Beyond Cars: Mobility in a COVID-19 World

May 30, 2020

With most of the world’s population limiting travel–within communities or countries–to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is an especially interesting time to consider the current and future states of mobility. 

Many existing, though less common, mobility concepts and tools have been implemented differently or more or less broadly in response to the pandemic, such as street closures and mass transit. Meanwhile, some developing concepts, once thought to be the wave of the future, may be closer to reality or indefinitely postponed due to their ability to help contain or transmit the virus. 

The following insights may be helpful when contemplating mobility issues and opportunities in the age of COVID-19:

  • We will continue to see adaptation to the new normal, such as reduced use of public transport, closure of streets to allow outdoor dining and more pedestrian access, and the increased use of physically distant methods of travel such as private cars, bikes, and scooters, including by essential workers.
  • Before the pandemic, speed and costs were the primary drivers for consumers and mobility companies when creating mobility and transportation options. Going forward, consumers and companies will likely be more cognizant of safety and pandemic-resistant design.
  • When reconfiguring mobility for a post-COVID-19 world, previously proposed or launched mobility technologies and initiatives from tunneling to space travel are proving even more relevant, though some are far from ready for consumer use. Despite the urgency, legal and regulatory implications and requirements must still be considered before the development or implementation of any of these technologies occurs. These implications include operator and passenger safety, environmental effects, and the effects of future pandemics.
  • While regulatory frameworks exist for these modes of transport, regulations for other means of mobility such as space travel and the use of robotic exoskeletons and telepresence robotics are still in the early stages with elements such as safety and issues around tax and labor and employment, to name a few, to be considered.

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