Mobility is at the center of an exciting Venn diagram. The work of designing the present and near future of how we get around—on the ground, in the air, and even in outer space—now exists at the nexus of everything from smart cities and artificial intelligence to robotics, 5G connectivity, and big data.
It’s not a coincidence that carmakers like Ford and GM are remaking themselves as mobility providers at the same time that technology companies like Google, Intel, and IBM are busy working on autonomous vehicles and even urban planning. The future of mobility is being prototyped across all sorts of industries. So, what can we expect from these extraordinary interrelationships? And what big to-dos will follow from those developments?
Here are seven breakthroughs–from AI-powered airports and grocery-delivering robots to traffic drones–that will become mainstream realities sooner than you think.
1. The curb will get a revamp.
Ride-hailing is projected to keep getting bigger year-over-year. But our streets were not designed for these services, something that’s becoming more evident as we watch those vehicles block lanes of traffic while on- or offloading passengers. This won’t be sustainable; our downtown cores won’t work if every block becomes a miniature version of an airport’s arrivals and departures lanes. The year 2019 will be the year in which both ride-hailing operators and city transportation managers start seriously rethinking the curb.
What will this look like? The likes of Uber and Lyft will ramp up their collaborations with public transit agencies to help solve for last-mile problems, connecting transportation hubs with passengers’ specific destinations. In doing so, watch for ride-hailing apps to actively position passengers toward pickup and drop-off zones that are friendlier to transit and traffic in general. These increasingly collaborative partnerships will also foster the earliest prototyping of next-generation curbs that see all kinds of vehicles as nodes on a network.
The implications of these developments will be straightforward for city residents, who will notice their favorite ride-hailing apps nudging them toward light rail and subway stations and their local public transit providers offering more door-to-door services through a mixture of buses, vans, cars, bikes, and scooters.
2. The airport will feel more human, thanks to artificial intelligence.
Yes, it’s ironic that artificial intelligence will help combat the sense of alienation and dehumanization that’s so pervasive within the current airport experience (see: intrusive security screening, luggage-fee traps, broken boarding processes, and more). But that’s exactly what artificial intelligence will do, especially in our busiest airports. Already, these hubs are being outfitted with more and more sensors, with Delta now operating the first biometric terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The next step is for airports and airlines to use artificial intelligence to stitch together data from all those sensors and clearly establish that you are who you say you are. That trusted source of identity will help solve for the inefficiencies and inhumanities of existing airport processes. This work won’t just be nice-to-have; it’ll be critical to the future competitiveness of air travel. Airports will need to be line-free environments that anticipate the movements and motivations of travelers from garage to gate. In 2019, we’ll start seeing the first steps of artificial intelligence making sense of more data to create service superpowers for staff, and hyper-personalized travel experiences for flyers.
For passengers, this will mean smoother transitions through increasingly paperless security checkpoints, in-terminal dining experiences that keep you abreast of what’s happening at the gate (without having to be there), and conversations with gate agents and flight attendants who are far more informed about where you’re headed, where you’ve been, who you’re with, and even your go-to drink.