Lot's of talk about ‘mobility’ at the recent Geneva motor show. Well, around the car business in general, really.
I think this is the automotive equivalent of human resources or calling someone a waste collection operative: it sounds more poncy than personnel or binman/woman/person, and eventually it slips into conventional usage. I’m not even surprised any more.
Mobility – and more pertinent at the moment – shared mobility is the new, oh, I dunno, whatever the last big buzzword was. Green, perhaps? There are so many clichés that follow the car industry around that it would rather didn’t: gas guzzler, Chelsea tractor, dirty diesel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wants to shuffle away from them.
Mobility, as I understand it, means transport, and the trouble with transport is that you know how it is when you see those pie charts telling you how much pollution comes from a particular source: transport is always there, not mobility, putting in its 20% or whatever.
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Meanwhile, mobility sits smugly on the sidelines watching transport take the rap for what is, basically, the same thing. And when the morning news shows pictures of pollution, it’s always car tailpipes and transport. Not Islington wood burners and certainly not mobility, guv’nor. You know mobility, the irritating little spiv: mobility is as clean as you like. You could blind yourself on its halo. Mobility ferries old people around or helps youngsters out of poverty.
But, let’s face it, it’s just the same thing in a pinstriped suit. And never more so than when it comes to shared mobility. What’s shared mobility?
The car industry – sorry, mobility companies – have lots of shared mobility plans, and you’ll be shown them, on video, in their most utopian state: imagine a CGI city scape, with big plants on every empty street corner, white fluffy clouds in an otherwise blue sky, and the perfect modern nuclear family bouncing out of their apartment to get into an item of shared mobility. It’ll have four wheels, quite a few seats, and seamlessly and silently it whisks them to their respective destinations – the school, the gym, the office. They’re smiling. They’re relaxed. Of course, they are. They’re shared mobility users! And you can see the appeal for – what to call them – operators? Mobilisers? Oh, I don’t even care.
But anyway, Volvo last year signed a deal to develop a fleet of autonomous XC90s for Uber. And even though they might cost a quarter of a million quid each or more, once decked out with the right technology, consider the savings: the cost of keeping two drivers employed driving one car might come to £100,000 a year. Do away with the drivers and, hey presto, free money.
So shared mobility schemes are already being trialled. Ford has one. Volkswagen has one. Quite often they have their own separate sub-brand for them. Volkswagen’s is called Moia. They’ve a new vehicle in development for it. It looks like... Wait a minute...
Y’know, I’m not sure this shared mobility idea is quite the new thing it’s cracked up to be. My local town has a scheme like this already, as it happens. Perhaps yours also does. Some might call it shared mobility. I call it a bus.