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The future of urban mobility depends on the sharing economy

Maven CEO and vice-president, General Motors Urban Mobility.

The major appeal of living in a metropolitan city is that everything is close. Your bagel shop is on one corner, your barber on the other and your grocer is on the next block. Proximity to amenities – along with a large number job opportunities, unique culture and a close network of friends – is why people flock to major cities across the globe.

What happens when that influx of people makes everything too close for comfort? Streets and sidewalks become crowded, rents skyrocket and emissions rise, and eventually the appeal starts to fade.

As one of the fastest-growing tech markets in North America that is attracting investment and talent daily, Toronto is no exception to this phenomenon.

Over the past two years, General Motors has expanded its research and development footprint in the Greater Toronto Area to become Canada's largest developer of mobility-related software and technologies. General Motors and now Maven car sharing are part of a burgeoning ecosystem driven by partnerships between established companies, new startups, academia and governments. This includes top tech incubators such as the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management, the Sidewalk Labs visioning project with Waterfront Toronto and a growing leadership in artificial intelligence.

While this kind of growth is good for the economy, this influx of people is contributing to a major mobility challenge. Finding the right mix of public, private and shared transportation – in addition to creating infrastructure and policy around each – is difficult. City officials cannot do it alone. It is time to call upon Toronto's innovators for help in solving the problem of mobility.

We know that the future of urban mobility will expand beyond car sharing. We need to begin thinking about mobility as a service.

Imagine a future without the hindrances of car ownership in which you can reach your destination by car without worrying about where to park or having to remember to fill up the gas tank. The sharing economy is in its infancy, and as the sharing of transportation assets becomes the norm, we will be looking at a whole new transportation network. The next step, Mobility 2.0, will be founded in a deep understanding of what can be shared to alleviate congestion, remove stress and add value back to people's lives. Technological innovations in personal, on-demand services will help get us to this future.

Maven is growing every day, and each city of operation, including the launch in Toronto, helps us better understand what is working.

Major cities across the globe from New York to London are also trying to solve these sorts of growth issues. There is no common blueprint or silver bullet. Each city is unique and will need a wide array of services to fit within the existing transportation network, while at the same time leaving enough room for future evolution. This is why we need to take a local, responsible approach to co-creating solutions that fit each location.

The sharing economy has emerged as one of the best ways to utilize our transportation assets. Consider this: We estimate that for every car shared through Maven, we're taking 10 cars off the road and helping to address current congestion issues. When congestion is eliminated, people are given valuable time back. Car sharing has also been proven to inspire people to use other forms of public transportation.

More than 100 years ago, innovators in technology and mobility at the McLaughlin Carriage Company transformed Toronto by founding General Motors Canada and moved society away from horses and carriages to cars.

Today, Torontonians are embracing the sharing economy and showing the rest of the country – and the world – what is possible when municipalities, communities and companies work together to solve congestion. Embracing sharing is the first step in helping to address the issues facing the current urban mobility landscape, and an opportunity for the next generation to find new solutions to old problems.

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