PARIS — As the Mondiale de l’Automobile Paris, Paris Auto Show, wound down last week in a big fairground on the city’s southern fringe, Autonomy Paris, a new show designed to explore alternative transportation methods for city dwellers, was kicking off up north.
The Paris Auto Show is a classic automotive fair, dominated by big car OEMs and tier ones whose focus remains dead-set on enthusing the public with new luxury automobiles and concept cars. Autonomy Paris is in every sense its antidote.
Showcasing hoverboards, electric-scooters, e-bicycles and connected apps for sharing vehicles, Autonomy Paris, reflects the yearning of a younger generation who prefer to live in cities without the cost and burden of owning their own cars.
To dismiss this trend simply as a Eurocentric tree-hugger movement would be to miss the point. Worse, it would be ignoring a growing opportunity to explore connected cities and alternative transportation technologies.
Local city governments the world over are eager to invest in and improve the efficiency of vehicle traffic, circulation of people and delivery of goods, while improving safety and reducing noise and pollution.
Even big carmakers are sniffing the changes in the air. From General Motors to Ford and Renault, they are busy teaming up with ride-sharing companies or launching new social car-share services on their own.
They even boast that they are now in the business of “mobility” rather than automotive. The shift in language might just be semantic and nothing but marketing. Still, car OEMs are aware that they must find ways to appeal to a whole new populations no longer particularly interested in purchasing cars — one new model after another.
Ross Douglas, founder and CEO of Autonomy, talked of his own experience in getting around in a city like L.A. or San Francisco. “I’m often in a back of a cab, watching the cars crawl to halt in heavy traffic and getting very anxious about reaching where I need to be in time. Once the cab arrives at a destination, I find myself in the middle of a large parking lot, have to walk across it before going straight into a large shopping mall.”
Douglas calls the experience “single-destination transportation.” He asked, “But in contrast, if I am in Copenhagen or in Paris, I’m on a bicycle. I’d stop at a cafe for a cup of cappuccino, drop in a shop to buy food and find a florist for a bouquet of flowers before reaching my destination.”
“Technology should improve human experience. Technology could get our cities move more efficiently, so that we — humans — can get our life back on the streets,” he concluded.
No doubt, by anyone’s definition, Douglas has a very romantic view of the way we hope to live. But he is right in one respect: “We have an opportunity to get our cities moving.” In the following pages, EE Times presents a slideshow, depicting several “alternative” mobility solutions that were on display at Autonomy Paris.
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