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Regulating the future of mobility
Balancing innovation and the public good in autonomous vehicles, shared mobility, and beyond
RIDE-HAILING. Bikesharing. Electric vehicles. Self-driving cars. Micro-transit shuttles. E-scooters. Truck platooning. Drone delivery. These developments and more are fueling some of the most disruptive changes in transportation since the invention of the automobile. The result could be a new mobility ecosystem that enables people and goods to move faster, cheaper, cleaner, and safer than today, benefiting individual travelers, governments, businesses, and society at large.
The new mobility ecosystem has the potential to transform daily life for millions of people and countless businesses. And every player shares responsibility for making that transformation beneficial rather than detrimental. But policymakers and regulators have a particularly critical role in furthering communication and coordination, setting standards, and ensuring new transportation modes don’t worsen congestion or leave low-income people stranded. Regulators and other public authorities are particularly well-positioned to act as catalysts and conveners to shape the emerging mobility ecosystem. Companies may insist they want to make the world a better place for everyone,70 but that’s government’s actual job.
In this case, that job is hardly an easy one, with a wide range of public- and private-sector entities looking for mobility opportunities and an even wider range of citizens likely to see real-life impacts on how they travel. The level of uncertainty is high, particularly as the future of mobility involves self-driving vehicles: No one knows for certain when, where, and how we’ll see autonomous cars on city streets. But agencies shouldn’t wait for technology to get to the next level: Regulators should step up and get involved in crafting policies and establishing protocols, preferably in collaboration with companies working to create the new mobility system’s hardware and software. There’s a real chance to get it right for everyone.