This week at Loughborough London, we have been working on the Future of Automative industry, looking at the trends, mega trends and weak signals, a fascinating topic where a lot of things are going on.
The electric car, the self driving car, the self driving bus are already here. But infrastructure is not yet and continued and increased investment will be necessary. Trials are already happening on the reliability and robustness of the technology involved, and at the same time questions are being addressed about the changes in legislation required, and the business models that could help bring self-driving vehicles to market. At Aalto University in Finland you can get on the driverless white bus, but the driver still has to be present as legislation hasn't caught up yet.
But new transportation models may not involve four wheels at all. A startup called Gogoro has sold 15,000 of its electric scooters in Taipei, Taiwan, and keeps them on the road with hundreds of battery swap stations. They are also operating a scooter-sharing service in Berlin, Germany with Bosch as a partner.
So many questions are being asked, true to a saying featuring on the wall of the third floor of London campus: "Knowledge is having the right answer, intelligence is asking the right questions". And boy, the questions are coming, what will it be like to have driven and driverless cars sharing the road, will there be special lanes, different speed limits, will you be allowed to drink and use the phone when your car drives by itself, will road transport become a utility, something that can be bought by volume, like gas, electricity and water, will people need and choose to own a car ( BTW, our family sold the car and have been relying on UBER, a lot cheaper and more convenient).
Technology is indeed the big push but not the only one. Questions are emerging by looking at combination of trends at the intersection of technology with demography, globalisation, society and resources, like population increase and traffic, ageing societies and mobility, move from rural to urban and commuting, depletion of resources and new types of energy, new technology and changing behaviour, connectivity /automation and hacking and security, things like how will the population increase in big cities impact traffic, how might we encourage people to use public transport more ( Singapore is experimenting with better-smelling busses), how might vertical parking ease the parking problems ( China is using them already), how can designers of future cars think about the ageing population and independent mobility, after all there are 1million people over the age of 80 that legally drive in UK, the oldest being 111! What about health, hours spent sitting on trains or cars (I particularly like the idea of the self driving bus turning into a gym and a cafe), what about pollution that is causing pre-mature deaths and of course the big question, how might we have a future with no road accidents? Currently 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.
Once you start to dig, the threads become infinite. And that's the beauty of exploration and discovery, the space that allows them to be curious, ask questions for which they have to go and search for answers. A lot of analytical work and making sense, a pre-requisite to feed their imagination and creativity. They will need a lot of it this week, as they are preparing to develop different future scenarios, both desired and dystopian, and will be visualising those futures through video prototypes.
This is where design meets foresight and strategy.
Watch this space!
Have a great week