By: Micha Kempe
On Wednesday, November 7, 2018, METRANS held its annual Industry Outlook event of the year featuring Dr. Jon Coleman, Director of City Solutions for Ford Smart Mobility, LLC. Dr. Coleman began his presentation, titled The Future of Mobility: Access, Not ACES, by sharing that although he has been to Los Angeles many times, this was his first time at USC. Dr. Coleman has led Ford’s mobility policy and strategy efforts to engage municipalities in the implementation of solutions for nearly 20 years. In this role, he focuses on addressing the growing needs of urban mobility. These events are so important in keeping up with “trends that can help the public sector not fall behind the private sector,” noted attendee, CITT Project Manager, Stephen Lantz. “First hand listening to industry leaders is a rare opportunity to learn their priorities and perspectives.”
Dr. Coleman noted that Ford’s Model T was the first affordable automobile, manufactured on the assembly line, that opened up travel for middle class Americans. The Model T let people travel farther distances throughout their days in their own, private automobile. This shift in travel contributed to suburbanization in America. While many of us who study mobility like to focus on what we perceive as the important goal of reducing time spent traveling in these private automobiles, Dr. Coleman reminded us that there is a significant percentage of the population which actually enjoys time spent in the car, and rather than finding it a burden, views it as a good thing. I was really struck to learn from Dr. Coleman that “1 out of 5 people really don't mind the long chunks of time they spend in their car,” remarked Nancy Voorhees, of Voorhees Ventures. Actually, “I love my car but I hate to navigate, to put my car away (garage, parking spot). I like to sit in Uber and catch up on my email or calls. I also love to look out the window and think,” she added.
Dr. Coleman’s lecture addressed the challenge of having to move large amounts of people in very tight spaces in urban environments. He showed many examples of strategies that have failed when addressing massive bottlenecks on roads. Dr. Coleman explained this as the design gap in mobility; the ability to make automobiles better, faster, and smarter has improved over time while the human transport needs have decayed over time.
Dr. Jon Coleman speaking to audience at USC about The Future of Mobility: Access, not ACES
For the past few years, Dr. Coleman noted, the future of mobility has been defined by the acronym, ACES: Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared, but made the argument that it really should be focusing on Access, or accessibility. “His presentation was very informative,” commented USC Master of Science, Engineering Management student Abhinaw Priyadershi. “I was struck in particular by Dr. Coleman’s distinction between Transportation: What we move, Mobility: How we move, and Accessibility: Why we move. I had never thought of it that way.” He continued, “His personal interaction at the reception before event was equivalently interesting and events like these help students to get deep, practical insight into the mobility domain.”
UCLA Master of Urban and Regional Planning student Tomoko Kanda was most interested in Dr. Coleman’s “private company's perspective about working with the public sector.” Most importantly, “his suggestions to private sector: Private sector needs to reconsider its business KPI if it wants to get involved in urban transportation services, challenges facing both public and private sectors to balance financial sustainability/innovation and public interests.” His presentation “helped me to think about my next career after graduation,” she added.
As an undergraduate student, I am intrigued about mobility and how we engage with differing environments. In an effort to learn more, together with METRANS and USC Transportation, I founded the USC Mobility Lab. The USC Mobility Lab is a laboratory research center for students, alumni, and faculty interested in creating better mobility routes around the campus and the greater Los Angeles Area. Likewise, Dr. Coleman is very excited about mobility and how we will travel in the near future. He reiterated that it is not about the technology but rather it is about behavior because “mobility is about humanity not technical solutions.” Priyaradershi concurred. “Basically transportation is like food,” he noted. “We need it every day. It wouldn't be wrong to say that a good transportation leads to better personal life!”
In many companies, there seems to be an information overload, and problems are not addressed quickly and efficiently. I hope that with the creation of the Mobility Lab, consistent with Dr. Coleman’s theory, we will work to enhance access to both transportation and that data which assists with decision making, and join the efforts to create an efficient, sustainable, and accessible transportation system.
This lecture was a very intriguing and exciting experience, I thank METRANS and PSR for bringing Dr. Coleman to USC, and know I and the rest of the audience benefitted greatly from our glimpse into Ford’s vision for the future of Mobility.
About the Author:
Micha Kempe is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor's of Science degree in Real Estate Development with a minor in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. Mr. Kempe is a local from West Los Angeles. Mr. Kempe founded the USC Mobility Lab. The USC Mobility Lab is a collaboration with METRANS and USC Transportation focusing on analyzing mobility data and solving problems in the current transportation system.