paris’s Autolib electric car-sharing program have helped to dispel many of their doubts. But most important, in 2016, automakers and their battery-manufacturing partners succeeded in doubling travel range, with 400 kilometers now fairly standard.

Only “pure” electric vehicles are entirely dependent on an on-board battery. The other EVs are equipped with an internal combustion engine (ICE) that allows them to continue running once their batteries are depleted (range extended EVs, plug-in hybrids) and/or recharge their batteries through simultaneous use of the ICE and the electric motor (full hybrid).

The hydrogen car is an EV that produces electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... on board without the use of heavy batteries. It offers the same benefits as other EVs in terms of driving and emissions reduction. The hydrogen fuel cell is particularly well suited for captive fleets, such as taxis, interurban transport logistics, industrial vehicles and coaches.

In the world of EVs, each solution has its strengths and, over time, as their individual merits become more known, the market will decide which one rises to prominence.

An Increasingly Connected Object

To reduce the high number of road fatalities (more than one million deaths per year worldwide) and improve urban traffic flows, the auto industry has begun to equip cars with software on a massive scale, which has led to a powerful rise in mobile, high-performance digital connectivity. Cars are gradually becoming connected objects, and beginning in 2030, with the larger-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles, they will be capable of providing efficient on-demand transportation services.

Over the next 15 years, the auto industry will experience more change than it has during its entire existence. The car of the future, which is being designed today, will be light, electric and largely automated. Operating within a connected, optimized environment, it will be able to offer an enhanced service to the population, while keeping noise pollution to a minimum. This is a major technical challenge that will radically change society’s mobility practices.



A graduate of France’s École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), Jean-Pierre Corniou was Director of Information Systems at Renault and former President of the Club informatique des grandes entreprises françaises (CIGREF). He is currently Deputy CEO of the global management consulting firm SIA Partners. He has written several books on cars and information technology, including 1,2 milliard d’automobiles, 7 milliards de terriens, la cohabitation est-elle possible? (with Marine Corniou, Lignes de Repères Editions, 2012) and Le choc numérique (with the SIA Partners team, Editions Nuvis, 2013). He has also published two reports: see Fondapol-1 and Fondapol-2 (only in French).

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