The future of mobilty in rural areas 2040

Mobility is changing. In view of the often heated debates in politics and the media about the mobility of the future and its impact on the economy and society, this is beyond question. Accordingly, this topic is also prominent for our profession of trend and futurologists, who have not grown tired of creating ever new visions in recent years.


If you take a closer look at the debates about city tolls, car sharing, public transport expansion or micro-mobility, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that they are essentially concerned with the development of mobility in urban centers. But is it right to ignore the reality of life for millions of people in Germany's rural areas? Certainly not, especially when statistics indicate that 44 percent of all Germans would prefer to live in rural areas. With this in mind, the focus should probably be more on how we can make rural living spaces more attractive again.


In addition to other factors, mobility provision is an essential aspect in raising the attractiveness of rural areas. With this in mind, ScMI AG initiated the project »Future of mobility in rural areas« in 2020. Together with six partners - BMW Motorrad, the Kommunale Verkehrsgesellschaft Lippe (KVG), the district of Leipzig, LVM Versicherung, the Mitteldeutscher Verkehrsverbund (MDV) as well as the economic development agency of the district of Lippe - we therefore set out to develop a »map of the future« for this topic area. A path that led to many exciting insights and resulted in the description of eight visions for the future.



By reading our study, we would like to take you on a journey into the future of mobility. The eight scenarios take up numerous topics from the area of conflict of mobility and systematically lead them to clear images of the future, which enable the classification of many currently conducted debates and create new orientation. Get a first glimpse into the exciting world of tomorrow's mobility:


