The FiA, more than Formula 1 and racing, it’s also addessing our mobility needs across the globe.
Did COVID permanently wipe out the gains made in shared mobility?
As the pandemic slows down due to vaccinations, many people are waiting to see if shared transport will make a comeback. Will people give up on having their own playlist, snacks in the glove compartment, freedom from scheduled rides, privacy when on that personal call, and many other personal car benefits? Clearly, this won’t be an overnight shift where people say, “COVID is over. Let’s take the train!”
The transport and mobility ecosystem was heavily impacted by the pandemic but it was also presented with an opportunity to fine-tune the progress they had made.
In this episode, part 1 of 2 episodes, Ed Bernardon interviews Onika Miller, Acting Secretary-General of the FIA Mobility Division, and Head of the FIA Innovation Fund. Her job involves creating a safer and sustainable transportation ecosystem for the future. She’ll help us understand the state of transportation today and what the future holds for this important area of our lives.
Some Questions I Ask:
- When was FIA started? (03:11)
- How do drivers look at the FIA? (07:35)
- What are today’s biggest challenges in the world of transportation? (21:42)
- Do you think that the changes in attitude against shared transportation due to COVID will be reversed after it passes? (25:18)
- How do you encourage people to want to drive when they have all these other options? (28:14)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The changes that FIA has experienced over the years (04:36)
- The responsibilities of FIA (08:46)
- The relationship between FIA, two pillars of sports, and mobility (10:55)
- How clubs supported each other during the pandemic (14:21)
- How COVID impacted people’s attitude towards transportation (22:07)
- The importance of offering a range of modal choices of transport to consumers (29:42)
Connect with Onika Miller:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: No one will argue that life 18 months ago looked very different for most of us. Buses, subways, and light rail were part of a daily routine for millions,
yet many now second guess the idea of jumping on a densely packed train and want more choices in personal mobility. The demands of mobility in urban versus rural or small versus large city, can also be vastly different, driving a broad range of mobility solutions, Though the way we utilize public transportation is changing as the popularity of alternative modes, like shared bike programs and electric scooters, continues to grow.
One of the organizations that’s working to make transportation in cities not only more livable but also more sustainable and accessible is the FIA, or the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, best known as the sanctioning body for many forms of racing such as Formula One and Rally. And although the FIA is primarily associated with the many auto racing events that they govern the world over, the other side of the FIA, FiA Mobility, actually focuses on issues related to mobility and transportation. Its goals are to address road safety, diversity, community development, and the future of smart, sustainable mobility through services, collaboration, and research.
The mobility side of the FiA is essentially an international network of smaller companies or “clubs” that provide services and support to consumers worldwide from small villages to mega-cities in all areas of mobility including keeping an eye on the future of mobility.
Welcome to the Future Car podcast, I’m your host Ed Bernardon and for my guest today, the translation between innovation in sport to implementation in road safety is a natural one. Onika Miller is the acting secretary general of the FIA’s mobility division and head of the FIA Innovation Fund, which means much of her job involves creating a safer, more sustainable transportation future. I’m sure she will share her insights on the global perspective for transportation today and in the future. Onika, welcome to The Future Car Podcast.
Onika Miller: Ed, thanks so very much. It’s a pleasure to be here and to be able to chat with you a little bit more about the FIA and/or ventures in motorsport and mobility.
Ed Bernardon: Well, let’s start off to define what the FIA is. It’s actually the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. Did I pronounce that, is that close enough?
Onika Miller: You’re probably just on par with my French pronunciations as well. So, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
Ed Bernardon: I’ll have to take lessons from you to get it perfect. But mostly known by people as the FIA, and certainly known for what they do in motorsports. But they also do work in road safety and other areas. So, can you tell us a little bit about when the FIA started? Because it’s actually been around for quite some time.
