Researching trends

What will human mobility look like in the future?

Our world is moving fast. Never before has it seen technological developments as huge as today. Human mobility, too, is changing in a way that raises concerns. In an interview with SI editor Birke Müller, trend researcher and lecturer Marianne Reeb discusses the directions that mobility could take in the future.

Si Urban: You are a trend researcher. What exactly does that mean? Marianne Reeb: My team’s task is to recognize and assess relevant developments in society, consumer behavior and mobility, and deduce the relevance and consequences they could have for Daimler’s business and products. To do that, we must stay alert, see the world with watchful eyes, talk to relevant experts and correctly interpret even the faintest signals. How do trends emerge and can they be influenced? New trends often emerge when different types of things come together, e.g. when technological and social innovations go in the same direction.

Marianne Reeb

Marianne Reeb was born in Karlsruhe/Baden in 1963. She studied business administration in Mannheim and Berlin, focusing on marketing and market research. Having completed her studies with a thesis on future life styles, she joined Daimler Forschung’s society and technology research team and works on trends and future target groups. She never quite gave up research and lecturing. She regularly accepts invitations to lecture and acts as an honorary professor for the Cultural Work study program at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam.

Let’s look at sharing trends as an example: the idea of sharing cars in a city is relatively old. One of the first providers, Stadtauto, was founded in the 1980s. Despite that, car sharing remained a niche phenomenon for a long time. Only when it became possible to book vehicles via smartphones did the community of users start to grow significantly. Whether trends can be influenced depends greatly on the type of trends we are talking about.


If we use the same example, the trend towards providing the right sharing offerings to customers can definitely be influenced. But other trends such as, for example, demographic trends, remain robust. The future of human mobility represents an important part of your research work. Do you think that in a few years urban cableways could play a role as a transport solution in our country as they do in South America?


In South America, cableways are important, especially as a means of democratizing mobility. Another aim is to enable residents from remote neighborhoods to seek work in city centers. But we can see interest growing in these kinds of projects in our cities too. Cableways as a means of transport can be built relatively quickly and require little space.


In an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung, you outlined a scenario describing what Stuttgart could look like in the future. What important changes would there be and how much of a role would cableways play? Our scenario for Stuttgart in 2036 covers many aspects such as autonomous emission-free vehicles, new logistics concepts in the city and optimal ways of interlinking various means of transport at certain hubs.

What lies in the future? Will there be even more cars on congested roads or are technical innovations leading us towards a more livable kind of mobility? Photo: pixabay


We have also included a cableway because it is a perfect means of transport for a city like Stuttgart where there are extreme height differences. Moreover, we consider cableways an intelligent means of transport that shifts part of the mobility load into a third dimension. And we don’t mean just passenger transport but also transport of goods by cableways. All large cities worldwide face the same problems: traffic overload, congestion and the resulting noise and environment pollution.


Not to mention the stress and health risks that people are exposed to. But despite all that, increasingly more roads and bridges are being built and more cars, buses and trucks drive on them. How come there are no other alternatives? Cableways are still not seriously considered by traffic planners. They are even laughed at and rejected as a foolish idea. Why do you think there is so much resistance to them and will it change in the future?


As I said, cableways definitely offer interesting opportunities for personal mobility and transport of goods. And I think that even here attitudes are starting to change and new, interesting opportunities for using cableways are opening up. A cableway project is currently very close to implementation in Gothenburg. What is different about Gothenburg compared to other cities? Are people there perhaps more courageous?


I am not familiar with the details of the Gothenburg project. I think it is always important to look very carefully at the purpose of such projects and, especially, the routes they are planned for. The opportunities for cableway application are still limited though I know from my discussions with cableway manufacturers that experts are working very hard on broadening them. What does your dream city of tomorrow look like in terms of transport solutions?


For me, the dream city of tomorrow offers diverse ways of getting from A to B – depending on the occasion, my mood, etc. Diversity is something strongly emphasized in today’s society so I expect that the future, too, will not be limited to just a single solution for everybody for all occasions. If well interlinked means of transport are available, choosing a particular means of transport and transferring to another will be easy. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case today – although it is true that we have made an important step forward in this regard thanks to all the new mobility apps that can link local public transport with, for example, car-sharing offerings such as “car2go” or the taxi-app “mytaxi”.