Usha Raghavachari in the SHIFT Mobility interview

“We need to deeply listen to all the customers of mobility, to all of our citizens that they can own and shape their space and mobility in a way that works for everyone.”

How is the implementation of e-mobility currently progressing? What are the remaining obstacles to the widespread use of electric vehicles? Usha Raghavachar clarifies these aspects in an interview with us and provides an insight into her experiences on the subject of electrification in the automotive industry.

Usha Raghavachari is Lab Director for D-Ford, the Global Innovation ‘start-up lab’ focused on developing human centred design inside Ford Motor Company. Previously, based in China, Usha led the Marketing and Product strategy for Ford APAC’s Battery Electric Vehicle portfolio for three years. Prior to that she held the role of Marketing Communications Director for Ford of Europe with responsibility for Consumer Communications, Social Media, Events and Experiential, Media and Analytic teams. In her current D-Ford role, Usha is passionate about developing deep human insights to drive the creative process. She loves solving problems and creating new possibilities (new products, services, experiences and new ventures) that delight Ford customers and transform the future of Ford.

What will happen if we don´t shift our mobility behaviour?

UR: In answering this question, it is necessary to list the main advantages of a change in mobility: Electrification improves emissions and air quality and reduces our impact on greenhouse gases and climate. Automation leading to autonomous vehicles results in an improvement in road-related safety, improves efficiency and productivity for commercial customers (businesses) who move goods and people. Mode shifting makes the best use of our resources which can benefit our climate action, and also how liveable our spaces are in the places we live and work. Increasing flexibility and hybrid working means we demand more of all the spaces we use – at home, in the office and in our vehicles also. Some modes can improve our health and wellness – bringing improvements to individuals and the population. If we don’t shift our mobility behaviour we will not realise all these benefits.

What do we have to radically invent, improve or change to realize the turnaround in transport policy?

UR: We need to deeply listen to all the customers of mobility, to all of our citizens that they can own and shape their space and mobility in a way that works for everyone. Moreover, we need to develop a way to design and flex infrastructure to keep up with and support the evolving mobility options. Furthermore, we need to test, prove out and legislate for emerging new technology mobility that bring these population-level benefits into reality on the roots. And last but not least we need to understand that not one solution will ‘fit all’ across the globe – different mindsets, openness to technology, infrastructure, investment levels and intentions.

What is the most hyped buzzword in terms of mobility which has in your opinion no impact on the real issues of mobility?

UR: I think we need a much more collaborative approach to how we shift the paradigm. We cannot just drop the latest technology or idea thoughtlessly into our spaces, our cities, our streets and expect it to solve all our problems. Advances in technology give us wonderful opportunities if they are used to solve REAL problems for people – not just tech for tech’s sake.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “mobility”?

UR: On the one hand freedom of movement for all and on the other hand growth of smaller vehicles and small scale modes powered by batteries.

Let’s now take a look at the future of mobility. What will be the most important thing in 10 years from now about “mobility” that comes to your mind?

UR: I am delighted we gave a voice to our citizens and customers to co-design dramatic mobility innovations with us. That makes the world better and creates value for our stakeholders.

Why is your topic fundamentally important to shape the future of mobility?

UR: E-mobility will result in safer and cleaner spaces & streets. It’s also a seamless way for our customers to live, work and play, integrating into their lives with digitally-connected services and products.

Which technology will play a big role – if not the biggest role – in shaping the future of mobility?

UR: I personally think it will be electric power and charging infrastructure. Another important key technology in the future is connectivity. Connectivity enables the integration of trillions of smart devices with millions of smart vehicles in customers’ lives (from commercial & retail customers).

In which way will your topic improve the aspects sustainability and inclusion in terms of mobility?

UR: The end-to-end perspective on the design and manufacturing of our products, from raw materials and supply chain, through to 2nd, 3rd users and beyond. Another aspect is inclusion awareness and inclusive design. Human Centered Design (HCD) is not centered on average user, but all users. Diversity of our Design team across cultures, perspectives and experiences is key to create the best solutions.

What is the greatest mobility challenge for your company and for your sector industry these days?

UR: There are three core problems. First of all, legislation – both pace, and collaboration. The second issue is the charging infrastructure. Another difficult topic are shared modes and sharing spaces in a way that works for everyone.

Which mobility best cases particularly impress you and why?

UR: For example, the pedestrianizing Times Square in NYC or the cycling success in Paris. Other great example are the charging infrastructure in Norway and the rising percentage of households in Germany that own an E-bike.

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