4 Mobility Trends To Watch in 2024

Mobility’s Next Era Will Redefine How We Move

2023 laid the groundwork for a revolutionary shift in how we move. It was a year of embracing innovation across the mobility spectrum, not just for the sake of novelty, but for the betterment of society as a whole. Fueled by groundbreaking advancements in technology and bolstered by the ripple effects of 2022’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act, last year marked a turning point where long-promised advancements, previously held back by societal inertia, started to finally take off.

2024 marks yet another turning point in this Age of Adoption. A wave of game-changing trends is poised to unlock a future of truly transformative mobility, one where access, convenience, sustainability, and even joy are prioritized after decades of frustration, dysfunction, and red tape. 

Yet, questions swirl: how rapid will the transition be? How inclusive? How convenient and efficient? While the exact answers may remain elusive, the direction is clear and momentum is building for redefining how we move. 

1. All Aboard the Passenger Rail Renaissance

Once relegated to the pages of history books, passenger rail is experiencing an undeniable resurgence across North America. This revival is fueled by a confluence of factors: significant public funding, private sector investment, and growing consumer demand for reimagined transportation options.

Investment in Infrastructure and Innovation

Billions of dollars are being poured into rail infrastructure and services, showcasing the extensive reach of this once-dormant mode of travel. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $66 billion – the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago – to modernize America’s aging rail network, enabling states to revamp regional lines and implement upgrades for faster travel and enhanced passenger comfort. Adding to that, the Biden administration’s recent allocation of $6 billion for high-speed rail development is igniting imaginations and laying the foundation for a future network of high-speed corridors.

Infrastructure development is also playing a crucial role. Brightline’s successful operations in Florida are expanding to the West Coast, while Texas Central’s ambitious bullet train project continues to gain momentum thanks to investor and federal enthusiasm. These successful ventures are inspiring even bigger visions like California’s ambitious statewide rail expansion plan.

Regulatory changes are also further lubricating the wheels of this resurgence. Streamlined processes for rights-of-way access, unified charging systems across transit modes, and integrated apps and payment platforms are paving the way for seamless, more accessible multimodal connections. 

Elevating the Passenger Experience

Modernization extends beyond infrastructure, encompassing a focus on passenger experience. Contemporary cabins, equipped with amenities that rival those found in luxury hotels, are redefining the image of rail travel. Plush seating, spacious interiors, and access to high-speed Wi-Fi and entertainment systems ensure a comfortable and connected journey. Partnerships with renowned brands further elevate the experience, offering passengers exclusive access to curated experiences and services. 

The focus extends beyond physical comfort to encompass a curated cultural and entertainment experience. We’ll likely start to see more perks like access to exclusive events, art exhibitions, and gourmet dining partnerships that transform the journey into a series of enriching moments. Personalization will also start to play a role, with recommendations and loyalty programs to further enhance the experience, ensuring that each passenger’s journey is tailored to their individual preferences.

This focus on elevated experiences is not merely a trend; it’s a response to a growing demand for personalized and meaningful travel experiences. Today, 95 percent of leisure travelers prioritize new and unique experiences during their travels and 48 percent of these travelers cite the pursuit of such experiences as the primary reason for their journeys. This shift in consumer behavior reflects a desire for deeper connections and more meaningful moments during travel, which trains, with their immersive and luxurious atmosphere, are uniquely positioned to provide.

A Sustainable Future for Rail

Traveler behavior isn’t solely centered on seeking meaningful experiences; it’s also distinctly signaling a societal movement favoring solutions that prioritize sustainability and an increasing consciousness of environmental issues. Rail travel actually stands as a shining example of sustainable transportation; when compared to air travel and automobiles, trains boast significantly lower carbon emissions, making them a crucial ally in the fight against climate change. As environmental concerns continue to rise, the appeal of rail’s sustainability will only grow, further solidifying its place in the transportation landscape.

From Iron Horse to Tech Phoenix

To sum it up, passenger rail in North America is not just on the verge of experiencing a resurgence, it’s about to undergo a complete transformation. Fueled by public and private investment, innovative solutions, and a growing demand for sustainable and enriching travel experiences, trains are set to reclaim their rightful place as a dominant force in the transportation landscape. As we look towards the future, it’s clear that the golden age of rail travel is not a relic of the past, but a vibrant reality waiting to unfold. 

