Seven trends to shape the future. (They all affect you.)
THESE TWO WORDS HAVE SPARKED HISTORY’ S MOST SIGNIFICANT INNOVATIONS. BUT WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG THING? HERE ARE SEVEN SIMPLE IDEAS THAT COULD SHAPE THE FUTURE - FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE.
NO ONE OWNED A CAR?
Most people drive a car to work every day. And in Australia, around 90 per cent of those work trips are done alone. That’s something David Rohrsheim, the general manager of Uber Australia and New Zealand, wants to change. “Sydney and Melbourne have millions of cars,” he says, “but if you’re at the lights and you look out the window, you’re probably going to see a lot of empty seats on your left and right-hand side. We have to find a smarter way.” If the trend continues, more cars with fewer people in them means more congestion and a greater need for parking – both at home and at work. “Sydney might have 10 or 20 per cent of its space set aside for parking,” he says. “But what if we got that space back? What you could do with it?
prime real estate and it’s a really tantalising opportunity.” It’s something architecture firm Woods Bagot has already anticipated. Its recent plans for a Perth apartment complex have a car-free future in mind. The first few levels of traditional developments are usually set aside for parking – which means low ceilings – though the Perth building has increased these ceiling heights, to allow the floors to be repurposed in the future. The same is happening at other developments around the world, including plans for a residential complex in downtown LA. Like an increasing number of people, Rohrsheim believes the future is in shared, eco-friendly, autonomous vehicles that operate on demand. They could be housed outside of city centres, freeing up the inner city for additional green space or cheaper housing. Streetside parking could also be converted into other uses, such as bike lanes. Rohrsheim is confident the next 10 years will see a mix of autonomous and traditional vehicles on the roads. “Congestion is the first thing you’ll notice – the commute won’t be so painful,” he says of the benefits. “And as far as safety goes, in an autonomous world, we’re optimistic that these computers will not get drowsy, will not get drunk, and that will contribute to much better outcomes on the road.” Car ownership is also expensive – the Australian Automobile Association calculates the yearly cost at $20,000 – accounting for insurance, tolls and running costs. Then there’s the environmental impact, with cars responsible for 16 per cent of global Co2emissions. Uber sees itself not as an alternative to public transport, but as a complement to it. You might catch a train to your local station, then order a ride for the 10 minutes to your door. If Uber has its way, searching for parking at a local train station will be a thing of the past. In the US, New Jersey avoided building additional parking at the city’s main transit station, instead offering subsidised Uber rides for the final leg of commuters’ journeys. In Florida, the government turned down a proposal to develop a new bus shuttle service, in favour of reduced Uber fares for locals, to and from train stations. The decision cut costs from $1.5m a year, to less than a third of that. During the recent Christmas season, Canberra struck a deal to give night-bus riders a $10 Uber discount to cover the final leg of a trip home. A future of energy efficient, shared rides will reshape cities. Still, Rohrsheim admits there will still be a place for petrol heads who enjoy the thrill of driving. “People still have horses,” he points out. “We just don’t use them to get around.”