How the focus on health is shaping today’s mobility trends

For a long time, citizens and smart mobility providers have prioritized the human need for productivity – getting from A to B in the most efficient and least time-consuming way. As this resulted in many negative side effects – sedentary lifestyle, overcrowding, and pollution – the need to rethink mobility solutions has become more urgent and pressing than ever.

COVID-19 thereby served as a catalyst, fueling emergent ways of thinking about mobility with a focus on health and well-being. This increased focus on hygiene is also what we witnessed in our global qualitative COVID-19 consumer community. Through engagement with 102 consumers from 13 countries, we identified several pan-industry themes that define the future consumer. From sustainability with clean being the new green, the rise of enochlophobia, crowds afraid of crowds, forging us into the 6-ft society and the prioritzation of well-being with Self 2.0.

To identify brand opportunities specifically for mobility provides, we fueled these themes with our proprietary trend research.

Hygiene as baseline for all transport modes

“I hope future cars can conduct real-time smart monitoring of air quality inside cars.”

Chinese consumer

Although sustainability has not completely been pushed off the agenda by COVID-19, clean’ will prevail over ‘green. For fear of contamination, hygiene will become a baseline expectation for all modes of transport, and a key reason why passengers choose one mode over the other. In response to this increased need for health and hygiene, Tesla launched a contactless test drive service in March 2020, while Chinese car company Geely rolled out contactless car key delivery by drone to new owners.

To better understand what this shift towards prioritizing hygiene might mean in a post-lockdown reality, we launched a creative contest via our proprietary global creative crowdsourcing network eÿeka. One of the solutions proposed was the ‘clean grip’, an appliance that gives people a place to hold on to poles on public transport without the fear of contamination.

The car as a flexible health bubble

“The risk of taking public transportation such as subways and buses is a huge concern to many of us…”

Chinese consumer

While social distancing measures felt odd at first, consumers have embraced this different way of life to the extent that a ‘6-foot-distance society’ is becoming the new normal in order to avoid contamination. As people look for creating safe bubbles of protection against the virus, we witnessed an increased interest in car use. This paves the way for more innovative solutions to resolve issues of congestion and pollution, related to increased car use. Combining the idea of a healthy and safe bubble for individuals, with not harming our collective health (e.g. limiting pollution and the risk of accidents) will be key.

Jaguar Land Rover, for example, recently released its near-future concept car Project Vector, an autonomous and electric multi-use vehicle designed to contribute to safer and less polluted urban environments. Joyn, on the other hand, is a ride-sharing concept which aims to address privacy and security issues, in addition to offering the environmental benefits of multiple passengers sharing one vehicle. The exterior is designed to look like a smart glass ‘bubble’, granting passengers expansive views of their surrounding cityscape. Each passenger has their own privacy via guards which could also double up as hygiene barriers.

Towards mobility solutions boosting well-being

“I expect to visit my car more often, even if it is just to take a quick break to clear my mind while at home. It might sound funny, but my car is becoming an additional small room in the house.”

US consumer

The worldwide pandemic also fosters consumers to ‘reinvent’ themselves, by paying more attention to physical and mental health and become a 2.0 version of themselves. The current context presents opportunities for city planners to supercharge their ‘active mobility’ strategy, thereby prioritizing cycling and walking in infrastructure and mapping solutions. Singapore, for example, is building a system of transport infrastructure in which daily commutes integrate walking and cycling with public transportation. This Walk Cycle Ride initiative encourages more livable recreation spaces, promotes sustainable energy use and reduces pollution.

The many uncertainties entailed by COVID-19 evidently also have an impact on consumers’ mental health and resilience. The stress hormone cortisol directly impacts people’s ability to navigate. Solutions that succeed in boosting people’s endorphins, thereby creating a more positive relationship with their environment, will produce happier and healthier citizens. In response to this, Korean manufacturer Kia is incorporating emotion-reading tech into its cars. The bio-signal recognition system analyzes facial expressions, heart rate and electrodermal activity to decipher the driver’s emotional state, and adjusts the car accordingly, for example by altering the lighting or the music to reintroduce a sense of calm.

COVID-19 thus serves as a tailwind to accelerate innovation in mobility. Today, mobility providers are challenged to present genuine solutions for individual and collective health challenges, humanize their products and services, and re-position themselves as enablers of well-being, rather than as stressors.

Curious about which trends are shaping your consumer, category and brand? Understanding and applying cultural shifts and emerging trends are relevant in any business challenge, whether it’s the start of an innovation challenge, contextualizing the customer journey or developing new brand territories. Discover more on our proprietary Culture + Trends offering or start the conversation with our team!

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