2. eVOTLs Take Flight

CES 2024 is already sending shockwaves through the transportation world thanks to dazzling electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircrafts on display. After years of hype, companies like Supernal (backed by Hyundai) are making real progress. These futuristic vehicles promise zero emissions, quieter skies, and a revolutionary way to get around our cities. With big money and consumer interest on their side, eVTOLs could soon be disrupting transportation as we know it.

(Almost) Ready for Liftoff

Several companies are vying for a piece of the burgeoning eVTOL market, including California-based Joby Aviation. Having received the green light from the FAA for production-line testing of its first prototype aircraft in June 2023, Joby is well-positioned to launch commercial operations in 2025. This regulatory approval marks a significant milestone for the company, paving the way for its electric flying taxis to take to the skies and revolutionize urban transportation. Additionally, two major players in the space – Volocopter and AutoFlight – are preparing to showcase their technology during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games by offering services to the general public to supplement the existing transportation system in the City of Lights. While that’s incredibly impressive, we also need to look at the big picture too: according to McKinsey analysis, eVOTL and advanced-air mobility (AAM) operations stand poised to scale exponentially by 2030 – projecting air taxi flights and fleet size rivaling current airline behemoths in under a decade. 

Beyond the Hype: eVOTLs’ Impact on Cities

The arrival of eVOTLs promises to transform urban landscapes. Imagine hopping into an air taxi for a quick commute across town, bypassing congested streets and enjoying breathtaking aerial views. This technology has the potential to:

  • Reduce traffic congestion: By alleviating pressure on traditional transportation networks, eVOTLs can significantly improve traffic flow in cities.
  • Offer faster travel times: Avoiding traffic jams, eVOTLs can drastically reduce travel times for short-distance journeys within cities.
  • Boost connectivity: eVOTLs can provide access to previously underserved areas and improve connectivity between different parts of the city.
  • Promote sustainability: As electric vehicles, eVOTLs contribute to cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions in urban environments.

Navigating the Challenges: Safety and Infrastructure

While the potential of eVOTLs is undeniable, the challenges that we’ll face in the coming years remain. Ensuring the safety of these air taxis and passengers is paramount. Stringent regulations and robust safety protocols are essential for building public trust and confidence in this new mode of transportation.

Just like electric vehicles, infrastructure development is another key area requiring attention. Building and maintaining vertiports, the landing and takeoff pads for eVOTLs, is crucial for their successful integration into urban environments. In 2024 and beyond, collaboration between government agencies, private companies, and urban planners is essential to create a supportive infrastructure for this emerging technology.

A Glimpse into the Future of Mobility

From quieter commutes to cleaner air, eVOTLs offer a glimpse into a future where urban mobility is faster, more efficient, and more sustainable. As the technology matures and regulations evolve, 2024 marks the year this futuristic vision begins to take flight, transforming the way we navigate our cities and paving the way for a more connected and sustainable future.

3. Autonomous Vehicles: From Hype to Reality, with Revenue in Sight

While skepticism, speculation, and hype have lingered for years, 2024 promises to be an important year for autonomous and semi-automonous vehicles (AVs.) Advancements in technology development, ever-changing public perception, and a slightly more collaborative regulatory landscape are paving the way for widespread commercialization. Additionally, gone are the days of blind faith and fear-mongering. Instead, a more mature dialogue has emerged, balancing ethical considerations with the promise of public service and tangible progress. Cities are (somewhat) welcoming restricted AVs – despite hiccups – as a solution to congestion and accessibility challenges, so this shift in perspective paves the way for responsible development and deployment. 

As we look ahead at an industry set to create upwards of $400 billion in revenue by 2035, five trends are poised to shape the landscape of autonomous technology development in the coming year:

AI Takes the Wheel

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the brains behind AVs, and 2024 will see it evolve at breakneck speed. These algorithms will become even smarter, crunching data in real-time to navigate complex traffic, predict pedestrian movements, and adapt to any road condition. Imagine an AV seamlessly navigating rush hour or confidently handling a sudden downpour – that’s the power of AI-powered decision-making.

