|Press Week for the North American International Auto Show kicked off on Sunday January 14 at Cobo Center in the heart of downtown Detroit. Among the largest auto shows in North America, NAIAS has been running since 1907. This year is the second to feature AutoMobili-D, a showcase of the ecosystem of companies and technologies that are changing the landscape of mobility as we know it.|
|By Julianna Tschirhart|
But what does mobility really mean?
As a student in graduate school for transportation planning, I studied the differences between mobility and accessibility. Mobility has traditionally focused on speed: getting as many people where they need to go as quickly as possible. This could mean reducing congestion on the highway so the number of cars that can get through increases, or building networks of subways underground so they don’t have to compete with cars to transport passengers. Accessibility on the other hand, focuses on destinations: how easy is it for me to reach the places I need to go? Are there enough grocery stores, schools, and jobs near to me? Accessibility is affected by both mobility and proximity.
In the 21st century, mobility has ceased to mean a car-only solution. The almost 150 exhibitors on the AutoMobili-D floor this year are showcasing the breadth of the mobility field in six key areas of innovation:
Source: “About AutoMobili-D.” NAIAS.com.
Mobility means ride-sharing services, cities with technology that can communicate with the vehicles on the road, and other innovative ways for people to move. However, it is important to understand that the relationship between transportation and the way our cities are structured is not one-way. Advances in mobility can help us navigate the landscape that already exists—it’s too expensive to park downtown so I take the subway, the bus doesn’t run close enough to my house so I call an Uber or Lyft—but they can also shape the landscape itself.
Speaking at the Auto Show on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao heralded advances in mobility such as autonomous vehicles as helping the country to be “safer, more accessible, and more efficient.” However, we need to consider what mobility advances will mean for the places we live. There are issues of regulation, affordability, and land use that still need to be figured out, but are tenuous in a rapidly changing landscape.
Next up: an exploration of the opportunities and challenges posed by autonomous vehicles.