Onika Miller: Sure. So, we were founded in 1904. And the initial aim was to bring good governance and coherent governance and safety to motorsport. I think we would have seen, with the most recent Formula One Grand Prix, just the importance of safety in motorsport. But if we look back at the history of motorsport, you’d have seen, certainly, an evolution of safety over the years. And each year we commit ourselves to achieve in vision zero – so, zero fatalities. So, we’re absolutely committed to this mission of road safety. But for FIA, we have grown, since 1904, into a global organization, which promotes motorsport and also safe, sustainable, and accessible mobility. So, we have two pillars within FIA. The motorsport pillar and our role there is as a regulator. We also have our role in relation to mobility. So, we are a federation of clubs, and we have motorsport and mobility clubs all around the world, in almost every country of the world.
Ed Bernardon: So, things are a lot different now than they were in 1904. How has it evolved over time? I mean, in 1904, there were barely cars, and now we’re on the verge of autonomous vehicles, unmanned air vehicles. How have things changed over time as to what the FIA actually does?
Onika Miller: So, in terms of motorsports, certainly, the changes that we’ve seen over the years would be the addition of new disciplines in motorsport, the evolution of our championships – we now have 33 championships. So, the scale and the scope of our activities in motorsport have changed. And they’ve changed along with the population that we serve. So, we have a range of disciplines in motorsport that cater to almost every fan, every competitor, every driver’s interest, whether it is that you start in karting, whether you want to be involved in rally, single-seater pyramid, from Formula 4 straight through to Formula One, we have something to meet the needs of every competitor, every driver, and every fan. And for mobility, we also have seen tremendous change over the years. Certainly, we have grown in terms of the number of clubs. We started with just 12 clubs; we have grown to over 170 clubs. So, it’s a significant increase in size for FIA over the years. And for mobility, as you correctly said, in the first instance, many of our founding clubs, bicycling and touring was in fact their origins. And then in the ‘50s, with the automobile – so, we shifted then where a number of our clubs are automobile clubs, moving away from the touring with the bicycling, in the first instance, to automobile clubs. And then fast forward to today, where we’re seeing multi modality and various forms of modality including micro-mobility, and therefore, our mobility clubs themselves being positioned as mobility clubs looking at multimodal options.
Ed Bernardon: So, originally focusing on racing, and then on the mobility side, it actually began with bicycles. And not until the ‘50s, did you really, on the ability side, start to focus more on motoring and driving?
Onika Miller: I would say, for us, we had an evolution in relation to motoring. I wouldn’t limit it to the ‘50s. Actually, in terms of mobility, we went back to an earlier period. It really would have commenced with the emergence of the automobile and offering assistance to motorists. With the popularity of the automobile exploding, the automotive clubs provided support to those motorists. So, the roadside assistance was an early service.
Ed Bernardon: Somewhat like the AAA here in the United States.
Onika Miller: Absolutely. So, our automobile clubs, many of them have the AA in their title.
Ed Bernardon: Sometimes when people ask me about the FIA, I describe it as the AAA for the rest of the world, for the Americas that people here in the United States that are wondering what it is. Now, you are from the mobility side. But of course, one question from the motorsport side and then we’ll jump into mobility. The FIA really is the keeper of the rules but also helping promote the sport. So, how do drivers feel about the FIA? Do they say, “Oh, no, they’re gonna inspect my car now. I’m really worried. Am I gonna be overweight? Or is this screw not legal?” How do you think drivers look at the FIA?
Onika Miller: So, I think the drivers embrace the FIA. And the role of FIA, we wear three hats. We’re the regulator, so we regulate motorsport to make sure the rules are fair, that the rules apply to everyone. And I think in the context of any sport, and in the context of competition, that’s important. If you’re competitive, you’re a driver, you want to know that when you win, you’re the clear winner of a competition, and that can be determined.
Ed Bernardon: That’s a good point. You want the rules that are being applied to you to be applied equally to everyone else. So, ultimately, it can help you just as much as it can hurt you if you don’t want to play by the rules.
Onika Miller: Quite so. But good sportsmanship is all about fair play; that we see as an important role for FIA to be able to offer to the community at large. FIA is also a legislator, so we take care of the rules, we establish the rules, and we also ensure that we evaluate and assess the rules and the rules are reviewed from time to time. We also are the owner of our championships, of specific championships, to promote competition, to promote motorsport. That’s where, in a sense, you could almost see us then as a real estate developer.
Ed Bernardon: The real estate of motorsports.
