The transportation industry — both personal and commercial — is at an inflection point.
If it wasn’t already clear, the events of the past year have proven that both will play critical roles in defining the future of smarter, sustainable mobility. From reducing our collective carbon footprint to reimagining commercial transportation to improving accessibility for communities and cities, smart mobility is front and center of the world’s efforts to meet aggressive climate goals and the pursuit of equitable movement of people and goods.
Smart mobility can be defined as the optimized movement of people and goods as part of a holistic transportation network. I believe it creates opportunities across transportation to execute on new visions of policy and services that ultimately improve people’s lives.
For instance, Climate Week NYC took place this past September, where policymakers and experts across the automotive industry spoke about the collaboration and partnership required to meet sustainable mobility goals. COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, is underway, and collaboration is a main goal for the organization. The message is clear: Collaboration is key to smarter, more sustainable transportation.
Enter the untold opportunities of a career in smart mobility.
Smart mobility is forcing different silos, industries and professional functions to work together in ways they haven’t before. Smart mobility needs thinkers who can understand everything from logistics to manufacturing to software development and AI, all of which have traditionally been seen as separate industries and separate skill sets.
There is a huge opportunity in the transportation industry, not only for the best and brightest engineers and manufacturers but, for the first time, for talent that can link people, processes, platforms, policy and the planet in new ways. Smart mobility cannot reach its potential as a driver of social and economic good if any one of these “P”s is left out of the equation. If we don’t have talent in place ensuring collaboration between these silos, we risk attempting to create systems that are not attainable — and, even if we do create them, they will likely be brittle and not adaptable, and thus cannot be maintained for the long-term. We’re already seeing tangible examples of this integration come to the forefront — a trend I expect to accelerate in the new year.
In automotive, for example, automakers are having to shift resources from advanced engine development and related R&D to learning about the electrical grid for the first time as they consider how to strategically build, distribute and maintain electric vehicles. This then extends to policymakers and those building infrastructure as they determine when, where and how to place charging stations. Another is the public sector having to learn about data management (and tools to make this a more actionable proposition) for digital management of traffic and congestion or the management of curbs.
Yes, the smart mobility movement will still need the best and brightest engineers and manufacturers who are building the modes of today — they will be around for a while! But it is also important that this industry’s workforce comprises of individuals who think more broadly about sustainability and how each of these components holistically plays within the entire transportation ecosystem.
For example, we need people developing vehicles that can challenge the status quo of passenger vehicle design and ask “why.” As we know, there are safety requirements that passenger cars must pass to be certified to travel on the highway. However, with so many trips not requiring highway driving, does every vehicle need to be designed that way? These designers and engineers would need to also understand the policy that drives these requirements and think about where it makes sense to try to advocate for change. This would be a true renaissance person who not only understands the logistical requirements for transportation, but also vehicle design and the impact of policy, and a dash of history would go a long way, too.
We’re seeing people migrate to the industry like we never have before. But, to be successful, this thinking must also extend beyond individuals and permeate the ethos of the organizations affecting change — whether public or private.
The current smart mobility challenge is nuanced, multifaceted and involves solving for today with an eye on tomorrow. The good news is that we’re already starting to see this commitment matched with action, as more companies are looking to bring together different aspects of the industry to one table to meet aggressive climate goals. For example, at the Coalition for Reimagined Mobility, we have 15+ members and counting spanning automotive, logistics, energy, regulation and more collaborating with one another.
The chance to truly make a difference now, and for future generations, is one that job seekers should not take lightly — to create a world where everyone and everything has access to reliable, sustainable means of transportation.
The value of distributing hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles is diminished without the proper infrastructure to charge them. Intelligent, real-time transportation of goods and services isn’t realized without digitized operations and data analysis. The industry is in need of thinkers and leaders who can understand that breadth and execute with a vision for the bigger picture.
Everyone has a part to play. And, through collaboration, we’ll find the sum is greater than these parts.
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