Graphics processing units (GPUs), will continue to turbocharge the revolution in self-driving technology. Their parallel processing prowess and massive memory bandwidth make them the perfect engine for the real-time calculations needed for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and beyond. Just imagine, Nvidia’s Drive Thor, boasting a mind-bending 2000-teraflop performance, powering autonomous vehicles to navigate complex scenarios like city streets with human-like precision. But that’s just the beginning and roughly two to three years away. As GPU technology leaps forward, so will our ability to build cars that drive themselves, not just for convenience, but for a safer and more sustainable future.

Seeing the Unseen

Sensor technology is also about to get a serious upgrade. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR), like that from players like Innoviz, Luminar, GPR, and Ouster, is becoming smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, giving AVs a 360-degree view of their surroundings. Cameras, radars, and ultrasonic sensors join the party, creating a comprehensive picture that leaves no blind spots. This sensory symphony – known as sensor fusion, a market estimated to be worth more than $16 billion by 2030 – will be crucial for reliable and safe autonomous driving.

Connected Highways, Safer Rides

5G connectivity isn’t just helping you binge-watch on streaming services; it’s completely revolutionizing AVs by turning them into information hubs. They’ll talk to each other (known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V), infrastructure (V2I), and even pedestrians and everything else (V2X), creating a real-time traffic awareness network. Picture an AV receiving instant alerts about accidents, road closures, or even a child’s soccer ball rolling onto the street – this interconnectedness will make roads safer and smoother for everyone.

Paving the Way for Regulations

With more AV technology taking to the streets in both passenger and commercial vehicles, clear guidelines are essential. In 2024, we’ll likely continue to see governments and regulators working towards standardized safety protocols and deployment rules. 

Earlier this year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) announced the AV STEP program to paving a new path for self-driving cars, potentially greenlighting fleets beyond current limitations and ditching traditional controls like steering wheels. Companies like GM, hampered by slow exemption processes, could see mass production of robotaxis like the Origin (potentially?), but it comes with a catch: data sharing to fuel NHTSA’s expertise and future rulemaking. AV STEP is a welcome step forward, and though not a permanent fix, it’s a good sign of the constant evolution we can expect to see in 2024 and beyond around regulation and rulemaking.

Reality Check: We’re Still in the Driver’s Seat

While AVs take the wheel, the human experience won’t be ignored. Intuitive interfaces and seamless communication between passengers and the AI will be key for the foreseeable future. Picture relaxing in your AV, adjusting the temperature or choosing the music with a simple voice command. This human-centered approach will make AVs not just efficient, but comfortable and enjoyable.

A Crossroads for the Future

The AV industry stands at a crucial juncture. While technical challenges, regulatory hurdles, and public safety concerns remain, momentum is still building. As we enter 2024, the focus is turning from utopian promises to practical solutions, tangible results, and hopefully increased profitability. Companies that can navigate this shift and prove their financial viability will be the ones driving the autonomous future.

4. Is the Future of Zero-Emission Vehicles At Stake? 

2023 ignited the electric and zero-emissions mobility revolution, fueled by falling costs and rising climate urgency. But 2024 is an even more critical turning point that will determine if this spark ignites mass adoption or fizzles out.

Political support for electric vehicles can be fickle, but the pressure to bring down battery costs – a bigger hurdle than just the upfront price – is growing. Lengthy permitting processes could still strangle the crucial charging network needed to build consumer confidence. But there are bright spots: a surge in affordable used EVs, creative financing options, and technological breakthroughs are all helping to break down barriers. In 2024, EVs stand at the crossroads of climate action, consumer preference, and political will.

The Dynamic Role of Politics 

The electric car boom could face a bumpy 2024, with upcoming elections in the U.S. and Europe potentially shifting EV-friendly policies. Automakers are wary, as the Biden administration’s EV-boosting initiatives could be reversed by Republican policies. While Europe’s 2035 EV mandate is technically in place, its long-term viability could depend on the outcome of the upcoming European Parliament elections in June. The charging infrastructure gap in both regions adds further uncertainty. Ultimately, the 2024 elections could impact EVs, and EVs could impact the elections, making the future of electric cars a political rollercoaster ride.