Onika Miller: Yes. So, we identify very interesting projects to promote the sport. We create business units to be able to develop new projects and to run the projects themselves to implement them. And we’ve seen that with a number of initiatives in motorsport where we work with promoters as well. And the promoter will promote the championship and will dedicate resources to actually broadcast that championship, make it known to more persons, and create events that fans want to come and see, competitors or drivers want to come and participate in.
Ed Bernardon: So, on the mobility side, the lesser-known side of the FIA, but probably the most important one, I’m sure, you might say.
Onika Miller: I’m very biased there. Yes, the mobility side is very important, because mobility touches all of us every single day.
Ed Bernardon: Not just the racers.
Onika Miller: It touches everybody.
Ed Bernardon: Well, that’s a good point, because technology has developed. And racing ultimately does help everyone, one would hope that. But on the mobility side, it’s a direct helping of everyone. It’s not actually just for race drivers, but really, these clubs that you have. Maybe tell us a little bit about the clubs; what are their goals? What value do they bring? You have clubs that are in very tiny villages, to the mega-cities of the world. How does that work? How do they work with the FIA? What do the clubs do? Maybe contrast a little bit, the little clubs and the big ones. Seems like a lot of variety there and a lot of goals that you’re trying to pull together.
Onika Miller: Let me start where you started, which is the transition from sport to mobility. The two remain very interconnected. So, whilst FIA has these two pillars of sport and mobility, we’ve seen over time, in fact, a lot of what we call ‘track to road’, where we take innovations developed and honed in the laboratory of motorsport. And we’ve been able to translate those to road safety to the broader automotive sector. And we’ve seen where the motorist, the pedestrian, benefits from these translations of innovation in motorsport. The anti-braking system is a good example, and an easy example, I think, for many people to relate to, which is an innovation that started in motorsport and was exported ultimately. But in relation to our clubs and our automobile club.
Onika Miller: So, first and foremost, our auto automobile clubs exist to serve their members and to assist them as they meet their daily needs and move around. They’re designed to keep people moving and to keep people moving safely, to promote accessibility for mobility. And mobility, at the center of it, is really about individuals being able to live, work, play, do business, and to conduct these activities in a safer way as possible in whatever lifestyle that they choose. And that, therefore, then touches on “Does it look the same as you move around the world?” Well, it can’t, because every country operates differently – so, the small villages versus the mega-cities. We organize ourselves differently as societies. And the mobility in each of these countries reflects that. It reflects how the society has chosen to organize itself. So, naturally, the clubs themselves provide services that reflect the needs and respond to the needs of each society, of each community. Now, in a small village, in perhaps a developing country, individual mobility may rise to be more important. In a megacity, mass transit may take on even greater importance than perhaps in that small village. So, the mobility clubs really provide services that are relevant to their members, and therefore, to the citizens in each of those populations.
Ed Bernardon: Is there a cross-fertilization, say, what you learned from a small village might apply to a big mega-city and vice versa?
Onika Miller: There definitely is. Firstly, one of the things that the FIA as a federation seeks to do is to create an opportunity for greater exchange, club to club exchanges, through a network, because what we are is a network. We promote exchanges, club to club exchanges, we do so. We also promote capacity building and the sharing of best practices and information. We have an FIA University Program, which specifically seeks to provide additional training opportunities for our clubs. And we have a series of webinars, which also allow for exchanges. We also organize our clubs within regions. And so within regions, there’s an opportunity for exchange, are on topics, and in services and projects that are relevant to our region, allowing for that fluid exchange of ideas and service initiatives with clubs.
Ed Bernardon: I think, always being able to bring in these different points of view is a benefit in trying to solve problems.
Onika Miller: There is always something to learn, not only with the larger clubs who are more established and have more diversification of services that they offer, but also the smaller clubs. So, they offer those services and best practices to the network. We have a good example of that with a recent project that we worked on together, Mobility Worldwide. And given the impact of COVID, one of the things that we reached out to the club network through this project was to say, “Well, for the clubs that are responding really well with COVID have identified ways of surviving and thriving, would you be willing to share those best practices?” Several clubs opted in and shared that experience. We were able to then develop a toolkit, which became available to all of our clubs across the network. So, even if as a club, you actually needed more help, that help also came to you in the form of a toolkit with the best practice experiences of clubs that were doing better in the situation of COVID. Clubs were available to each other and lent support to each other throughout the COVID pandemic.
