ConsumerLab explores how to make commuting time valuable
In this ConsumerLab report we have gathered the thoughts and sentiments of commuters from 16 major city’s and represents the opinions of 130 million smartphone users globally. We reflect on consumers’ opinions and habits that could be used to offer a more satisfactory commuting experience in the increasingly digital and connected world of tomorrow.
This report uncovers consumer behavior both before and during the COVID-19 crisis and post-pandemic expectations. Commuting can be an opportunity to recharge the mind. Some consumers even say it is the only time they have in their busy city lives to think and reflect without feeling pressured.
One-quarter of the commuters in this study claim to be highly satisfied with their commute, having found a way to actively turn it into an experience worth having. We refer to this group as Savvy Commuters, and reflect on how their strategies and habits could be used to improve commuting in cities around the world.
4 in 5
Consumers feel it is likely they will return to their usual daily commute once restrictions are lifted. Even if only 1 in 4 are eager to go back to their previous commute.
9 in 10
Highly satisfied commuters claim to have enough mental space during their commute. Digital engagement is a big contributor to their satisfaction.
3 in 5
Commuters are highly interested in features that send alerts when a driver is not paying attention to a danger ahead. Commuters express most interest in future services that enhance safety and reduce stress in demanding situations.
7 in 20
Expect new automotive companies to be the leaders of the autonomous vehicle revolution, followed by tech giants and traditional car manufacturers.
Everyone has been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 crisis during 2020. Measures during this unprecedented time have influenced changes in consumer mobility patterns and future expectations. Fifty percent of consumers feel their daily access to public transport has been severely impacted during the crisis.
Consumers clearly report a reduction in the use of all transport modes. Already in April, fifty-six percent reported a sharp decrease in their use of mass transport, this is even more dramatic in large city centres, where the number raise to 79 percent. Even walking has been limited, although 31 percent mentioned an increase walking time in their daily lives and 20 percent say they are using more their personal cars compared to last year.
Six in ten working people believe working remotely will be part of the new normal. However, 80 percent still believe it is likely they will return to their usual mobility patterns after the crisis, even if only one in four definitely wants to go back to it. Therefore, we leverage on consumer sentiments around January 2020 in relation to their daily commute. These insights give a benchmark to know what consumers valued before this crisis and can be used to influence positive change and adapt the commuting experience going forward.
Would commuters return to their normal commute after the crisis?
Get me there on time!
Being in control of the arrival time is more important for consumers than minimizing travel time at all cost. More than 1 in 4 would be willing to add 20 or more minutes of commute to their weekdays if they could improve their experience.
Time-efficiency is still one of the three most relevant factors in the decision-making process for consumers. However, time-efficiency is not only about how long a journey takes, but also how reliable any time predictions can be. Almost half are not satisfied with the sources of real-time information that could otherwise help them plan and adapt their commute; it is the unexpected time variations which generate more dissatisfaction. What matters most is to arrive on time while making the best use of time on the go.
The experience of Savvy Commuters
Savvy Commuters are those who claim to be highly satisfied with their commute and know how to actively create positive conditions for their trips. Those looking to further urban mobility innovation can draw inspiration from this group when it comes to improving the experience of drivers and passengers alike.
A crucial criterion for a positive experience is the feeling of having enough physical and mental space. Fifty-four percent of Savvy Commuters say they have plenty of mental space during their commute, compared to only 19 percent in the unsatisfied group.
Digital engagement for Savvy Commuters
A common trait of Savvy Commuters is to make the most out of their time on the go by engaging in different activities with the support of digital devices.
Savvy Commuters claim to have a higher availability of advanced mobile networks, with 83 percent claiming most of their trip has 4G or 5G coverage versus 68 percent in the unsatisfied group. Despite more than four in five of all commuters having a smartphone available during their trip, Savvy Commuters use them the most.
