The technological world is full of innovations, ideas and solutions to improve our current transportation needs. This makes our future an exciting one when it comes to urban mobility, but how can we prepare for these changes? There are many potentially disruptive forces within the mobility space which could negatively impact the environment. One initiative called MIT Energy (MIT) is carrying out a study to examine how developments in technology, fuel, infrastructure, policy and consumer preference will influence mobility of the future. The aim of the ‘Mobility of the Future’ survey is to understand more about the movement of people and how technology can be designed to improve it. 43,000 participants across 50 countries have already participated which has measured perceptions and attitudes towards vehicle technologies, mobility services and regulations. This is part of MIT’s five year Plan for Action on Climate Change.
Founded in 2006, MITEI’s ( @mitenergy ) mission is to advance low- and no-carbon emissions solutions that will efficiently meet growing global energy needs while minimising environmental impacts, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating climate change. Within MIT, the organisation aims to unite those with an interest in energy, and provide opportunities including funding opportunities student-led energy groups and thought leaders across the energy spectrum.
“We look forward to sharing findings that we hope will inform industry, city planners, and government policies.”
MITEI has organised a multidisciplinary team from across MIT to examine the complex interactions among these elements and their implications for the future. The study team will explore the potential for widespread deployment of advanced powertrains, such as advanced internal combustion engines, hybrid-electric vehicles, all-electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. The study will also examine the consequences of using electricity and fuels such as natural gas, e-fuels, biofuels, and hydrogen to power these vehicles.
While there is a particular focus on the U.S., E.U., and China, data collection for the study is global in scope. Dalia Research, a Berlin-based mobile research company, is contributing to the study and has already completed surveys with 43,000 participants from across 50 countries.
“It is well recognised that transportation is the most challenging economic sector to decarbonise,” says Robert Armstrong, director of MITEI and a professor of chemical engineering. “Our three-year ‘Mobility of the Future’ study is tackling complex questions of how technology advances, consumer choice, new business models, and government policies could change the trajectory of mobility to fundamentally alter the carbon intensity of the future transportation system.”
Other areas of focus will include research into new mobility business models such as ride hailing and car sharing, and demographic changes such as greater urbanisation and the growing middle class in many developing countries. Researchers will use agent-based modelling systems to examine how people travel in metropolitan areas and how these consumers’ mode choice decisions are influenced by congestion and government policies. These decisions depend on many factors including city characteristics, infrastructure, personal income, travel needs, and availability of options including personal car, bicycle, public transportation, and ride hailing services. The team will also gather data to better understand people’s attitudes regarding car ownership and usage, and how these attitudes vary across different cultures and age groups.
The study has been fully supported by energy, automotive, and infrastructure companies who are providing industry perspectives on mobility problems that require solutions. Sponsors include Alfa, Bosch, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Ferrovial, General Motors, Saudi Aramco, Statoil, and Toyota Mobility Foundation.
“The ‘Mobility of the Future’ study brings together academia and industry to identify the most compelling questions about the future of mobility and define scenarios that we will simulate with our modelling tools to understand the consequences,” says William H. Green, a professor of chemical engineering who is the study’s faculty chair. “We look forward to sharing findings that we hope will inform industry, city planners, and government policies.”
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