Solutions&Co encourages meetings and exchanges between the leaders of innovative solutions and larger-scale companies, with the aim of creating synergies and strengthening the impact of these positive initiatives.

Gabriel Plassat


Director of La Fabrique des mobilités

Gabriel Plassat

The New Perspectives of Mobility

Beware of appearances; we are barely starting to transform the transportation sector. And it is a good thing because its challenges are enormous. They include the non-compliance with air quality standards set by the European Commission, the manufacturers’ NOx emissions fraud in the DieselGate scandal, the fact that the sector is the largest CO2 emitter, its dependence on oil and multiple forms of exclusion, especially outside big urban centres.

Thanks to Fordism and the revolutionary engine-petrol couple, the private automobile and public transport had drew a simple, binary and stable landscape. In just 10 years, digital technology has created new opportunities and threats, forcing all the traditional stakeholders to reinvent themselves as new players appeared.

Offers from shared bicycles to real-time car-pooling, to mobility as a service, continue to being diversified, hybridized and reinvented. Few of them, however, find their economic model and really serve demand outside the limited scope of cities, particularly in low density or isolated territories.

Worldwide, powerful stakeholders —whose market capitalization is highly valued— engage in mobility on demand, such as Uber, Didi in Asia or Google with Waymo. These Techs (technology companies) are accelerating the transition from the vehicle as an object to mobility as a service. Their obsession is to remove the car key from millions of people’s pockets and to replace it with online platforms and smartphones as personal mobility assistants. Techs are now focusing on another key stakeholder: communities. With Uber’s Movement or Google’s Sidewalk Labs, cities have become another “crowd” to conquer, in order to deploy mobility offers. One way to do so, for instance, is striking new deals combining public spaces and mobility services, data, advice and simulation tools.

Simplifying vehicles to diversify mobility

Switching to electric simplifies the private car acquisition, removing one of its biggest barriers: the engine — making the vehicles easier to maintain and repair, and potentially extending their life-span indefinitely, as long as we develop enough electric vehicle charging infrastructures and second life and battery recycling networks. Circular and functionality economies would have to be deployed.

The strong uprise in people and goods mobility poses, however, significant environmental problems that must be answered to by making the difference between owning a vehicle and being mobile. Millions would benefit from reducing our dependence on one-person-vehicles — cities, Techs and citizens. Decreasing ownership rates would limit car utilization and diversify our mobility, using public transport, walking, cycling, carpooling or car sharing, depending on any given moment’s needs. Redesigned for services, vehicles will become smaller, lighter, more urban, and more electric, optimizing energy, space, resources and infrastructure, which in turn will help to meet the goals of greenhouse gas emissions reduction while ensuring mobility for all.

Having failed to create a world-class digital platform, Europe must now come up with another way to achieve such a sobriety in terms of materials and energy, ideally based on a citizen use of data, initiated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and on the production of open resources (data, software or hardware), in order to pool, coordinate and make the data available, and to support entrepreneurs and territories. The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) has created La Fabrique des Mobilités, designed to evolve in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world to accelerate the production of useful resources for all the sector’s players through the « commons, » as well as to be replicated internationally.

Towards a mobility ecosystem

We offer support to build a « conscious and benevolent » ecosystem, mainly through the transversal « commons » necessary to boost the creativity of a multitude of industries. The quality of an industrial ecosystem could be compared to that of a biotope: diversity, complementarity, variety of actors and skills, quality and quantity of interactions between actors.

It is therefore a new kind of race that mixes skills, interests and types of actors forced to coordinate their movements with each other — and with new technological opportunities that may appear along the way. Synchronization and alignment of human and financial resources become as important as each actor’s technical skills.

It is a paradox that our imagination regarding mobility is rather poor — as it is in many other domains. Sterilized by years of industries’ marketing, the future perspectives on the table remain very often trends pursued, constantly calling for « innovation. » It is urgent to acknowledge the future as something unknown, to put forward a multitude of “black swans,” or unforeseeable events —unlikely but with major consequences—, utopias and dystopias, to disrupt work, currencies, health, travels or habitat. Is it possible to conceive strategies on constantly evolving topics (some of which are not even classifiable) that involve a large number of people?

Imagination and art, the major links of human communities, can greatly contribute to succeeding. They federate and elevate us at the same time, all while offering a different perspective of the world. Let’s invite artists to imagine a new path for mobility!

Gabriel Plassat, European Commission expert, engineer of ADEME (French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management) and director of La Fabrique des mobilités, a support institution for open innovation in mobility. He’s also a private companies advisor and author of the French blog « Les transports du futur. »

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