Changing attitudes, not just modes

For better or worse, the car changed mobility forever. Now, as the tide begins to turn against car ownership in favour of mobility services, private and public transport companies are jointly responsible for increasing ridership levels.

Renault, BMW, Volkswagen: these are just three of some of the world’s largest car manufacturers who in the last six months have announced the launch of mobility services that centre around either car- or ride-sharing.

At the very least, this shows some good intent from car manufacturers to affect the mobility market in a way that doesn’t involve car ownership. However, it’s arguable that their only reason for doing so is to diversify their businesses in a world where global governments are working to outlaw petrol and diesel vehicles in favour of pure electric.

When all-electric is the norm, the initiative to encourage a modal shift must be led as much by car manufacturers as transport companies. The big question is whether or not these manufacturers, for the greater good, shall willingly discourage their primary market from buying cars, and instead persuade them to use shared services.

While it is difficult to imagine a scenario where car manufacturers move away from the market they’ve primarily served for the last 100 years, it’s my opinion that there can be no more effective way to change the attitudes of car owners, and increase ridership in the public transport space.

Indeed, urban transit is in a state of flux, but given the rise in popularity of ride-sharing services, and in an effort to reduce urban congestion and pollution, so is the automobile industry. The two are growing closer together and there are already some demonstrations of collaboration between the two sectors in developing new services: Uber have penned a deal with Volvo for more than 20,000 autonomous vehicles for their automated ride-sharing service; and Via, who so far look the most focused on partnering with public transport companies, have partnered with Mercedes-Benz to provide shared rides in conjunction with Berlin’s public transit authority, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe.

As the two industries continue to develop new services, they must also work to align on a common message for passengers: ridership, not ownership. Such an about face from car manufacturers is unlikely to occur any time soon, but as you know, the future is never as far away as you think, and the time to prepare is now.