A major driver for the change in the mobility sector by 2035 will be the desire for comfort, rather than spending hours in frustration behind the wheel in traffic

It’s certain that the future of mobility is set to be very different from today. The big question is how different will that be and what shape will it take?

The pace of transformation to make the mobility sector sustainable is stunning across the world. New technologies and transportation options, including zero-emission vehicles, are at the heart of this change. Backed by innovation and supportive regulations, start-ups and OEMs are constantly developing solutions that curb vehicular emissions and are easy to deploy at a mass scale. The focus on electric vehicles is just one of them. Others include a rapid expansion of comfortable mass transit systems like metro rail or subways.

Analysing regional trends across the world, a Mckinsey report has said that the mobility sector is entering “a new age of innovation” and it could completely transform by 2035. The main shift will be the decline of private-car use. By then, public transportation and mini and micro-mobility options like robotaxis and e-scooters and e-bikes could become the preferred transport modes.

Fig 1. Image via Mckinsey & Co

The report said the share of private cars in total mobility will decline from the current 45% to 29% in the next 12 years. There will be a significant increase in the share of new forms of mobility, like robotaxis – from the current 1% to 8%. In Asian megacities like Mumbai, the share of micro-mobility options such as e-scooters and e-bikes will increase from 13% to 16%. Robotaxis will become more common in these cities (from zero now to 11%).

Additionally, its survey showed that 30% of respondents plan to increase their use of micro-mobility or shared mobility over the next decade. About 46% are open to replacing their private vehicles with other modes of transport in the coming decade. An astounding 70% are willing to use a shared autonomous shuttle (robotaxis) with up to three other travellers.

Fig 2. Image via Shutterstock

A major driver for this change will be the desire for comfort and to have a more enjoyable mobility experience, rather than spending hours in frustration behind the wheel in traffic. Cities that offer convenient travel options are likely to see increased ridership. Besides, there are also sustainability concerns.

In 2020, the transportation sector accounted for about 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, with more than 40% of the total coming from private cars. To curb vehicular emissions in cities, governments across the world are pushing for alternative transport systems on a large scale. As technology advances, even more innovative mobility options could emerge.

How many private cars are in use at present?

Currently, private cars are used in 45% of all trips. A staggering 1.3 billion vehicles are in use worldwide and many of them are privately owned. The US, one of the world’s most car-dependent countries, has 868 vehicles per 1,000 capita, Norway has 635, Mexico 391 and China has 219 per 1,000 capita. By comparison India is said to have 33 vehicles per 1,000 people.

Still, India witnesses the world’s worst traffic jams. Most of the congestion is because of private vehicles. Recently, a video circulated on social media that showed how commuters, most of them in private vehicles, were stuck in a massive traffic jam in Gurugram, a satellite city of Delhi. It triggered a debate on the traffic situation in big cities with a large workforce who have to commute everyday to their workplace.

Despite improving public transport and micro-mobility (scooters and bikes) options, private vehicles are still increasing. Authorities are trying to curb their numbers also by promoting ride-sharing and ride-hailing services. Still, the appeal of private ownership remains strong in many countries.

In India, the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) suggests that only about 8% of Indian households – or 1 in 12 – own cars. The vast majority of Indians still own 2-wheelers – scooters and motorcycles – at 54%.

Who will be affected by this change in mobility options?

The changes in mobility will affect everyone from OEMs to ride-share providers. One of the greatest changes will be in the number of private-car sales. Car sales will likely rise globally over the next few years and peak by the end of this decade.  Some regions will likely see bigger drops in car sales than others, which could alter supply chains and sales strategies.

In 2035, for example, car sales in the European Union are forecast to be almost 20% lower than 2015 levels, and the US could experience an even greater drop of 30%. China will also likely experience declining sales. However, some markets – such as India and other parts of South Asia – are expected to continue to see an increase in car sales beyond 2035.

It’s clear that the sustainability concerns, behavioural change and the desire for more convenient transport choices will become big factors driving this change.