Mobility, Technology, Freedom and FOMO
FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out. In our always-connected lives, when we’re barraged with information we can’t afford to miss, events we should attend, and people we just have to meet, FOMO is a common anxiety. If you face real obstacles to being where you want to be – if you’re disabled, for instance, or live in an underserved urban core, or are slowed by the effects of old age – FOMO can become your reality. Limited mobility increases the risk of missing out.
Mobility as a Social Issue
At Net Impact and Toyota, we talk a lot about mobility – which means, by the way, more than getting from one place to another. When you think about it…
- Mobility is about freedom and empowerment – the ability to learn, grow and explore.
- It gives people access to employment, to education, to opportunity.
- It helps people break through perceived limits and improve the quality of their lives.
In other words, mobility is a social issue – a big one. Certainly, people need cars and trucks but the bigger issue is making sure everyone gets where they want to go – whether that’s across the country, across town, or across the room. If people cannot get where they need to go, they miss out.
Here’s a good example of how we can improve mobility, and with it, people’s quality of life: at Toyota, the team has been working on a device called BLAID. While it’s still under development, the idea is that a person who’s blind or visually impaired can wear it around their neck and it will help them get around indoors. It can recognize common objects and, equipped with cameras, voice recognition software, speakers, and small vibration motors, the device will steer the user where they want to go.
You may already know that Net Impact and Toyota’s Mobility Foundation launched the Next Generation Mobility Challenge this year. Teams of students from 15 campuses around the country competed in design challenges to come up with solutions for mobility issues around three themes: community, connectivity or sustainability. We loved the ideas we heard and were so inspired.
The winning concept, devised by a team from Babson and Olin Colleges and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is a proposed app called StreetSmart. It would provide real-time audio alerts on street conditions (traffic jams, accidents, construction, etc.) for people who are visually impaired. It would be crowdsourced, a lot like the popular navigation app Waze, making use of existing technologies like Google Maps. And it would keep getting better as more people provide information on what’s happening around them in their own travels. StreetSmart would allow people with disabilities to navigate more easily, and feel comfortable and safe as they do it. This summer, Esther Kim (RISD) and John Mathai (Olin) have started researching the StreetSmart concept with an internship at Toyota’s Partner Robotics Lab in San Jose. Niklaus Sugiri (Babson) has begun business research at the Net Impact office to support the build out of this idea. You can learn more about their updates on the Net Impact blog this month.
Getting There Together
At Toyota and Net Impact, we both see mobility as a great arena for shared value – a way that companies create business value by addressing social problems that intersect with their work. It has always been important for companies to listen to consumers and pay close attention to the needs of society. At Net Impact and Toyota, we believe that breakthrough solutions come from this shared value approach.
Our goal is to help people improve their quality of life – and maybe lay FOMO to rest while we’re at it.
Latondra Newton, Group Vice President, Social Innovation and Chief Diversity Officer, Toyota Motor North America; Chief Program Officer, Toyota Mobility Foundation
Liz Maw, CEO, Net Impact