“The future is now, old man.” Whether a Malcolm in the Middle fan or not, you must admit that you’re already starting to see or hear about a lot of the things you used to dream about as a kid. Hoverboards and flying cars are happening. The latter might not yet be available for purchase online, but we’re not far from that option either. As this year starts to wind down, here’s just a taste of what you have to look forward to in 2020 when it comes to shared mobility.
1. Shared Mobility Gets Integrated
Shared mobility is the future of public transport and a lot of cities around the world are starting to take notice and make efforts to integrate these services into existing urban systems. Last summer, New York City lawmakers reached a deal in order to lift the ban on electric scooters and throttle-controlled e-bikes, following San Francisco—where companies like Uber, Lime and Spin have recently been granted permits to operate. This is the Big Apple’s first major step in what will be a full set of regulations for this new mobility segment. Thailand also started the process of legalizing ride-hailing services. The Asian country drafted a set of laws that should get approved by March 2020. In Singapore, users of electric scooters will have to be compliant with fire-safety standards by the end of 2020, following increased efforts to regulate personal mobility devices.
2. Tesla Joins the Shared Mobility Game
Elon Musk announced that the company will launch robotaxis in 2020, as part of a broader plan for a ride-sharing network. Tesla will also debut its own ride-sharing app where owners will be able to add properly equipped vehicles and take rides, a business model similar to Uber (one difference that may matter to the eco-conscious among you is that you will gain access to fully electric vehicles). The company will take 25 percent to 30 percent of the revenue from those rides, which is much higher than Uber (believed to take less than 20 percent at the moment). The robotaxis will be deployed in undersupplied areas, where there aren’t enough people to share their cars. Musk confidently predicted that in 2020, the company will have a million robotaxis on the road.
This is just one of the announcements that confirm another trend we expect to see next year: more autonomous vehicles in ride-sharing.
3. Mercedes Launches E-Scooter
Following on the footsteps of fellow automotive peers BMW and Audi, Mercedes announced that it will debut its own electric scooter, available for sale in early 2020. For the venture, Mercedes-Benz partnered with scooter manufacturer Micro. While no design or tech details were provided, the company did acknowledge scooters as “the perfect way to cover short distances quickly and without harming the environment.” The e-scooter will most likely be available in Germany first, where the use of the vehicles has been regulated since last summer. The media speculates that the scooters will be aimed at consumers directly, but that remains to be seen.
4. Uber Debuts Flying Taxis
The ride-sharing industry will take off next year, literally. Uber announced it will begin testing its electric air taxis in Los Angeles, Fort Worth and Melbourne. Uber officials said that Australia is pleased to be part of the process, as the country has adopted a forward-looking approach to ride-sharing and future transport technology. The air taxis resemble a helicopter-drone hybrid and are also known as vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Uber Air plans to start commercial flights in 2023 and company representatives believe that the cost of a ride will equal that of one in an UberX. The challenge here will be the regulatory aspect, as well as the new infrastructure required for the new services.
Automaker Porsche also partnered with Boeing to get into the eVTOL industry, anticipated to be a booming business.
5. Toyota Moves Closer to Mobility
One of the big news for next year was the announcement that the athletes and staff taking part in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will get around with the help of 20 autonomous vehicles supplied by Toyota. The ‘e-Palette’ vehicles are battery-powered and have been customized particularly for the event with the help of feedback from athletes. Even though the vehicles don’t need a driver, there will be a safety operator inside each, considering the value of the “load.” Toyota issued a statement saying that the move is a reflection of its ongoing transition toward a mobility company. The e-Palette vehicles combine “electrification, connected networks, and advanced driving technologies to support new shared mobility businesses and business models,” the news release said.
In fact, 2020 marks a major step for autonomous vehicles in terms of connectivity with the surrounding urban environment and other road users. Experts predict the market potential of autonomous driving functions will rise to almost €36 billion through 2021.