Private transportation has gained in importance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In order to minimize contact with others, many people are choosing to travel in their own cars. The use of public transportation and carpools, in contrast, has declined significantly worldwide. These are some of the key findings of the recently published Continental Mobility Study 2020. Within the framework of the study, representative surveys on people’s mobility habits were conducted in Germany, France, the USA, Japan and China.

Dr Ariane Reinhart, Continental Executive Board member for Human Relations and Sustainability, says of the study results: ‘The results of the Continental Mobility Study show that there is a global need for personal mobility. During the coronavirus pandemic, this demand has increased even more.’ Dr Ariane Reinhart continues: ‘Against the backdrop of the pressing climate issue, sustainable and – first and foremost – carbon-neutral solutions for global transport are therefore all the more important. As a technology company with one of the most comprehensive sustainability roadmaps in the supplier industry, Continental is set to make key contributions in many areas related to personal transport. Our goal is carbon-neutral mobility – by 2050 at the latest.’

In France and Germany, 80 per cent of respondents reported having changed their daily mobility habits during the pandemic. At 81 per cent, a similar shift in behaviour can be observed in the USA. The greatest change has occurred in Asia: in Japan, 88 per cent of people have changed their mobility habits, with this figure rising to 93 per cent in China.

Although the amount of travel has been reduced significantly for many people during the crisis, a large number reported having used their cars more frequently. This is especially the case in China, where almost half of those surveyed indicated that they were travelling more often by car. Considering that more people in urban areas participated in the representative survey, this is especially striking. In densely populated Germany with a comparatively tightly meshed public transportation system, a quarter of those surveyed is using cars more often than before the outbreak of the pandemic. Even in France, where freedom of movement and thus mobility has been restricted particularly severely, 16 per cent of the population have been using cars more regularly. Germany (23 per cent), the USA (22 per cent) and Japan (21 per cent) show similar trends.

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to greater personal mobility and thus to a further increase in traffic density in the five countries surveyed. “Modern vehicles with predictive software onboard are now an important part of the solution to people’s mobility needs. Cars that bring their occupants safely and efficiently to their destination. Continental stands for these intelligent solutions,” says Dr Ariane Reinhart.

In addition to cars, bicycles have also received a further boost due to coronavirus pandemic. At 34 per cent, the increase in the use of bicycles is particularly high in China, followed by Germany at 21 per cent. It is a different story for public transportation, meanwhile, with half of the people in Germany saying they use public transit less often than before, and more than half in China and Japan. It is notable that 56 per cent of people in the USA and 48 per cent of people in France have made no changes in their use of buses and trains. In China, Japan and Germany, only around one-third of respondents reported likewise.

The question is whether this trend will continue after the crisis. Some of the results of the Continental Mobility Study 2020 seem to indicate this: between 6 per cent of respondents in Japan and Germany and 15 per cent in the USA reported that they have bought a car or are considering buying one in the medium to long term in light of the pandemic. In China, where the proportion of car owners is still significantly lower, this sentiment was echoed by as many as 58 per cent of respondents. It is also notable that, comparatively, Chinese citizens reported more frequent use of car-sharing or carpool schemes or reliance on rental cars during the pandemic.

Overall, cars are part of daily travel for most people in all of the surveyed countries. In the USA, Germany and France, more than half of those surveyed said they use a vehicle daily or almost daily and around one-third reported driving a car at least once a week. At 43 and 41 per cent respectively, the total for China reaches a similarly high level, but with fewer daily or almost daily trips than in Western industrialized nations. Only around a third of Japanese people surveyed reported driving daily or at least once a week, with 13 per cent of respondents there stating that they forgo driving completely.