The Shift Automotive 2019 panel on the Future of Mobility brought together minds from design, entertainment, and science to share their ideas on the driverless car revolution.

Francesca Bria, CTO at Barcelona City Council, kicked things off with a passionate talk about how her city is taking a citizens-first approach as it moves into the future. The focus is on changing collective behaviours, with the common goals including accessibility, creating space for pedestrians, and improving air quality, while committing to keeping citizens’ data accountable and secure as these changes are made.

Ahead of its 2020 Olympic games, Tokyo is having to make space and consider the possibility of teleworking, a new concept in Japanese culture. Falling back on the example of Mazda shutting down its carsharing services, Christof Schleidt, Head of Business Development Automotive at Fujitsu Central Europe, stated that simple carsharing is not necessarily the answer to traffic problems, due to the immense pressure for all customers to have an excellent experience.

John Lippe from Ford Mobility saw this as the biggest paradigm shift in the auto industry in 100 years and the huge potential for big data to help prevent road accidents, citing Ford’s city data report in London correlating driving events with accidents in order to identify future road safety hotspots, tracking factors such as revs per minute and hazard light usage. Tech analyst Melba Kurman debunked myths about how driverless cars will impact the economy, arguing that one model shows they will be cheaper and it will become commonplace to own driverless cars. She also asserted that far from robots taking human jobs, humans will still be needed for manual tasks such as general maintenance, repairing, and cleaning.

Daniela Snyders from smart, Daimler’s division of smart cars, announced that as of early 2020, all their smart cars will be fully electric. Tyron Louw from the University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies asserted that 93% of road accidents are due to human error, which could provide a compelling case for driverless cars — yet automation is imperfect, too, and that’s why we need to merge the two. “There is no average driver. Each driver is made up of a myriad of different backgrounds and factors … human development deserves the same attention and treatment as tech does when it comes to making driverless cars.”

Peter Wouda from the Volkswagen Future Centre Europe stressed the importance of not forgetting the needs of rural areas as we think about how we can mobilise smart cities. The number of user cases is diversifying, such as schoolbus windows being used as teaching screens. “It’s about designing magic moments. This is what people are looking for and putting on social media.”

Cities, like people, move and challenge us. Deneb Moosmeier, Director of Strategic Partnering at BMW’s Smartworks, describes an ideal future as one where we are free to make decisions from an emotional perspective and not out of necessity. Designing for trust is key in an autonomous era where the possibilities are endless. Sebastian Stegmüller from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering put forward that automated cars could be the future of multimedia entertainment, as car journeys are in fact a block of free time that could be dedicated to other pursuits.

Richard Seale from seymourpowell said that the shift to automation is equally shifting to a focus on passengers. He presented the company’s Reality Works simulator, which gamifies design by switching it to from inside outwards. He states the consumer trend of nomadism will also change the general view of mobility and living spaces. Finally, Jay Ward, a creative director at Pixar, compared the hit animated lm Cars to automated cars. “A car by itself has no character, but in the future it will learn more about its passengers and adapt to their personalities,” as well as giving insights into how art and tech challenge each other during the car design process.