Why mobility matters

There are several key drivers that are bringing mobility to the forefront for both consumers and commercial organizations. Perhaps one of the biggest drivers is urbanization, which is exacerbating the pressure on mobility infrastructure all over the world. The spatial distribution of the population is projected to almost completely reverse by 2050, when 70% of people will live in urban areas.1 Migration from rural areas is leading to the creation of more megacities, which are cities comprised of over 10million people. The majority of the cities projected to become megacities are based in Asia and Africa (Figure 1)2.

Figure 1: Size of urban population in millions in 2030
Note: Circles scaled to urban population size; colour reflects percent of people living in cities or towns
Source: Unicef (2012) "An urban world"

The rapid growth of megacities and conurbations means that societies will need evermore sustainable and resilient mobility solutions to fulfil their potential.
Evangelos Avramakis, Head Digital Ecosystems R&D, Swiss Re Institute

Mobility and daily life

Mobility matters because of the way it impacts our lives. We travel to work, to socialize, to live. There are a variety of factors that influence how people experience their environment and all of them intersect with mobility on an almost daily basis. Socio- economic differences in how people move around their environments have been studied and services are coming under fire for exacerbating differences rather than bridging gaps. The extortionate cost of transport in most urban areas means people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds typically make fewer journeys and less journeys for pleasure; they focus already strained financial resources on getting to work or school and the return, with less time spent travelling to and from leisure activities. In LA, a charity has taken over car parks at night so families can live in their cars in safety, because housing is too expensive in the city and transport networks are either a poor option or are too expensive.3

Different genders experience mobility differently and have different priorities. Men are more likely to drive, with women more likely to use public transport. Consider safety, which is a concern for both genders but manifests in different ways. Women are twice as likely as men to experience fear for their safety on transport, waiting for transport and on the walk to their homes4. Women make up the majority of bus users, yet bus stops further away from city centers can be isolated and poorly lit, as well as poorly situated for the walk home.  

When we limit how and when people can travel, whether because of their gender, socioeconomic background or race, we limit the potential not just of the individual but of the society. When people have to make a trade between transport costs and certain jobs or housing, we see that there is a loss of potential which has an associated economic cost. Whether that cost is in sick days or tardiness, which has an easily quantifiable cost to employers, or whether it is in the satisfaction one has with their lives, it all colours how an individual experiences their environment.

Mobility and smart cities

Smart cities have been hailed as the solution. Data driven transport services, powered by a combination of AI, machine learning and human capability will maximize efficiency and reduce waste. In this vision of the future, there would be no more overcrowding or underutilization, because smart sensor data can be used to regulate services to avoid it. Eco friendly options that run on alternative power sources mean transport is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. In Kansas, their tram system has recently reopened and is using many of these features to improve customer journeys; ticket booths can take photos of tourists, the journeys are free, and smart mapping of traffic lights and routes means that journeys are up to 26 seconds faster.

Mobility ecosystems have the potential to alleviate many social, socio-economic and environmental burdens.
Corinne Fitzgerald, Researcher, Swiss Re Institute

Mobility and congestion

The advent of Uber and other on demand car services in cities around the world has made personal journeys cheaper. There are some downsides; traffic is an obvious measure of the burden of mobility. Americans lost 97 hours in congestion in 2018, which costs the country $87 billion annually in time, an average of $1,348 per driver. London clocked 227 hours stuck in congestion, costing drivers £1,680 annually (Figure 2).6

Figure 2: The most congested cities in the world
Note: Based on hours lost to traffic and inner city last-mile travel speed.
Source: INRIX (2018) 2018 global traffic scorecard

Exxom is planning an increase in oil and gas pumping to accompany an increase in automobile demand. This is worrying for several reasons; traffic is already a concern, air pollution levels are high in many cities and the associated health concerns are taking a toll on health and wellness. This extra oil and gas pumping will be associated with an increase in the average earth temperature of up to 1.5 degrees, which could lead to ever more volatile weather conditions.7

Mobility and the way of working

Increasingly, people are working remotely and flexibly. Cloud based technologies are making communication between team members easier, so workers and businesses no longer feel the pressure to have full offices to show productivity. As more people move towards this way of working, transport needs become less utilitarian and more focused on the 'journey experience' – things like comfort, accessibility and even backdrops for social media posts.

Urbanization is impacting business in other ways; increasing populations often means governments spend money on public works projects – new transport links, new routes etc. These new transport links establish new commuter towns; places close enough to the city you can enjoy their conveniences, but far enough away that the cost of living and pace of life is more manageable. New businesses can take advantage of these new routes and transform areas into commercial hubs. Stations and airports are increasingly providing more thought to maximizing consumer expenditure – offering lounges to valued customers, shopping, restaurants etc.

A well- integrated, cohesive mobility ecosystem will revolutionise how consumers and commercial enterprises experience their environment.
Corinne Fitzgerald, Researcher, Swiss Re Institute

Digital ecosystems that incorporate a more holistic and seamless mobility experience seem to be the way of the future. Ecosystems are designed to improve services for both personal and commercial users and are revolutionizing the mobility industry in much the same way we've seen them revolutionize other sectors. The key is consumer data. Access to data helps insurers to know their customer better and anticipate their needs with greater insight and accuracy.

Mobility ecosystems

The above factors are the primary drivers behind our decision to publish an in- depth look at mobility ecosystems, as part of our wider series of expertise publications looking at digital ecosystems. Mobility is a driving force in how we experience our environment and is a huge factor in both social and socioeconomic success. For a more detailed look at these factors and more, see our publication on mobility ecosystems.


[1] United Nations, "World Urbanisation Prospects 2018", population.un.org (accessed 10 April 2019)

[2] K. Kuo (20 May 2016) "80% of the world's megacities are now in Asia, Latin America, or Africa", QZ.com, 20 May 2016, https://qz.com/africa/688823

[3] C. Borrelli, "The Working Homeless", National Geographic, 2019, p.124

[4] C. Perez, Invisible Women, Penguin Random House, UK, 2019, p. 52- 66

[5] L. Rodriguez, "Everything's Up-To-Date in Kansas City", National Geographic, 2019, p. 34

[6] INRIX (11 Feb 2019) "2018 Global Traffic Scorecard", INRIX.com, http://inrix.com/press-releases/scorecard-2018-us/

[7] G. Guyana and I. Texas (09 February 2019) "ExxonMobil gambles on growth", The 'Crude Awakening', The Economist, Issue 6, 2019