Ed Bernardon: Your experience prior to the FIA was actually in government in Jamaica. So, when you were growing up in school, what prompted you? What was your inspiration? What drove you to get into government?
Onika Miller: I don’t know if when I was growing up, I actually thought about getting into government. Even though I have a very strong history of family members who actually were in the public service.
Ed Bernardon: What were you thinking you were going to get into? What was your dream job?
Onika Miller: Pediatrics.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, really?
Onika Miller: Yeah, I had planned, I had every intention of becoming a pediatrician as a young girl growing up, that was what I aspired to be. By the time I got to university, I transitioned and environmental management was my focus.
Ed Bernardon: Well, maybe though knowing how to deal with children helps you when you’re in government, do you think?
Onika Miller: I think knowing how to interact with people, I think, is probably the most important skill, you know, being a good listener and being open.
Ed Bernardon: So, when you’re in the university, then that’s when your thoughts started shifting towards wanting to work more in government?
Onika Miller: Not at all. So, by the time I left the university, my career path was, in fact, Coastal Zone Management. I was looking at further in a career in environmental science. And I went to work with government on an initiative. My first degree, I have an emphasis on environmental science, but a major in zoology. So, I actually went to work on a government project, which was on aquaculture. And I completed the project pretty quickly, way earlier than the project timetable. I had spare time on my hands. I was working in a ministry that was doing a lot of work on social policy. I started doing some research around the area and I became hooked.
Ed Bernardon: You eventually ended up becoming the Permanent Secretary for the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Onika Miller: Yes, I did. So, I really was fortunate. I had an amazing career in the public service. I was given tremendous opportunities, and I enjoyed it. Because I was able to work at all levels of government with a public sector agency, I worked with a ministry. And I also worked at the very center of government in the office of the Prime Minister. So, I had a really great foundation and a wide breadth of experience. I also worked with the office of the cabinet. And so working with the Cabinet Office, being a Deputy to the Cabinet Secretary and working in that space was really a good preparation for the work that I did, ultimately, as a permanent secretary, serving not one but three prime ministers because I was a member of the civil service. So, that was a wonderful experience.
Ed Bernardon: Did you interact with the Prime Minister day to day?
Onika Miller: I did. Because as a permanent secretary in the office of the Prime Minister, in the American system, you’re effectively the Chief of Staff. In the British system, that’s where the role of the Permanent Secretary is clear. So, I was a Chief Technical Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Accounting Officer – so, responsible for the management of the affairs of the ministry. So, day-to-day contact on multiple occasions in each day.
Ed Bernardon: So, in this day-to-day contact, can you bring back one of the most memorable or interesting, surprising moments you had with one of those three prime ministers?
Onika Miller: We were in a meeting, and the meeting had a lot of very contentious issues with a wide stakeholder group. And the Prime Minister entered the meeting at a juncture where I would say things were getting quite heated. And through very deft maneuver within 10 minutes of discussion had disabled effectively all of these very contradictory perspectives, and found a way to really get all of those stakeholders aligned for people who were not long before almost at each other’s throats. And the Office of the Prime Minister has that very important role of being that interlocutor, being that honest broker, and bringing sides together. Many of us didn’t think this was going to be possible in this particular meeting. And within 10 minutes, we had people come to a consensus position and leave smiling and exchanging business cards.
Ed Bernardon: You have to tell us, what was the technique that they used in 10 minutes to get everyone happy and exchanging business cards?
Onika Miller: What I would say is they had a very astute sense of importance each person has to feel, and they have to feel respected that their view is important, but also that they have our legitimate seat at the table. And in a very short space of time, they were able to establish a connection, which for each person felt like it was a personal connection, even though they’re in a room with a round table of, let’s say, 10 other adversaries, yet within the 10 minutes, each person felt that they had almost a personal invitation to that space and their view mattered.
Ed Bernardon: A matter of showing respect.
