In the first of what we anticipate as a series of thought leader dinners, we invited people we have met over the last three years over for a lively discussion of a topic of great interest to the community- mobility, the personal variety of how do we move our bodies, the city wide version of how do we get around, both of which influence mobility of the economic variety. It is one of those topics that may seem frighteningly wonkish, until we realize that so much of our relationship to the world, to work, to our friends and families are dependent and defined by our mobility.
The experts in attendance included a head of strategy for a European car brand, a personal body mechanics/movement expert, an expert on e-scooters, a design expert who specialized in large buildings and parking structures, a traffic expert from a large university, an MIT grad who has invented new transportation devices and a company director whose start-up finances the development of appliances to improve disabled mobility.
Here is some of what we learned:
The innovation of modes of transportation is happening far faster than the ability of governments to regulate them: The Boring Company, Bird Scooters, Uber, casual pick up and ride apps.
E-scooters are divisive. One the one hand they are fun, may reduce the driving of cars, and are helpful in “the last mile” of the transportation system. However, walking is better for engaging with the city and for moving one’s body. There is also the problem of being hit at 15mph on the sidewalk, and relatedly, the danger of riding one and crashing. On the whole, people seemed to feel that with a bit of adjustment of regulations, these are a good thing.
Personal VTOL aircraft are coming. Yes, the Buck Rogers fantasy of flying car, now re-imagined as a flying drone with passenger pod is for real. Which brings up the issue of how will these new skyways be regulated?
If not a carless future, at least a car-reduced future is being anticipated. Parking structures are being designed to be future re-purposed into commercial or residential. Cars themselves are being designed with the idea of ridesharing rather than single ownership.
Next month we are looking forward to our RETAIL themed diner. If there are any questions or ideas you would like us to bring up to the experts, give us a shout.