Building future mobility for and with the inhabitants of a territory: a human-centered scenario-based design approach

Updated: about 15 hours ago

Reference: DIT 5-2020
To apply: (please mention the reference number)


At IRT SystemX, located in the heart of the world-class scientific campus of Paris-Saclay, you will take an active part in the development of a technological research centre in the field of digital transformation of industry, services and territories. Backed by the best French research organisations in the field and made up of mixed teams of industrial partners and academics, the mission of this centre is to generate new knowledge and technological solutions based on the breakthroughs in digital engineering and to disseminate its skills in all economic sectors.

Within IRT SystemX, the PhD student will be attached to the scientific axis « 1 – Data Sciences & Interaction » and to the « Human Centered Mobility » (HCM) project. This thesis contributes to the « Mobility of the future and urban life » theme and focuses on the co-construction of future territorial scenarios using innovative foresight methods. The aim will be to identify plausible future mobility services integrated into the urban life of citizens by 2030-2050.

The Anthropolis Chair, jointly operated by the Laboratoire Genie Industriel (LGI) of CentraleSupélec and IRT SystemX, places the human at the centre of the design of urban mobility systems and services. The thesis is in the core programme of the chair, whose holder is Pr Jakob Puchinger. The PhD will be supervised by Pr Bernard Yannou, full professor at Laboratoire Genie Industriel. The thesis will be registered at the Interfaces doctoral school of the University of Paris-Saclay. The doctoral student will be co-supervised by Dr Flore Vallet, senior researcher at IRT SystemX and by Sylvie Douzou, senior researcher at EDF-R&D.

The position is based at IRT SystemX – Digiteo Moulon (Gif-sur-Yvette).

Description of the subject


This prospective and multidisciplinary topic aims to better understand, explore and anticipate the future of urban mobility, according to the evolution of lifestyles and quality of life as defined by the actors of the city (actors from civil society, the commercial and political spheres) and current or emerging societal trends. The future of mobility mobilises and fascinates many researchers and actors in the field of transport and transition. Not without reason: every week, the population of the world’s cities increases by one million inhabitants; in one generation, i.e. tomorrow, in 2050, 40 metropolises are expected to account for 68% of the world’s population (UNDESA/UN, 2014). Mobility and the transport systems that operate it are key dimensions of this phenomenon of accelerated urbanisation in France and elsewhere.

In the field of societal foresight, we can distinguish between collective methods that rely heavily on the imaginary (see for example (Paucot, 2018), systematic and quantitative methods of anticipation (Godet and Durance, 2011), and scenario approaches (Vergragt and Quist, 2011). While the scenario-based approaches available in the literature make it possible to illustrate major trends in tomorrow’s life in a homogeneous manner for a given group, they are poorly suited to describing, at a finer level, the future mobile life of individuals at a given horizon, since all citizens have neither the same opportunities nor the same aspirations in terms of life projects. It is therefore essential to characterise the potential effects of various developments on different social groups and to make them more tangible. In this respect, we have shown in previous work that a method combining the persona approach with scriptwriting (known as Scenario Personarrative) can be implemented with limited resources, while allowing participants to grasp the issues at stake in a creative and collective spirit (Vallet et al., 2020). This is why, in this thesis, we want to explore, experiment and validate innovative foresight approaches in order to better anticipate and design mobility solutions adapted to a territory and its users, at scales of 10, 20 and 30 years, in a spirit of co-creation with all the stakeholders of this territory.


Our objective is to feed the reflections of the actors of mobility ecosystems, in particular those who develop innovative solutions, as well as the actors of cities and communities who promote them on their territory. The objective of producing original knowledge will be based on the integration of different disciplinary visions. It is threefold:

Formalize a set of deep knowledge from heterogeneous sources to represent the future of mobility on given territories. This in-depth knowledge (on lifestyles, usages, changes in infrastructure technologies, urban forms and associated dynamics) is used to build a representation of the future of mobility. The representation could be a probabilistic space of scenarios on a territory. The approach is to be co-constructed with carefully selected actors of the territory, to be enriched and updated in order to have the best representation of the future of mobility at all times.

Develop a structured methodological approach to produce innovative mobility solutions in a territory. The aim will be to propose a real system for the production of innovative mobility solutions on a territory. The expected properties for the space of the scenarios are for example representativeness, performance, resilience, maintainability, maturity, deployability, sustainability, inclusiveness, sovereignty.

Produce reliable results (i.e. validated at each stage of the process) on one or more Ile-de-France territories and measure the quality of these results, for example through the performance of the participatory process. We will work on 1 or 2 Ile-de-France territories with different historical, geographical, demographic and economic realities to demonstrate the variability of the results and the interest of the approach. It is imperative that the quality of the results produced be validated.

Areas of research

The following research directions are presented sequentially for the sake of clarity.

  • Definition of the context, stakes and issues – Representation of the future of mobility
  • Empirical data collection: primary (experimental field) and secondary (existing data)
  • Construction of a system of representations of the future (representations of the territory on a variable time scale, probabilised space of scenarios …)
  • Constructing a tool for designing innovative mobility solutions on a territory
  • Production of results and implementation: design of Innovative Mobility Solutions on a Territory (application to one or two territories)
  • Validation of the quality of the overall approach, by submitting the interpretations of the analysis and scenarios to mixed groups of experts from the academic, professional, territorial or civil society world (partial and final validations)
  • Bibliography
    Godet, M., & Durance, P. (2011). La prospective stratégique pour les entreprises et les territoires (2nd ed.). Paris: Dunod.
    Kaufmann, V., & Ravalet, E. (2016). From Weak Signals to Mobility Scenarios: A Prospective Study of France in 2050. Transportation Research Procedia, 19, 18-32. doi:10.1016/j.trpro.2016.12.064
    Paucot, A.-C. (2018). Capsules intemporelles. Paris: Editions Propulseurs.
    UNDESA/ONU (2014). World Urbanization Prospects, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), ONU, Rapport
    Vallet F., Puchinger J., Millonig A., Lamé G., Nicolaï I. (2020). Tangible futures: combining scenario thinking and personas – A pilot study on urban mobility. Futures, Elsevier, 117 ⟨10.1016/j.futures.2020.102513⟩. ⟨hal-02446157⟩
    Vergragt P.J. and Quist J. (2011). Backcasting for sustainability: Introduction to the special issue, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 78, Issue 5, Pages 747-755, ISSN 0040-1625,

    Research profile

    With a master’s degree in design, industrial engineering, transport, urban planning, industrial design, human and social sciences, urban systems engineering, the doctoral student will be enrolled in the Interfaces Doctoral School of the University of Paris-Saclay and will write a thesis in the discipline « Complex Systems Engineering » or « Industrial Engineering ». We are aware that the required profile is broad. Based on the candidate’s original training and research skills, the selection committee will be careful to judge his/her degree of openness to other fields, and whether he/she has a good understanding of the subject facilitating its appropriation and enrichment.

    Essential knowledge and know-how:

    • Design engineering
    • Sociology of uses, urban sociology
    • Service design, transition design
    • Urban Systems Engineering

    Professional Qualities :

    • Autonomy
    • Rigour
    • Creativity
    • Good interpersonal skills
    • Good writing, including in English
    • Openness to multidisciplinary approaches

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