Onika Miller: That was what actually worked well. If you feel that your view is being heard, you then after a while, don’t need to shout on top of your voice to make sure that nobody else’s view is hurt.
Ed Bernardon: So, you’ve probably learned quite a bit from the three prime ministers. Have you ever thought that maybe someday in the future, you might go back to Jamaica and run for Prime Minister?
Onika Miller: I have never had that thought. I’ve had the opposite thought that the political arena is an arena I engage in and I enjoy the engagement. I would never participate in it as a candidate, no way.
Ed Bernardon: Let’s talk a little bit about transportation and what’s happening in the world of transportation today. What do you think some of the biggest challenges are?
Onika Miller: So, I think if we look at COVID and what COVID has done. We saw where transportation just sort of came to a halt – mobility, as we knew it, everything stopped. And then with the restart, we saw people opt-in for different forms of mobility. So, I think the world over, we saw an increase in individual mobility, where the trend prior to COVID, there were suggestions and was always that we would see greater utilization of mass transit or shared mobility. And what we saw as a result of COVID was a shift, actually a contraction, of the desire of people to use shared mobility options, and a clear preference for individual mobility. And I think one of the lessons that I think we’ve learned out of this is that that exercise of the preferences is so important. So, individual mobility, we’ve seen where bicycles, eBikes, eScooters, there has been an increased use of those. We’re seeing where within the context in Europe, there was also the opportunity to widen lanes for bicycles. We launched a campaign called ‘Share the Road’, recognizing that the road users, the traditional road users for the drivers of cars, need to share the road with the cyclists, and the cyclists need to share the road with the cars.
Onika Miller: And so, that, I think, itself is a reflection that things are changing in relation to our cities themselves. The cities – if I think about Paris as a city, Mayor Hidalgo has a very clear vision in relation to the city and how the city is changing, not just because of COVID but taking into account the outlook and the trends for the future. And she’s introduced 30-kilometer zones within Paris, low-speed zones which favor road safety, but it also has implications for movement within the city. As decisions are taken politically, in terms of how we return to more livable cities, or, in some instances, not return but create more livable cities. We’re seeing increased pedestrianization, we’re seeing increased use of multi modes but where the sharing is more visible.
Onika Miller: So, I think in terms of mobility and what we’re seeing, the citizen comes first. It’s very much now centered around the citizen and the citizens’ demand for convenience. But for safety and for security, what we will need to strike is that balance in terms of the services and how we organize and facilitate them as to whether the car plays a role in the cities of the future. And we believe that there is space for the car in the city of the future because as I pointed out, individual mobility still has its place, still has a purpose; mass transit still has a place and a purpose. Coupled with this, we also see the environmental considerations. And so there’s a greater focus on noise pollution, on air pollution and the air quality in cities. And so again, I think those are big issues that are impacting the future of transportation, and the future of mobility.
Ed Bernardon: COVID has certainly played a big role in this. And you mentioned that people are a little bit averse to public transportation now, or they were. And certainly, that’s probably lingering here as, hopefully, we’re coming out of COVID. But as you move away from public transportation, that’s not good for sustainability. Do you see that these trends that started with COVID, to move away from public transportation, do you think those are going to stick around? Is the vaccine making that better?
Onika Miller: At this stage, I think, in a sense, it’s really hard to predict just to what extent the vaccine is making it ultimately better. I think the jury is out on the number of waves that we’re going to have and we’re going to encounter. Some countries are facing a fourth wave in relation to COVID with the variance. Overall, I think individual mobility continues to be something that citizens want to enjoy the convenience of individual —
Ed Bernardon: They want both.
Onika Miller: Precisely. I think the key message here is, no solution is going to be so binary, it is either or – I think the ‘And’ comes into it. And how do you then provide for and what are the ratios that you’re looking at in terms of the options available? But I also hasten to say, we have to be cautious about making predictions around mobility that cater to the lived experience in developed economies in very big cities. Because even in the context of developed economies, outside of the big city, or the mega city, the experience of mobility can be very different, and the needs of the population are also different.