It is interesting to note that Savvy Commuters talk, watch video content and work on the go a lot more than other commuters. They prefer a mix of activities, and being able to switch between different things is part of the reason they are happy. Half of Savvy Commuters claim to regularly do 3 or more activities during their commute, while 70 percent of the unsatisfied group feel their choice is limited to 2 or fewer activities.
How commuters rate their mental space
Savvy Commuters are digitally engaged
Experience beyond transport modes
If the common factors defining the experience for Savvy Commuters can be recreated by means of physical or digital features, then consumers will be able to bring a better experience into different types of vehicles and transport modes.
While the majority of mass transport users do claim to have enough space to focus and use digital devices, what they are missing is better internet connectivity, since half of them find it quite unstable. Here lies a real challenge, as they are lacking basic connectivity. This limits their ability to create a sense of privacy and personal space through digital engagement. Of respondents who enjoy a fast internet connection, 85 percent claim to have enough mental space to focus on their activities during their commute.
Mobility service concepts
Commuters express the highest interest in services that enhance safety and reduce stress in demanding situations – without safety, there is no room for fun in commuting.
It is no surprise to see high satisfaction in drivers with features such as assisted drive. They report reduced stress levels during their commute since they feel protected by additional safety features. Experts agree, suggesting that drivers who use assisted drive show a reduction in stress levels while keeping vigilant and paying attention to the road.
The majority of respondents show high interest in enhanced assisted drive features supported by connectivity; for example, where information is collected from vehicles and sensors regarding hazards beyond the horizon. Information awareness is relevant for all commuters because safety on the roads affects drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. 5G will be instrumental in helping to maximize the safety, efficiency and sustainability of urban transportation.
Vice President Research, Innovation and IPR, Veoneer
Consumers expectations on Autonomous vehicles
The consumer perception regarding commuting differs in every city, with Sao Paulo, Delhi, Los Angeles, London and New York ranked as the most challenged cities since 80 percent of consumers say the city transport infrastructure is crumbling under pressure. This leads consumers to understand the future of urban mobility needs a profound transformation.
Consumers expect commuting with personal cars to decline from 55 percent today to 32 percent in next 5-10 years with 13 percent wanting to own self driven vehicles but 15 percent expecting to use autonomous robotaxis and fleets or minibuses instead. The panorama is very different in every region and commuters expect big changes in the near future in some cities. For example, in Bangkok, Shanghai and Los Angeles they expect a decrease in use of private cars, while in Tokyo, Singapore and Stockholm they expect an increase in use of personal transport modes.
Of our respondents, 3 in 5 believe autonomous vehicles will completely revolutionize the commuting experience within the next 10 years. Only a few cities offered more conservative views on this, such as Tokyo and Stockholm, where only two in five agree.
While 28 percent expect traditional automakers to drive the autonomous mobility development in their cities, 35 percent expect new automotive companies will lead this revolution, followed by tech giants. However, in Singapore, transport authorities are seen as the front runner with 38% in the city expecting them to drive the autonomous mobility development.
A likely effect after the COVID-19 pandemic will be an increased share of people working from home, which will impact transport patterns in cities. Even when physical transport is reduced for some, it may not mean the end of their need for a commute. As we have shown in this report, commuting is not only a necessary evil. For many, it is in fact an opportunity to recharge the mind before they grapple with all the needs and demands that face them during the day. Mobility service providers who today succeed in providing a worthwhile physical commuting experience could even be the ones offering a satisfactory virtual commuting experience in the increasingly digital world of tomorrow.
This study represents the opinions of 130 million people living within metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, Stockholm, London, Berlin, Paris, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, New Delhi, Jakarta, Bangkok. and Sydney. These respondents were using emerging commuting modes and demonstrated high digital engagement. We also bring the views from 10 experts from telecom operators, mobility service providers and vehicle manufacturers to gain a perspective on industry sentiment around the future of mobility for consumers.
 Insights into consumer behaviors and attitudes around commuting against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis are based on data collected during April 2020. It comprises smartphone users from 11 different countries, statistically representing 700 million people.
 Transforming Transportation with 5G, Ericsson Technology Review (September 2019)