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Imagine the following scenario: You are in the Rue de la Loi in Brussels, sitting in a taxi. You think of your colleague in Paris, who is no doubt experiencing the same frustrating situation on the ring road at the Porte d’Italie. Meanwhile, your other colleague in London is still 10 minutes away from St-Pancras station, where he has an appointment at 11am.

As if that weren’t enough, your eldest daughter, a student, is stuck in the traffic chaos of St-Julien-en-Genevois, desperately trying to get to the University of Geneva. And then there’s your eldest son, an entrepreneur in Fort Lauderdale, USA, who hops effortlessly from one business meeting to the next in his own small Piper aircraft.

But here you sit, stuck in your immobile taxi and ask yourself a question that baffles you: where is everyone speeding off to in their cars?

The enduring myth of Icarus has captivated mankind throughout history and awakened the collective desire to take to the skies, to leave the earthly world and enter the realm of the gods – to fly, to be precise. As technology has advanced, we have come to believe that our remarkable human ingenuity would allow us personal access to this utopia, so that each of us could own our own flying car and experience complete autonomy in the skies.

And all of a sudden, boom! You witnessed what awaited us in 2023; endless queues, millions of wasted working hours in utterly ridiculous traffic jams, a society gone mad in which it now takes almost twice as long to get anywhere as it did at the beginning of the century, an increasingly hectic global race for access to a handful of fake paradises for tourists. In short, absurd means of transport that resemble a mad rush forwards. This is also reflected in the violent behaviour of most drivers, who are losing patience.

The Dutch GPS company, TomTom, which is known worldwide for its navigation devices, shared its findings on traffic volumes and congestion in French cities. Paris took first place nationwide, and came in at 37th place in the global rankings. It was closely followed by Marseille, Toulon, Bordeaux, and Lyon, with Nice in sixth place also experiencing significant congestion.

The statistics on rail transport are similarly eloquent. Recent reports from the SNCF, the French national railway company, show that journey times for 500 kilometres within France have increased by around half an hour.

Car journeys on the motorways also take longer on average per hour today than they did 40 years ago. This does not take into account the slightest weather event such as snow or ice that can lead to road closures.

Air travel has almost doubled every 10 years (except during Covid), but boarding times have increased by 200%, meaning they now take three times as long.

In a very different context and in a completely opposite way, the fabulous development of communication technologies has enormously reduced the need for business travel to conduct meetings around the globe: with FaceTime, Zoom and other tools, it is now possible to hold very high-quality meetings without leaving home.

And what can we deduce from all these paradoxes? That the advances in digital technology, combined with the rise of individualistic capitalism on a global scale have created a highly fragmented multipolar system. This extends to the smallest components of society – individuals and their personal connections enabled by mobile devices and subscriptions.

The core meaning of the term mobility has changed considerably. Whereas it used to stand for freedom, today it means something different. While economic thinking envisaged the liberation of man by enabling limitless movement through space, the dream of the modern individual is exactly the opposite – it is to “have space”

The perspective has shifted. Instead of constantly travelling across continents like the mythological Icarus, a realistic view now suggests anchoring oneself in one’s living space, be it an upper-floor duplex, a remote ranch with technological connectivity or a high-tech chalet in the Alps. While away from the general public, such facilities provide direct access to digital networks.

But what are we to make of all this…?

| THE FLYING CAR…THE FLYING TAXI

This form of public transport, newly developed in some Gulf states, seems to be well suited to meeting the need for fast inner-city transport.

Once completely unimaginable in the last century, this type of transport has a promising future, provided that the technology can conclusively prove its safety.

The first “modern” flying car, the XPENG X2 “Carbon Bird”, was unveiled at the 2022 Dubai Motor Show. It completed its first public flight, soaring vertically to a height of 10 metres for 90 seconds with no one on board. According to the specifications, the XPENG X2 can carry two passengers for 35 minutes at a speed of up to 130 km/h. The commercial launch is planned for 2025 at the earliest.

Traffic and transportation challenges for travellers within the Paris region have long been a major issue. As early as 1994, a strategic planning document called the SDRIF (Schéma directeur de la region Île-de-France), attempted to define long-term guidelines for development up to 2025.

Today, over 35 million journeys are made in the Paris region on an average weekday, an increase of 6% over the last ten years. This growth corresponds exactly to the population growth of 5.9% over the same period for the people counted in the transport surveys (all over 6 years old).

At 27% of total expenditure (€830 million), transport accounts for the largest share of the Regional Council’s budget in 2022, more than secondary/higher education (24%) and

economic development (19%). This level of transport funding is comparable to other major European capitals facing similar mobility challenges for large urban populations.

The use of cars remains predominant, especially depending on residential areas.

In line with this logic, many are investing in electric vehicles as a way to help protect our planet and the environment. Furthermore, the concept of flying taxis transporting people around cities in the coming years has significant appeal.

Our mobility was brought to a standstill by the crisis in 2020. As restrictions were gradually lifted in spring 2021, transport activity increased sharply. This pandemic created a real awareness: electric vehicles can help protect our planet and improve daily life, but their use is reaching its limits in the cities where 4/5 of humanity lives. Could air transport be an alternative solution for urban mobility?

Over a decade ago in Marignane, Airbus Helicopters demonstrated with its unmanned H145 prototype that remote control is technically feasible.

The booming drone industry in all its variants has become an economic fact of life.

Cutting-edge innovators such as Ludovic Lazaret (jet-powered flying motorbike), Franky Zapata (Flyboard) and David Mayman (JetPack) are pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible for personal aerial vehicles.

Environmentalists have the task of reshaping our understanding of “global progress”. There is a view that environmental regulation is a barrier to business, especially industrial business, but this view seems to be confined to Europe.

| MOBILITY MEETS SUSTAINABILITY

In 2020, a significant proportion of the UK workforce (aged 17 to 59) experienced problems using public or active transport. Around a third experienced some form of difficulty. For around 14.5%, poor quality of service was the main issue, while availability and cost were a problem for 1.8% and 2.8% of commuters respectively.

According to an analysis of major cities around the world, Rome has the dubious honour of having the second-highest number of hours lost to traffic congestion each year. Drivers in the Italian capital spend an average of 254 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, research shows.

Meanwhile, Belgium is struggling with major traffic disruptions caused by winter snowfall and summer construction projects. The closure of several tunnels has further exacerbated the situation. In addition, the railway company’s website has been the victim of a cyber attack by hackers, further exacerbating the challenges facing the country.

It seems that the intellectual and logistical elites of the European Union, as well as the authorities in places like Matignon, the Elysée Palace, Downing Street and Platz der Republik are primarily concerned that the access routes to the European Commission and these important places remain accessible and unhindered. Unfortunately, this leaves the rest of the traffic stuck in frustrating traffic jams.

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