Conventionally, the evolution of cars has been focused on going further, faster, safer and more comfortably. Because of this, incredibly capable cars were created but due to the incredible rate of improvement, we've come to a point where people go shopping in car that is capable of traveling across continents. In addition due to the diversification of lifestyles, urbanization*, and environmental issues, the conventional style of mobility is being challenged.
Focusing on car usage, instead of car ownership, car-sharing is becoming a popular choice. There are many new services such as Smart's "Car2Go" in the US and Europe, BMW's sharing service "DriveNow", EV ride-sharing "Autolib'" in Paris, France, and ride-sharing services "Uber" and "Lyft".
Car-sharing is becoming increasingly popular in Japan too. A car-sharing service called "Times Plus" started by hourly parking service Times 24, reached 500,000 members in July 2015. By signing up ahead of time, you will be able to use the service all the way from Hokkaido to Okinawa. After searching for an open car and reserving it online through your PC or smartphone, all you have to do is touch your card to the car. Nationwide rental car service Orix Auto is also expanding its car-sharing service. There are many plans including plans where the basic fee is waved for months you don't use the service, and plans for students. There are different characteristics to each rental service such as Careco, which is expanding its small stations in metro areas, or EarthCar, which rents Nissan GT-Rs, Porsches, and convertible cars.
Not only usage styles, but the cars themselves are becoming more diversified. In more urban areas, pollution-free vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and low-emission vehicles such as plug-in hybrids (PHVs) receive special treatment. Traditionally, there were restrictions on using cars in urban areas or congestion charges put in place to reduce traffic and emissions, but the special treatment for EVs, PHVs and FCVs has helped adoption of these vehicles.
For example, a congestion charge was put in place in London in 2003*, however hybrids and EVs were exempt from this tax. In Florence, cars are restricted from entering the more busy areas, but EVs are allowed. In California, which is known to be the leader in environmental policies in the US, there are special carpool lanes on freeways designated for cars with 2-3 passengers. However, PHVs, EVs and FCVs are allowed on these lanes even when there is only one person in the car. In addition, there is a new category of cars, micro mobility, which provides the optimum vehicle for a small number of passengers. These cars are currently being tested on public roads in Japan, and aims to provide smoother transportation in big cities in Japan.
From now on, more open-minded thinking will be needed in order to adapt to the diversification in usage and energy sources. At SMC, "Station Core" will multi-modally explain micro mobility and have test rides, "Personal Mobility Lab" will present and allow you to test a new type of mobility which moves with pedestrians called personal mobility, and at "Cars and ICT&E (Energy/Entertainment) Lab", there will be explanations of new relations between cars and energy. Please take this opportunity to see and experience for yourself the diversification of mobility.
*According to the United Nations, it is predicted that 60% of the world's population will move to the city by 2030.
*The congestion charges that were implemented in London as a way to reduce the chronic traffic, was aimed to reduce traffic and also to promote the use of public transportation. Drivers are charged when driving in specific zones in central London, and fees started at five pounds, and are currently at 10 pounds. Drivers who do not pay ahead of time are required to pay an extra fine.