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I’m a Mobineer: An Innovator Working to Improve Mobility

Rethinking transportation systems with passion, creativity and imagination

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My name is Dan, and I’m a mobineer.

“What’s a mobineer?” you ask. I see it as a person, with a pioneering spirit, working in some capacity to improve mobility and make life in our cities better.
 

mobineer

Overall of my 35-year professional life, I’ve been a mobineer. Early on, I left my good paying job at General Motors Design and went on to create a new environmentally friendly vehicle category in the United States, the neighborhood vehicle. While I was able to take an idea and bring it to market, my venture was not a commercial success for me, leading me to work in many different capacities across the larger mobility ecosystem. Over these years I have had the job titles of “car designer,” “entrepreneur,” “company president,” “university transportation researcher,” “mobility design consultant,” “design director,” “conference organizer,” “market development lead,” “transportation planner,” “teacher-professor,” “co-creation lead” and, when my career tanked after the 2008 economic crash, I was a city bus driver (for 6 months).

When it came time to first fill-out my LinkedIn profile and enter my job title, I was stumped as to what to say. Now it’s simple: I’m a mobineer.

I see mobineers as having creative minds that can see beyond the current automobile ownership paradigm.

Certainly, people don’t have to take such a long journey that I’ve taken to become a mobineer. Ultimately, I see mobineers as having creative minds that can see beyond the current automobile ownership paradigm. Pioneering people who know we can build a better world if we latch on to the idea of creating more efficient designs for moving people that are synchronized with designing (or redesigning) the built environment. But any person with a passion for creating quality life-improving mobility products or services—a subset of the larger holistic urban mobility future—I see as mobineers, as well.

In my definition, a mobineer can be anyone, young or old, a mobility specialist, a city building expert or just a citizen with no related professional pedigree, just a participant with this type of spirit who is involved with designing how we move better and re-shaping the built environment.  They may be individuals that are contributing, even in a passive or simple manner, to enhancing our mobility systems and the quality of life in our cities and towns. I expect many of you reading this are mobineers.

I also expect many mobineers in the near future working in a new co-creation manner – inspiring each other and accelerating the realization of a world that is greener, healthier, and enables access to all.

Mobineers in Action

Disney has defined its employee innovators as imagineers for many decades. This strikes me as analogous to mobineers, although at Disney the role is to devise and implement imaginative concepts or technology for Walt Disney theme parks. (In some cases, these imagineers are actually mobineers, as they are developing transportation systems.)

We can also now find healthineers working on healthcare innovation at Siemens. It’s not just a few lead scientists with this title, but includes everyone in their larger healthineer team, including the accounting staff.

We know a new mobility paradigm is a potent “design tool” for reshaping the larger urban form. The last new paradigm, the democratization of the automobile, 130 years ago, led to the creation of the suburb – where roughly 60% of the people in our country now live. Now, with a new smart mobility paradigm arriving, one where we can design bold new mobility solutions and redesign our cities (or even design new cities), we will need a multitude of mobineers for the job.

The term mobineer was coined by Adrian Chernoff, a General Motors engineering veteran and recent worldwide vice president, and R&D head at Johnson & Johnson. Adrian had been a lead team member of GM’s (2002) Autonomy show car. He and the team created the first “skateboard” e-drive car concept, which is now being copied by almost all companies working on commercial electric car programs. He’s an awesome example of a mobineer.

In the last 6 months, I have been collaborating with Adrian, Liz Wetzel, a former General Motors Design Director and Mark Nickita, an amazing city builder based in Detroit, who is an architect and urban designer that also is a municipal leader, and recent mayor of Birmingham, Michigan. We are developing a new program where, in part, vehicle designers can work directly with both infrastructure designers and architects to “co-vision” our upcoming mobility and city futures.

We are just getting started and have work to do to fully define our new initiative/venture. But one thing you can be certain of – it will be called “MOBINEERS.”

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