Data suggests people are driving less and at different times than before the pandemic. Experts reveal what this means for the future of commuting.

Future of Mobility Session 2 (1)
  • The pandemic has impacted our driving habits, including shorter trips and more fatalities.
  • Arity’s driving data will affect a broad range of industries, from car manufacturers to advertisers.
  • This conversation was part of Insider’s virtual event “The Future of Mobility: Data Driving Innovation” presented by Arity on Tuesday, September 14.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

We can’t predict the future, but driving data tells us that some of the biggest behavioral changes in consumers are here to stay.

“We’ve collected over 600 billion miles of driving data,” Gary Hallgren, president of mobility analytics platform Arity, said at Insider’s recent virtual event, “The Future of Mobility: Data Driving Innovation,” presented by Arity. “You actually can see that in the urban areas, there are a lot less drivers. People are moving to the suburbs, and people are moving to rural areas.”

This conversation, titled “How driving data can predict consumer behavior,” featured Hallgren alongside Mark Coffey, EVP and GM at fuel price app GasBuddy.

Hallgren explained that Arity’s data had three major findings:

  • People are returning to driving more since the height of the pandemic, but they’re also driving differently. This will have a significant effect on many industries, including insurance and rideshare.
  • In spite of fewer miles being driven last year, fatalities increased. The movement of people to suburbs and to rural areas may account for driving faster, but there were more fatalities in 2020 than any time since 2007.
  • We used to drive most during morning rush hour, but that’s changed to around midday during the week. This will have an effect on companies designing apps and advertisers, who will need to rethink when and how they can capture their audiences.

Coffey said that Arity’s data tallies with what he’s seeing at GasBuddy in terms of gas consumption. “About 80% of all driving in the US is under 30 miles (48km),” he said.

One silver lining Coffey sees is that, following a doubling in electric vehicle (EV) sales since the pandemic, the increase in short-haul trips is a factor that will see this number continue to grow. When it comes to pandemic driving trends that will continue into the future, he believes that when we’re driving will continue to move away from traditional rush hours.

Hallgren added that now many people view the morning rush-hour commute in the car as wasted time.

“[If people can] better optimize the roads and better optimize their time, it’s probably good for everybody. I think people will gravitate to what works for them,” he said.

Car companies should be looking to get a better understanding of how vehicles are being used, he said, such as shorter neighborhood trips running errands rather than long commutes.

“That probably bodes well for thinking about the future of mobility and when to use EVs,” he said.

American workers have traditionally needed to try to manage their personal life around their jobs, but work flexibility means that’s changing. Hallgren believes that there’s going to be significant changes for retailers and how urban centers are organized.

“Understanding where and how people are going and when they’re going – I think it changes dramatically,” he said, pointing to an example of Starbucks in highway off-ramps as opposed to being in an area around the town center.