Batteries Get a Price Cut 

Carmakers and battery giants are setting their sights on 2024 as the year to slash EV battery costs. Right now, battery manufacturing makes up roughly 40 to 50 percent of the total cost of building an EV. While lithium is readily available, new cathode chemistries are promising less reliance on similar pricey metals like nickel, and cobalt. Tesla and China’s BYD are examples of major automakers leading the charge, with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries at Tesla and sodium-ion tech in BYD’s sights. 

But don’t forget Factorial Energy, the rising star in the solid-state battery field. Their unique quasi-solid-state FEST batteries offer the potential for even greater cost reductions, improved safety, and faster charging times. While still in the early stages, Factorial’s progress could disrupt the game in the next few years. This shift towards cheaper and more advanced batteries paves the way for more affordable and efficient EVs, but patience is key as these innovations take time to reach the mass market.

Innovative EV Financing Making Electric Mobility Accessible

Electric vehicle headlines are dominated by falling sticker prices, but a quiet revolution is brewing in the world of EV financing. This revolution aims to make electric mobility truly accessible by overcoming affordability barriers that extend far beyond the MSRP. A plethora of creative solutions are emerging – and will continue to do so in 2024 – to ensure that financial considerations do not stall the transition to sustainable transportation.

One key development is the mainstreaming of EV financing. Traditional lenders are welcoming EVs with interest rates at par with conventional cars, providing greater financial flexibility to consumers. Additionally, lease-like subscription models are becoming increasingly popular, allowing individuals to affordably access EVs without the long-term commitment of ownership. This will continue to be especially appealing to younger demographics seeking flexibility and convenience. Similarly, point-of-sale incentives are bringing down payments within reach, removing a major obstacle for potential EV buyers. Furthermore, some electric utilities, like Dominion Energy in Virginia, are offering innovative payment plans that include EV charger installation costs within the monthly bill, though sign-ups are disappointing to date.

One company that is making a significant impact in the EV financing space is Tenet. Tenet offers a unique platform that connects EV drivers and fleet owners with better loan terms from sustainability-focused financial institutions. They also leverage government tax credits and utilize intricate residual value data to offer competitive and tailored financing options. Tenet’s innovative approach is making EV ownership more accessible to a wider range of people. 

The used EV market is also poised to experience explosive growth in 2024. Despite production hurdles and charging network limitations, used EV sales in 2023 surpassed most new models. Prices have plummeted, averaging $27,800 (a 32 percent drop year-over-year), thanks to a growing inventory skewed towards newer models with longer ranges. With easier credit access and warranties protecting against battery degradation, the immediate future looks bright for used EVs to become more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.

The Permitting Race to Power EV Adoption

Electric car dreams are facing a bumpy road in 2024. While headlines scream about affordable EVs, a quiet drama unfolds behind the scenes: the sluggish rollout of the $7.5 billion federal charger program. Despite ambitious goals and eager states, convoluted contracting requirements and an unprecedented network build are causing frustrating delays.

Imagine a future where range anxiety vanishes, replaced by a seamless network of reliable chargers dotting highways and communities. This is the vision behind the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s EV charging initiatives, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program (NEVI) and Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Program. But for now, the charging landscape resembles a pothole-ridden road, discouraging drivers and hindering Biden’s climate ambitions.

The culprit? A labyrinth of bureaucratic hurdles. States and charger companies are struggling to navigate complex contracting requirements and stringent performance standards. Building a brand-new, reliable network across diverse terrains is a monumental task, and the learning curve is steep. While some states, like Ohio, prepped for the challenge and broke ground early, others remain bogged down in the bureaucratic mire.

The stakes are high in 2024. Not only is Biden’s goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030 at risk, but the future of electric car adoption hinges on an accessible charging infrastructure.

But amidst the challenges, glimmers of hope emerge. The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation is streamlining permitting processes and offering technical assistance. Private companies are ramping up manufacturing to meet domestic sourcing requirements. And states like Vermont, despite initial delays, recognize the long-term benefits of a robust network.

This is not just a bureaucratic snafu, it’s a race against time. We can’t afford to let inertia and political roadblocks stall progress. 

Have our previous predictions come to fruition? Read our 2023 Mobility Trends To Watch to find out.

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