The rise in Service as Mobility

Illustration by Jeanne Grafteaux, Senior Industrial Designer at NewTerritory.

The benefits of ‘Mobility as a Service’ are well understood and deeply felt. Our city streets and the way we navigate through the urban environment has been transformed by the interconnectedness of communal, light-touch, transport solutions.

This has helped fuel the sea-change in our priorities of the last year in how and where we work, how we get around, how we shop, and — crucially — what we expect from the services we experience in our everyday lives.

During lock-down, businesses shifted to home delivery, innovating and flexing to COVID’s restrictions to continue to serve their clients despite their retail locations being closed. Although the world is starting to open up again, this trend in ‘Service as Mobility’ will become increasingly pervasive as people re-shape their lives and the established schedules of the working week loosen and become fluid.

People are going to continue to want and expect services to come to their homes (or wherever they are), and so the need for the service and retail industry is to find ways to maximise efficiency and make Service as Mobility work within cities and rural environments: to do so will require innovation in vehicle design, transport network integration and user expectation.

The number and types of services that come to us is increasing and proliferating — we are at the start of an exciting growth curve in this space. This is going to see new vehicle types being developed which can provide services which previously were only offered in physical locations.

Innovative OEMs and start-ups are already designing semi-bespoke vehicles which are re-writing the playbook as to what, and how, services and goods can be delivered to the home, through re-thinking the standardised layout of delivery vans, cars and bikes (and even trains).

But it won’t stop with the vehicle — the entire brand experience will be transformed and brought closer to us. This will require a broader re-imagining of what a brand is and represents and how they are designed and experienced across every touch point: from new approaches to packaging and the use of materials that are better suited to movement and usage in new contexts to fresh ways for customers to connect with a service or brand outside of bricks and mortar.

Smaller, safer, cleaner, these vehicles will be better suited to bringing the brand experience directly to people’s front doors and into the hearts of their communities, which will lead to a new level of relationship between people, their neighbours and the streets and environments they live in.

What is interesting to consider is how this delivery infrastructure can be developed to support the transportation of people and how our existing transportation networks can be developed to support the delivery of goods and services — the hybrid network. What types of vehicles and design language is needed to support this flip and integration and what policy changes are needed to ensure that this can work safely and sustainably?

Coming out of the pandemic, Flexible Hybrid Mobility will drive change in the way we not only think about personal vehicle ownership but our expectations of how we lead every aspect of our lives, including how the brands we buy into deliver their services.

Whether in an urban or rural environment, the key is for transport innovators and service providers to work together with governments, sharing their infrastructure, to support communities, individuals and industry equally.

Author: Hugo Jamson, Creative Director at NewTerritory.

An independent creative consultancy exploring better ways of living, working and moving.