Rural frustration - the last one to turns off the lights (Scenario 1)
Rural frustration - the last one to turns off the lights (Scenario 1): Rural areas are becoming an economically developing country with deficits in digital supply, particularly as a result of the dismantling of industrial structures. A widespread rural escape to the metropolises accelerates the population decline, which turns the countryside into a social hotspot and makes creative (emergency) supply solutions necessary, among other things also with regard to goods logistics. While the temporal distribution of mobility remains unchanged, work and leisure trips are declining sharply. Also because mobility is becoming increasingly expensive, people are retreating into their own four walls. Sustainability issues are of secondary importance in the eyes of politicians and the population. Financial restrictions limit the scope for action of largely passive political actors. Infrastructure decay is a major consequence. While transportation systems remain technologically unchanged, public mobility provision is being dismantled. Dependence on individual mobility solutions is growing. Necessity is the mother of invention here - low-cost alternatives to the car are gaining in importance, as are commercial and private sharing solutions..
Conservative desire for the country - Back to the countryside of the good old days (Scenario 2)
Conservative desire for the country - Back to the countryside of the good old days (Scenario 2): Rural life becomes modern - Peripheral areas in particular are rediscovered by young families as places of high quality of life. Diverse employment opportunities, especially in rural centers, contribute to this. Politics creates positive framework conditions for individual road transport by expanding infrastructures and deregulation, while environmental issues are also of secondary importance from the consumer's point of view. Inexpensive individual mobility is thus the driver of high decentralization and thus growing mobility. As supply, work and leisure services are increasingly focused on the centers; individual journeys are generally becoming longer. Here, one's own car forms the center of mobility provision and is regarded as a status symbol of a consumption-oriented society. "Fun to drive" is the primary driver of e-mobility. While autonomous driving does not play a role, digitization is increasingly used to optimize and equalize traffic flows. Scheduled services in the centers and increasing on-demand solutions in the periphery are shaping a largely independent public service.
Individual mobility turnaround - new diversity of green mobility (Scenario 3)
Individual mobility turnaround - new diversity of green mobility (Scenario 3): The country is valued as a place to live across all generations. Economic structures and demographics are stabilizing. Peripheral areas and rural centers benefit equally from this, so that supply offers become economically viable and available throughout the country. A key driver of this »back to the land« movement is a sustainability orientation that is linked to a technology-oriented approach to progress and consumption. Accordingly, policymakers are focusing on strengthening »green« individual mobility through technology support and ecological regulations. Growing digitization remains without consequences for the volume of mobility. Despite greater localization, the desire for mobility, especially as an experience, remains strong. A high degree of individuality and great diversity are accordingly shaping mobility design. Micro-mobility systems are increasingly complementing electrically powered cars in garages. At the same time, the digitization of road infrastructure supports individual and ecological routing as well as smooth traffic flow.
Virtualization - mobility becomes an experience (Scenario 4)
Virtualization - mobility becomes an experience (Scenario 4): Digitalization is leading to major changes in the economy, society and mobility. In addition, the relevance of climate and environmental protection is increasing. As a result, increasing de-industrialization is shaping the economic structure, while work processes are increasingly being transferred to virtual networks. The choice of residence is thereby less and less tied to the existence of local employers. The countryside is being rediscovered by young and old alike as a favorable place to live with a high quality of life. Villages and municipalities in particular benefit here. Digitalization is being deliberately used to massively reduce everyday mobility. Work and school are becoming virtual, and digital services are taking over shopping, visits to the doctor or visits to the authorities. Sustainable thinking reinforces this effect, so that mobility becomes an experience. The low amount of mobility makes it difficult to provide economical public mobility in the area. At the same time, it makes the purchase of private vehicles seem less reasonable. As a result, sharing solutions for diverse and green individual mobility are gaining massive importance with the support of policymakers.
Conventional transport turnaround - collective mobility in the idyllic village setting (Scenario 5)
Conventional transport turnaround - collective mobility in the idyllic village setting (Scenario 5): Economic growth characterized by tourism and services stabilizes the demographic structure of rural regions. Young families find employment and pensioners discover the quality of rural life. A decisive factor for this quality of life is the guarantee of supply in the countryside. This applies to education and health services as well as to mobility. Here, politics is focusing on a »conventional transport turnaround«. In order to achieve ambitious environmental goals, a green public transport system is being expanded through investments in infrastructure and services as well as new propulsion technologies. These are promoted beyond public transport through regulations and restrictions and thereby experience a general spread. Increasing localization of living and working with high mobility enables the development or maintenance of comprehensive line networks of public transportation. In the absence of significant technological changes, the concept of sustainability and sharing determines the development of transportation. Conventional collective services and car sharing will become determining factors and will be supplemented by individual micro-mobility (e.g. two-wheelers) in an intermodal system.
Autonomous collective mobility - Together to any place (Scenario 6)
Autonomous collective mobility - Together to any place (Scenario 6): The creation of innovative, collective mobility solutions forms the core of transport policy. This Transport Turnaround 2.0 accelerates the development of autonomous vehicle technologies while also strengthening public services. Based on public investments, a multiple green, universally accessible transport network is emerging, linking a strong line system in the centers with collective and autonomously driving on-demand shuttles in the periphery. While rural areas are becoming attractive to young families through investments in digital infrastructure and the widespread location of businesses, improved mobility services and new digital supply solutions are also increasingly attracting seniors to the countryside. The »sharing economy« is shaping consumer thinking in many areas. Accordingly, a break with individual vehicle ownership is taking place. Public collective services are primarily in competition with individually usable robo-taxis, which are intermodally linked with regular public transport. Here, information systems enable the overarching optimization and seamless integration of traffic flows.
Autonomous freedom - the car reinvents itself (Scenario 7)
Autonomous freedom - the car reinvents itself (Scenario 7): The technical revolution of the automobile becomes a game changer for mobility development and the role of rural areas. With the realization of autonomous, electric cars, individual mobility becomes available everywhere without car ownership and enables high mobility with flexible time use and environmental sustainability. Autonomous systems similarly change the distribution of goods and create the basis for flexible on-demand offers in public collective mobility. The new transportation options massively increase the attractiveness of rural areas. This results in widely distributed economic growth and rising population figures in rural areas. The volume of professional and private mobility is growing along with the possibilities for flexible use of time. This applies regionally as well as nationally. On-demand robo-taxis are substituting vehicle ownership. Exclusive shuttles are preferred over collective services that replace traditional public transportation. Digital technologies and infrastructures are revolutionizing traffic management systems through the overarching control and optimization of traffic flows.
Disconnected villages - Let's go to the city (Scenario 8)
Disconnected villages - Let's go to the city (Scenario 8): Technological progress is creating a growing gap between centers and peripheral areas. On the back of digital high-performance networks, there is a centralization of economic and supply structures and the exclusive urban use of autonomous driving. The resulting attractiveness of the centers leads to strong immigration from surrounding communities. A high sustainability orientation and the associated increase in the cost of mobility reinforce this trend. Policymakers are focusing on the technological promotion of green and digital individual mobility. Regulations and financial incentives are intended to promote climate-friendly drives in particular. Sharing services in the form of autonomous robo-taxis and rental systems for micro-mobility form the central element of mobility in the centers. Here, individualized guidance systems and intermodal platforms ensure optimized traffic flow. Heavy commuting from the periphery is primarily based on conventional, private cars, which form the core of an individual mobility (emergency) supply in rural areas.


Detailed descriptions of the future scenarios and an excerpt from the scenario assessment can be found in the free download our current study (only available in German). For more information please get in contact with our experts.


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