For those of you unfamiliar with Movin'On, it is a world summit created to develop sustainable mobility solutions and is often compared favourably to Davos or CES for its reach and influence. Here are my impressions from the recent summit in Montreal.

As you’d expect, the transport choices to and from the venue at the 2019 event were many and integrated. While my colleagues cycled to Montréal’s Rue le Ber, I chose the No.71 bus. But it was not the clarity of the on-board information or the comfort of its seats that impressed me most. It was the delightful demeanour of the driver. Each day he greeted me and my fellow delegates with a smile as wide as the city’s Saint Lawrence river and a genuine personal greeting. And each morning it set the tone for the day that followed.

The environment and the organisation of the Movin’ On event were impeccable. Wayfinding was intuitive. Event staff were welcoming, organised and knowledgeable. The ambiance was inspiring and energising– a special atmosphere that was conducive to respectful debate about developing better futures.

And the sense of humanity and inclusion didn’t stop when the presentations began. The approach taken by the municipal legislators and city organisers from Lisbon, including their key speaker, Miguel Gaspar the City Councillor for Mobility and Safety was emblematic of a more people-focused strategy. Their story about designing local and inclusive mobility by co-creating it with their citizens is the sort of forward thinking I’m talking about. Asking for opinion, listening and then acting on what actual people said about actual journeys in actual vehicles on actual streets was a heartening revelation. Developing an urban transport system from the bottom up was a refreshing narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way big data unlocks possibility and identifies trends that might otherwise go undiscovered. There’s just something genuine and heartfelt about verbatim feedback. 

Data science and AI is incredibly important for smarter urban design. In fact, it’s fundamental and was in evidence throughout the summit. There was much more of it than last year and in 2020 I confidently expect its influence and importance will dominate when we return to Montréal again next June. I look forward to all it offers. But I also hope we experience the same positive human interaction and witness stories of how real opinion influences smart, sustainable, multimodal mobility. A people-driven approach in an increasingly data-driven world.

I’d be interested if others who attended the Movin’On summit feel the same way. And even if you didn’t, I’d be intrigued to get your opinion about the ideal blend of AI, big data and actual human responses and how they should ideally work together to reveal new, real-world mobility solutions. Please share your thoughts.