Happy New Year!

2020 has demanded a lot from us (from some even more than from others). Looking back, I will remember this last year most for how quickly changes were suddenly possible. Some of them – such as wearing masks, keeping the distance and reducing contact – will be reversed as soon as possible after Covid 19, others – such as permitting bars and restaurants to serve food and drinks outdoors  – are certainly an option to hold on once it gets nice and warm again, and others – such as working from home or video conferencing – will surely stay with us as a “New Normal”.

In terms of the mobility of the future, I see two experiences from 2020 as especially helpful: Firstly, we were able to even change things that have been considered more or less inalterable for a long time. We proved not only that working from home is possible but also that it significantly reduces traffic, we reduced overall CO2 emissions and improved air quality visibly, we boosted the share of  electrified vehicles, temporarily installed and tested structural alternatives such as pop-up bicycle lanes, and even converted long term urban vision into concrete concepts like the 15-Minute City. Secondly but not less important, we learned that for the general reflection on whether changes are meaningful and possible and thus an elevated willingness to change, we should not always need a pandemic.

With this in mind, I wish you all the best for the New Year 2021.

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Coronavirus and Mobility: Every Cloud has a Silver Lining …

Most of the measures taken to solve the problems caused by mobility aim to improve or enhance the available choice of mobility options, e.g. by designing electric cars with lower or no emissions, enabling autonomous driving, creating alternative vehicle concepts, generally improving publictransport or offering innovative mobility services.

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Few measures however focus on the actual root cause of these problems, namely the individual mobility needs. Apart from the tremendously long-term and costly political efforts to transform monocentric into polycentric cities in order to keep people in their neighborhood and thus shorten the average trip distance, a short-term and effective measure is to reduce the overall number of trips by replacing on-site gatherings through means of tele-cooperation, e.g. tele-working, tele-learning or tele-diagnosis. But while the required technology has been available for many years, its application often stalled due to rather irrational hurdles: IT had not installed the required hard- and software, associates were reluctant to stay back home, managers were afraid to lose direct control, professors didn’t want to give up personal interaction with their students, patients were reluctant to measure blood pressure, pulse or body temperature by themselves. And after all, the pressure and need for this transformation has obviously not been considered that urgent.

But now, as the measures taken to staunch propagation of Covid 19 lead to companies having their associates work from home whenever possible, schools and universities closing down, doctor’s appointments being postponed, and face-to-face meetings being generally reduced to a minimum, tele-cooperation undergoes a true boost. As there aren’t any more alternatives, people get enabled, use the technology for the first time – and then realize not only how easy and comfortable it works but also how much time they can save that they formerly spent traveling. And furthermore, it becomes clear that hard- and software for tele-cooperation are part of the so-called critical infrastructure and that its availability and performance should be secured accordingly.

Aside from all the severe and worldwide impact the Coronavirus pandemic will have for a while, the boost of tele-cooperation and its positive side effects for mobility are certainly here to stay.

 

First published on LinkedIn on 15. April 2020

Business Travel in the Post-Coroniticum

Another new experience: Last month, I attended my yearly performance review meeting – the first time over Skype. And while reflecting that not too long-ago people in many companies would have flown in for something like that from wherever they are located in the world, I watch also recruiters doing job interviews online, agencies giving pitches via video conference, buyers negotiating and closing over the air, and even consultants interacting with their clients using web-based collaboration platforms.

After we all have got more or less used to attending team meetings or regular one-on-ones from our makeshift home office by now, this certainly is a next level of tele-working. While for this kind of personal encounters, meeting face-to-face has at least in the overwhelming majority of cases always been considered indispensable, our involuntary real-life experience imposed by the coronavirus situation now proves to us that all this is possible in a reasonable manner without meeting in person.

So, what does this mean for the hopefully near future when coronavirus will have eased its grip on us? Will anyone want to turn back time and spend hours in a car, train or plane only to meet someone in person for one hour? Rather not. But this then obviously leads to pressing strategic questions regarding the future of business travel. As an airline or railway company: Will passenger numbers fully recover, or will they rather follow an L than a U or V? And as a car manufacturer: Will range as the unceasingly uttered main advantage of combustion engines over electric drivetrains still be so decisive for the purchasing decision? I am convinced that a good deal of the changes we are now forced to implement in our routines are here to stay …

 

First published on LinkedIn on 8. April 2020