First Annual Mobility Study: Big City vs Rural

“It’s going to be life changing!” was among some of the exuberant phrases that I have heard recently to describe the upcoming changes to our automotive and mobility options, but what has left me wondering is whether it will impact everyone, or will it just be those who are closer to major city centres.

To answer that question (and others) my colleague and I (Dr Dave Fish of Curiosity CX) kicked off the 1st Annual Mobility Study and asked 1,000 people over the age of 18 about a variety of automotive and “New Mobility” related topics in our in depth poll*.

Here’s some of what we found out:

Firstly we measured if people know how to use a type of transportation or mobility service and whether they have indeed used them. To draw the most differentiated comparison, we have compared people who live in large cities (1m+) to those who live in rural areas. People who live in smaller cities and towns are not shown in the graphs below, but the results are almost always where you expect them to be – somewhere between the above two extremes.

In every case we found that large city folk have far more knowledge about various forms of (non owned car) transportation, and are more likely to have used them.

One of the reasons for the big difference in opinion is that people who live in the city are more used to sharing – ie be it catching the bus, train or street car, where personal space is shared, or catching a taxi of Uber where a vehicle is shared. Peak hour gridlock for commuters also adds layers of extra stress, with plenty of time to contemplate better ways on getting to their place of employment.

We also believe the different levels of interest in New Mobility transportation solutions is due to the lack of any solutions other than the car that can be practically used in rural areas today. In many places, alternative transportation is difficult to find or doesn’t exist, so the world you live in strongly influences what you expect to happen in the future.

The data we found bears this out too. We compared “Explaining how to use a service” vs “Actually used the service”, and the numbers closely correlate. If anything, the gap for “Actually used the service” is significantly bigger than “Explain how to use”, suggesting that rural folk are keeping up with the new trends in transportation and mobility, despite a lack of exposure.

LEARNING: Having exposure to something increases your knowledge, which increases your confidence in it and future desire for it. Despite this rural people keep up with industry trends in transportation, even if they haven’t used them.

When we measured interest in different areas of transportation, we found that the pattern held – ie large city dwellers are more interested in new alternative transportation solutions than rural folk. Large cities, which have multiple, easily accessible ways of getting to the same destination, resulted in strong interest in alternative mobility solutions, as well as MaaS apps to bring it together.

In rural areas, when the solution is almost always ‘Drive my Own Car’, there  is less use or viability for them; however, what struck us as important was that this number was not zero. More than a one third of rural living respondents (33.8%) said they would be ‘Interested’ or ‘Very Interested’ in using a solution like a MaaS app to help them find the best method to get places via public transport, while 30.2% said they would be interested in a vehicle with full autonomous capabilities.


When autonomous vehicles become a reality, we expect that rural areas will be affected just as much as the cities. A new, alternative means of transportation will become available at a much reduced cost, allowing rural dwellers more options and access to transportation. This is especially important for those who can’t drive, which will become important as the population ages. We expect that as familiarity of alternative means of transportation increases when autonomous vehicles become widely available, these numbers from the survey above will significantly change.

The implication for those in the Automotive Industry and New Mobility areas is: Don’t forget the Rural Market. While starting development of New Mobility solutions in the city is an obvious starting point, don’t count out rural users not wanting to use this technology to benefit their lives, especially Autonomous Vehicles.  Our research shows that many already have good knowledge and interest in different areas of New Mobility and the services it will bring, even if they have had less exposure to them. Though the initial adoption rates will lag the city, the changes for many in rural areas will be very worthwhile and it is a market that cannot be ignored.

*Poll conducted between 30 September and 2 October 2016, 1000 respondents surveyed in the United States.

We will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday 22nd November 2016 at 2pm where we will be sharing more data and insights into our 1st Annual Mobility Study.  Sign up through the Eventbrite link HERE.

Read more insight from our 1st Annual Mobility Study at Dr Dave Fish’s blog post “The Death of Car Ownership?”.

Article published by James Carter, Principal Consultant at Vision Mobility.

James Carter is a 20 year Automotive Industry veteran and now serves as Principal Consultant at Vision Mobility, an Automotive and Mobility Consultancy specializing in Autonomous Vehicles and Future Automotive Planning; in Sales, Marketing, Branding, Product Planning, Dealer Development, Sociographic trends and Infrastructure planning. He will also be speaking on ‘Retail in New Mobility’ at the upcoming Transportation X conference in Coventry, UK, from 15-17th February 2017.

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