The changing role of personal mobility

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering


In the last decade, we have seen the emergence (and in some cases the resurgence) of different forms of private transport. Car-sharing, carpooling, and ride hailing services are now commonplace in developed countries and have rapidly increased in popularity since their inception (Goldman Sachs, 2017). Ride-hailing services like Uber and Didi have eclipsed taxi transport in some cities like San Francisco and are forecasted to generate global revenue of $285bn ($36bn 2016) by 2030 (Goldman Sachs, 2017). Car sharing services are forecast to experience more modest but nevertheless also rapid growth with 36 million members (7 million 2015) in 2025 (Frost & Sullivan, 2016). Consequently, we have seen the classical vehicle ownership model increase in flexibility to cater for those who favour access over ownership. This new emergent market has undoubtedly begun to take root in the developed world and has led to many major car manufacturers to position themselves to become shared-mobility service operators (Toyota, Daimler, BMW). This research aims to address the impact of these changes on personal mobility, private travel, and mobility characteristics such as car ownership.
Research Question
This project has two main aims:
1. Develop and understanding of how the structure and perception of private transport has changed over time
(a) Understand individual travellers' perceptions of private transport, and how and if they will change
(b) Understand the underlying motives behind private vehicle ownership and whether they can be replaced, substituted, or are subject to change
(c) Identify any correlations between changing perceptions and mobility characteristics such as vehicle ownership, car use and market share for the car.
2. Develop an understanding of how this change will translate with regards to trip patterns and travel behaviour
(a) Identify how this new structure of private transport fits into the wider transport system and what role it will play in society and industry.
(b) Identify the impact on trip patterns and travel behaviour due to a new system and changing perceptions of private transport and personal mobility.
(c) Compare and critically analyse current models and understanding of personal mobility and travel; and analyse their suitability.
The study will utilise a quantitative approach making use of existing travel demand modelling, and statistical modelling toolsets to quantify the aforementioned impacts and possibly develop a car ownership model. Data gathering will involve the consultation of existing data sources such as the NTS and TFL travel surveys, alongside primary data collected through surveys.
Furthermore, this research will also possibly make use of qualitative research methods and subsequently utilise a hybrid "quantitative-qualitative" approach to inform the methodology; and validate and extend the research findings.
Novel Content
This project aims to take steps towards achieving a greater understanding of personal mobility and consequently, current approaches toward travel demand modelling - which is central to infrastructure and land use planning. Current literature on the changes in the structure of private transport focus on car sharing, ride hailing and carpooling; however literature on the overarching effect of these new modes on personal mobility, traveller perceptions, and traveller characteristics is unexplored.
This research fits best into the following research areas in priority order: Infrastructure and urban systems, Engineering Design, Digital Content (Theme)


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513052/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2104423 Studentship EP/R513052/1 01/10/2018 31/03/2022 Abdulfatah Abu