Always thought that mobility is there to get you from A to B? Wrong! Mobility is nothing less than a basic human need. The exact extent has indeed been the same since prehistoric times, Carlo van de Weijer knows. “One hour and six minutes a day. Whether you go fast or slow, a person simply wants an hour and six minutes on the road. With or without any sort of vehicle.”

Van de Weijer leads the cluster Smart Mobility at TU/e and also works at TomTom. Today he took part in the smart mobility debate at the opening of the Dutch Technology Week.

It is, Van de Weijer says, best to spend this one hour and six minutes in the smartest possible way, so the conversation quickly moves to autonomous driving. “Well, the self-propelled vehicle. Since 1917, we think that we will drive in one within twenty years time, and we still do. But frankly, the signals that this is really feasible have become somewhat stronger in recent years.”

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    And yet it can still take a while, he says. Not because the technique can’t cope with it or people don’t want to, but – believe it or not – it is the inability of such a self-driving car to break the law which bothers him. Van de Weijer: “If you only knew how many more road accidents would occur if people would not occasionally break the law. An autonomous vehicle is programmed never to break a law and thus it simply won’t. That’s a serious problem.”

    Van de Weijer looks at Helmond, thanks to the automotive campus, as the world capital of all smart mobility developments. That’s where you want to be if you want to keep an eye on the next steps in mobility. But how to really develop, how do we know what the consumer wants in this area? “Well, the consumer does not really know what he wants for himself, so it’s not very useful to ask directly. But we can, as Ad van Berlo says, work together with the consumers. And of course some things are quite obvious. Before too long cars wille be inherently clean and safe. And a lot cheaper too. That’s what everybody would like, I would think. ”

    But then again, there’s a world of difference between what everyone wants and what everyone does. You only have to look at the way everybody gets stuck in the same traffic jam day after day. Van de Weijer still is optimistic. “Soon the alternatives are so obvious that you have to be a very huge sucker not to see that.”

    In the picture: Carlo van de Weijer second from right

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    Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.