Powerful claims are being made about revolution in the transport sector, with digital technology seen as underpinning a new ‘ecosystem’ of more efficient, more pleasant, but less environmentally-damaging mobility. The chapter examines how far the claims of a radical shift towards more sustainable mobility are based on evidence, and the contextual conditions that would be necessary for such benefits to be realised. The four key technological shifts identified as part of the transition are interrogated: automation, electrification, digitally-enabled mobility, and collaborative-shared mobility. The benefits of ‘connected autonomous vehicles’ are found to be highly uncertain, in terms of extent and evolution, whereas electrification is confirmed as a necessary but not sufficient condition for more sustainable mobility. Digitally-enabled mobility is technically quite feasible, but continues to face considerable regulatory, institutional and financial barriers. Collective mobility is identified as the development which can potentially have the greatest impact on the sustainability of mobility, but its core claim, that middle-income citizens will choose to share small vehicles to achieve modest cost savings, is least supported by evidence. It is concluded that the traditional concerns of transport planning, such as congestion and inequality of access, will likely be persistent features of the new regime.
Parkhurst, G., & Seedhouse, A. (2019). Will the ‘smart mobility’ revolution matter?. In I. Docherty, & J. Shaw (Eds.), Transport Matters. Bristol: Policy Press