Common Myths About Urban Mobility (And Why Innovation is Key)

Let’s get moving and dispel why popular beliefs are actually major misconceptions

In recent years, the relatively limited selection of transportation options within a given city has grown and evolved to meet municipal and citizen needs. Gone are the days where you could get from one place to another by car, public transportation, or bike. Today, the realm of urban mobility includes new methods of transportation, such as car-sharing and subscription services, on-demand ride-hailing, and free-floating micro-mobility. And rather than relying on purchasing or leasing models for personal transportation, or the traditional bus pass or metro card for public transportation modes, the new normal of urban mobility includes Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). Not only does MaaS bring accessible transportation options to the masses with greater flexibility, efficiency, and affordability, but it also eliminates the need for citizens to enter into long-term commitments with their transportation method provider. 

In this post, we’ll be discussing (and dispelling) some of the myths and misconceptions that are commonly associated with urban mobility methods. In doing so, we’ll make it clear why continuous innovation is key, so as to keep improving upon these methods and bring about a smarter, more connected future for city dwellers and visitors alike.

Myth #1 – Urban mobility innovation has transformed transportation into the private player’s arena

With all the private companies and startups innovating within the urban mobility space, it comes as no surprise that one would think that control over urban transportation has been removed from the hands of cities and public organizations. However, this is far from the truth. Instead, smart cities can (and are) partnering with urban mobility startups to bring transportation innovation to their citizens in an official and regulated way, through various experiments, incentive programs, and integrations. Together, these cities and private players are able to enhance existing transportation methods and infrastructure, serve more citizens, and reduce strain on the environment caused by transportation-related emissions.

For example, the Tel Aviv municipality has partnered with a handful of innovative startups – including Moovit, the world’s #1 urban mobility app – each specializing in different ways to make the bustling metropolis smarter, safer, and more efficiently navigated by the masses that live and work within its bounds. 

Myth #2 – Autonomous vehicles will eliminate traffic and render public transportation obsolete

It is a common belief that the advent of truly autonomous vehicles will enable more efficient driving that releases traffic bottlenecks. However, estimations indicate that this will not be the case. In fact, it is believed that once on the market, self-driving cars will actually lead to greater traffic congestion, as more people will want to free their hands and their minds to engage in other tasks, while their vehicles take them wherever they want to go. 

That being said, the thought that the motivation for more individuals to travel in private, self-driving cars will eliminate the demand for public transportation is a far cry from what is likely to be the case. In reality, autonomous private vehicles will likely be priced above many people’s budgets, leading commuting or other travel via driverless public transportation to remain a viable and attractive option for the vast majority of city-goers. 

Myth #3 – The real and only solution to the traffic problem is to build more and better roads

It is a common belief that to resolve the traffic problem, more and more efficient roads must be built. This too, is incorrect, as to build more and better roads, significant funding must be amassed, space must be located, and entire existing city plans and infrastructure must be upended for significant amounts of time. What’s more, new roads relieve the suppressed demand on existing roads, not the traffic they experience. According to ‘The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion’ (Duranton and Turner 2011), adding more or better roads to areas with heavy traffic simply encourages more drivers to travel along with them, especially those previously deterred from private transportation because of limited routes.

The result: the same amount of traffic as before, only with less money remaining in the city’s budget.

Myth #4 – E-scooters are unsafe and inefficient

Let’s clear the air: e-scooters are not toys for grownups! Nor are they fun sightseeing vehicles. In fact, the vast majority of scooters used within smart cities are, in fact, used by that city’s very own residents, evidenced by the domestic payment methods applied to their e-scooter rentals and purchases. Locals want to get where they need to go faster, without getting stuck in traffic, and e-scooters are one way of doing so in style!

It is true that e-scooters have been involved in quite a few accidents, but most of these collisions were the result of a lack of awareness of their presence on the road, or unsafe riding practices – not the unsafety of the scooters themselves. Like with any new transportation mode, the more e-scooters are adopted within a given area, the greater the awareness of their existence will become, and the safer it will be to use it to get from Point A to Point B. There is a significant need for innovation that focuses on protecting e-scooter users from collisions with cars (the cause of most accidents), as well as educational campaigns that keep e-scooters off of sidewalks (to protect riders and pedestrians). With the right technology and teachings, e-scooters can easily serve as safe and successful players in the urban mobility arena.

Innovation is the key to unlocking a safer, smarter & more efficient urban mobility reality

Myths aside, the more smart cities partner with innovative urban mobility startups, the better their transportation infrastructure and offerings will be, and the safer and more satisfied their citizens will feel on the road. As user demands are constantly evolving with the ongoing digital transformation and consumer-centric service trends, it is in cities’ best interest to promote urban mobility innovation on their home turf and gain that critical advantage that transforms their cities into even more attractive places to live, work, and socialize.

Is your urban mobility startup innovating the future of transportation as we know it? Contact us about joining the next Highroad Launchpad cohort today!