Ed Bernardon: Could you give us some specific examples here, because in some smaller cities, they don’t even have public transportation. And certainly, they’re impacted by COVID, just like the big cities. Could you compare maybe a smaller one to a larger one?
Onika Miller: I’ll give you an example of a conversation I had fairly recently. We were talking about, generally, that young people are not necessarily opting to get a driver’s license because shared mobility has become something that they’re far more familiar with, it’s very convenient. You can use an eScooter to work. You can take some shared mobility option, a shared ride. And you don’t have to actually take on the cost of owning a car, the maintenance, the insurance, etc. So, there was an argument that we need to look at the future of the demand for driver’s licenses. Now, perhaps, in Europe, we would see that becoming more of an area for examination, and to look at those options and how can we encourage young people to be able to get the skill of learning how to drive.
Ed Bernardon: Well, how do you do that though? How do you encourage people to want to drive when they have all these other options?
Onika Miller: One of the things that a car does, it gives you that freedom. And in fact, I think if you go back to when the car was first introduced, so many of our cities know we had that issue of urban spread, why? It was because the car now allowed persons that flexibility to live further afield and they could now go from one location to another when they wanted and as they wanted. I think that is one of the greatest ways of appealing to young people is that spirit of freedom to move when you want. And I will tell you, having moved from Jamaica, where I owned a car, drove a car, to living now in Paris where we have excellent public transit systems, I use a public transit system. I do miss, and I will confess, I miss being able to drive. There is a sense of freedom and a joy that comes with that in being behind the wheel and taking yourself from point A to point B at your leisure, in the time that you wish to move, as distinct from having to be disciplined to go to a point at a very specific time to be able to get from one place to another.
Ed Bernardon: Ideally, there’s nothing wrong with a car, of course. I mean, nowadays, people look down on cars because of sustainability. But assuming that a car is sustainable, assuming that you could eliminate congestion, assuming that you can combine cars with big cars, little cars, scooters, trains, you really want to look for that optimal combination.
Onika Miller: That’s right. Multimodality, I think, becomes very much part of the solution for the future, offering a range of modal choices for the consumer. And you’ll find that the choices that you use, it varies based on your age, based on your stage in life, based on your particular need at the point in time. So, the different options that you might select for your mobility choice for the day itself can vary. And just going back to the point of the driver’s license, whilst it might seem to be less attractive for young people, let’s say, in Europe, and potentially even in the US. Depending on where you are, again, because when we talk about large geographical areas, we can’t assume that the urban center is representative of the entire area. My colleague in New Zealand was sharing with me that it was very important for young people and remains very relevant for them to actually get a driver’s license. So, they’d see no decrease in the demand, but rather increased demand coming from young people for a driver’s license. And part of that is linked in their environment because it’s very important in getting a job. So, it really isn’t going to ever be one size that fits all. But yes, obviously in the context of broader global trends, I think the broader global trend that we’re seeing is a demand for multimodal solutions.
Ed Bernardon: It’s interesting. And I know in my travels, I would always rent a car. And now depending on how many places I have to go to, say, I’m on a business trip, I’ll almost always try and do it with Uber or Lyft or some shared mobility service. And in a way, I could see someone, a young person that doesn’t have a driver’s license or living in the city saying, “Well, why do I need a car? I got to pay for a parking spot. And I can have a car show up here, just pick up this app, and I’m ready to go.”
Onika Miller: That’s the point that. Especially if you’re young and if you have no dependents, time is your own, shared mobility may very well be the best option for you if it is that you are in an urban environment. If you’re that same young person and you’re in a rural area, you’re in a suburban area, and you want to be able to have that flexibility to move where the action is and then to go back to a more quiet neighborhood, then a shared mobility option might prove to be an expensive option. So, if it is that you’re going to use it very frequently, what you want to really do is ultimately give people that freedom of choice so that they can make the best and informed decisions for what works for their life in their lifestyle and how they are organizing themselves. But another thing that I think would be important to put in the mix in the context of multimodality is also sustainable mobility.
