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What does our world look like in 2050? How can we ensure that transport for people and goods is emission- and accident-free, cheap and easy? What roles do innovations such as autonomous cars, green hydrogen aeroplanes and people movers play? This article explains Deloitte’s vision for the future of mobility. Our visions are invitations for our clients and partners to join us in envisioning – and accordingly shaping – a pleasant planet.
The mobility outlook of 2050 in a three-point nutshell:
Transport for people and goods is comfortable, seamless, autonomous, cheap, accessible to all, accident-free and (almost completely) emission-free.
This is realised by numerous innovations as well as completely new means of transportation, such as autonomous cars, green hydrogen aeroplanes, drone corridors, people movers and the Hyperloop.
Major technological progress still has to be made. Both the Dutch government and market players such as mobility providers have an important role to play when it comes to realising this vision.
Drones that take us from the city centre to the airport within a matter of minutes, green planes that fly across the ocean on hydrogen, and self-driving cars that enable you to continue your journey to your winter sports destination while you sleep: the Dutch mobility scene has undergone a complete metamorphosis.
And our planet has come out as a major winner. “Transport for people and goods will be mainly emission-free by 2050,” says Willem Christiaan van Manen, who leads the NL Future of Mobility practice at Deloitte. “Although it will be a challenge for long-haul flights.” People are also benefitting greatly from this mobility revolution, as transport is comfortable, seamless, autonomous, cheap, accessible to all and accident-free. Furthermore, the quality of life in cities has improved and poorly accessible places, such as shrinking regions, have become a great deal more accessible.
Transport for people and goods will be mainly emission-free by 2050
In 2050, functional transport consists mainly of autonomous modes of transport, such as clean cars and drones, and for recreational purposes, we’re using motorbikes, flying cars or bicycles. We have embraced cycling, partly in view of the (preventative) health benefits it brings, and we’re doing so on e-bikes that are equipped with a weatherproof hood.
The car will be the most preferred way of getting from A to B, says Willem Christiaan, “Especially because it becomes autonomous and much cheaper. Point-to-point transit will be the best form of travel for people.” Picture this: you’re driven automatically while you work, sleep or watch a film. Or that a car pulls up in front of you at the simple click of your fingers. These are huge game-changers. Currently, mobility mainly revolves around reaching your destination as quickly as possible, but that KPI is fading into the background. This may result in more traffic jams and parking issues, but that’s, in a certain sense, a collective conscious choice.
On the other hand, traffic jams can be avoided if we opt for a dynamic road pricing system that makes travelling during peak hours more expensive. And parking issues can be eased since autonomous vehicles are able to park themselves on the boundaries of congested urban areas, either after dropping the passenger off or in car-free cities at mobility hubs.
Air transport plays an enormous role in 2050. A big step has been taken towards green hydrogen as an alternative to kerosene, hydrogen combustion propulsion is used for long-haul flights, and hydrogen fuel cell-powered aeroplanes are mainstream for flights within Europe.
We’re travelling a great deal from regional airports in smaller aircraft. These include nine-seater battery propulsion aeroplanes, the first of which started flying in 2025/2026, or drones that fly back and forth in certain corridors. With Uber-like booking concepts, we’re able to get from point to point by air with ease.
Water transport remains of great importance for freight, as it’s too costly to move large quantities of cargo via air. All maritime transport could be climate neutral by 2050, as we conclude in our collaboration with Shell on decarbonising shipping. Dutch pleasure craft have already been completely clean for a while.
The rail infrastructure has been improved and the government subsidises public transport, yet the use of rail transport has decreased as we only use (high-speed) trains for long distances. One concept that has shown great potential is people movers, such as Olli. These forms of electric, self-driving vans carry about 30 people and are an important tool for keeping cities liveable and preventing congestion.
According to Willem Christiaan, the currently much-hyped Hyperloop will only be used marginally in the mid-21st century in Europe. “The Hyperloop is only useful when there’s a lot of traffic between two distant points. And then there are still lots of questions around the business case, such as: Are enough passengers willing to pay a premium for the time saved? Nowadays, alternative means such as the Hyperloop are being considered mainly because aviation is dirty, but that will no longer be an issue in the future.”
Obviously, there are many obstacles on the path to this utopian scenario. First of all, on a technological level. The outlines of many of the aforementioned disruptive technologies are already emerging, but major progress still needs to be made, particularly in hydrogen transport and self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles remove the risk of human errors. Yet, they bring other safety and security challenges such as hacking. Appropriate cyber security measures should therefore be developed and maintained. What’s more, we need to make better use of our existing infrastructure and embed smart solutions such as mobility hubs within the scarcely available space. Additionally, we can gain a great deal of space by removing parking lots from cities.
Market players still have a lot of work to do. For example, they must provide new digital platforms and smart personal mobility advisors, who will provide you with a seamless transport option based on your travel history and preferences, traffic data, smart algorithms and other circumstances. Also, platforms for connected car data can become the foundation for smart cities, but companies need to find the right business model for this. Furthermore, cargo flows need to become smarter and supply chains shorter, for example by means of urban gardens on the outskirts of cities or food farms integrated in apartment buildings, to prevent the existing infrastructure from getting bogged down.
Are enough passengers willing to pay a premium for the time saved?
The Dutch government has an important role to play when it comes to realising this vision of the future. Current (fiscal) policies and legislation form a barrier for sustainable and shared mobility services. Therefore the government must ensure that mobility is priced on the basis of use, distance and number of people in the vehicle: the more people there are, the cheaper it is. As a result the national government should discourage private vehicle leasing and stimulate vehicle sharing. Also, it has to discourage or prohibit transport with (high) emissions and come up with legislation on liability around self-driving vehicles.
This way the government can enable market players to scale up sustainable and shared mobility services in line with the broader government goals. On a city level, mobility providers and municipalities should collaborate more to ensure that shared mobility services contribute to the accessibility of the city. Mobility providers – and ideally all connected vehicles – should share data with municipalities and work together to make sure that the mobility services add value to all citizens (rich and poor, city centre and suburbs) and do not cause negative effects, such as the disappearance of biking and walking. Additionally, municipalities can stimulate cycling, establish car-free zones and re-design their parking policies in order to free up public space that’s currently devoted to non-shared cars.
As a pur sang cycling country, the Netherlands is already in a well-placed position. However, Willem Christiaan points out that our decentralised legislation and regulations are a stumbling block in the realisation of this mobility utopia. “It means you get sub-optimal regional decisions as opposed to optimal national ones,” he says. “Where do you, for instance, realise large-scale residential projects? With those kind of basic overarching choices, you can bring about major changes, but this is difficult within our current administrative system.”
Willem Christiaan emphasises that a handful of variables are major determinants of the future of mobility. First of all, to what degree will transport be autonomous? And to what extent will people share transport? In the future – partly due to COVID-19 – will we be mainly working and learning from home, which means peak-hours on the roads won’t be so great? Will the degree of urbanisation increase or has the shift to rural areas started, and how will the government respond to this? To what extent are we going to encourage air transport?
These are all fundamental questions that have a gigantic impact. One thing’s for certain: In 2050, issues such as air pollution, traffic accidents, travel inconveniences and high transport costs will be ghosts of the past.
Connect with us
Lennert MiddelkoopFuture of Mobility lead+31 (0)88 288 firstname.lastname@example.org
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