Onika Miller: And just as you mentioned earlier, the importance in what all of these mobility options that are becoming available, and we’re seeing where micro-mobility has sort of exploded in some areas. It’s not necessarily in every part of the world, but in many parts of the world, we’re seeing the eScooters. Now, there’s a number of suppliers of eBikes have indicated just a significant increase in volumes of their sales and the orders for eBikes. When we look at all of these options, sustainable mobility has to play a part and continues to play a part. We’re seeing where regulators are ensuring that the policy signals are in place in some areas. In others, the citizens are demanding more sustainable solutions. So, from the standpoint of a supplier, and for entities like the automobile clubs which are very consumer-centric, we are also being strong advocates for sustainable mobility, but sustainable mobility that puts the consumer at the center.
Ed Bernardon: It’s interesting that you mentioned the eScooters and their sustainability. And in fact, this happened, I was in Paris near your headquarters with one of your colleagues, and she said to me, “Be careful, those eScooters will just come up on you and you won’t even expect it. They’re on the sidewalk. They’re on the street. They’re everywhere.” So, sometimes you can make one person happy, or one group of people happy, and then you’ve got another group that’s on top of you. I’m sure, in the FIA, you must constantly be in the midst of trying to balance those trade-offs.
Onika Miller: Those are important trade-offs that have to be balanced. And from our standpoint, we also look at it through the lens of road safety, regardless of the form of mobility, what is paramount is to ensure that for us it’s safe and accessible mobility. So, we want mobility that’s accessible for everyone. But we also want to ensure that the mobility is safe. And so if you have a situation where in the case of the eScooters, there’s a disregard for good road conduct, there’s a disregard for safety not only of pedestrians but also other road users, then that’s certainly a concern. But as you’ve indicated that that is something that in particular, local authorities – so, municipal authorities – are quite mindful of. There are some cities that have had real struggles with the proliferation of eScooters, both in terms of this [ inaudible], you see them castaway on the sides of streets, on sidewalks. As well as, sometimes, unfortunately, irresponsible behavior in the use by some of the users. That is a balance that you have to strike. But regardless of the proportion of mobility options that the eScooters or the eBikes have, from the FIA standpoint, all mobility options that are put forward. We are the strongest advocates for road safety. So, the options should be utilized in a way that promotes road safety rather than results in severe injuries and accidents.
Ed Bernardon: I heard sometimes these things are self-correcting is if the scooters get too unruly, some of the scooters end up in the river Seine. Is that true? I hear the stuff they say, that people take matters into their own hands to fix.
Onika Miller: I’ve heard those rumors too. I’ve heard those rumors. I have not personally witnessed any being removed, but I’ve heard those rumors. But what I can say is we have clubs that have also sought to be innovative in this regard. There is a club that has actually developed a product, which if you think of the typical eScooter, there is no indicator mechanism. So, if the rider is going to go left or right, there is no scooter turn signal. This is what they have created, and they’ve created it as a portable turn signal that you put on the main handlebar. And it’s sufficiently wide enough, you can put it on the back so that any user of the road, including pedestrians, can easily see it’s a flashing light, just as you’d have on a car, whether the person tends to turn left or right.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe even a beeping sound like trucks have when they back up that might say, “Hey, I’m coming up from behind, you be careful.” Might be helpful.
Onika Miller: Exactly.
Ed Bernardon: That’s part 1 of our talk with Onika, join us again in Part 2 where we talk about how data is the driving force behind many of the FiA’s projects, including possible solutions for traffic management and congestion, how the FIA has a goal to help people by reducing transportation inconvenience and disruption, from crosswalks to autonomous drones as well as the multiple programs the FIA is collaborating on to promote diversity and inclusion in mobility.
As always for more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been the Future Car Podcast.
Onika MIller- Guest, FIA Acting Secretary General FIA Mobility Division
She joined the FIA in March 2020 as Head of the FIA Innovation Fund (FIF) and since February 2021, has also been serving as ad interim Secretary General Automobile Mobility and Tourism. She is responsible for activities of FIA’s Mobility Division, representing FIA mobility clubs worldwide. This includes facilitating effective exchange of information and best practices, representing member clubs at the international level, and building regional co-ordination and co-operation for common strategies, public policies, and initiatives. A proud Jamaican and committed global citizen, she previously served as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister where she provided technical and policy support to three Prime Ministers.
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The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.