Being able to move around cities everyday enables us to access services, opportunities and reach the places and people who are important to us. However, transportation, as we know it, comes at a cost as it also brings along a series of negative effects. To name a few:
- Urban transportation is highly time-consuming, in average citizens spend long hours a year stuck in road traffic: 102 in Los Angeles, 86 in Sao Paolo, 69 in Paris and 63 in Jakarta.
- Spending time in traffic affects us at a personal level but also has a negative effect in the economy. In 2017 being stuck in congestion in London cost the city around 8 billion euros in direct and indirect costs.
- Last but not least, urban transportation has a direct impact in our health. The biggest air pollutant in cites is the transport sector, and in particular road transport, which in Europe accounts for more than 70% of the greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by this sector.
Nevertheless, we could shortly be looking at a different panorama in cities. The status-quo of urban transportation is shifting, and it is shifting right before our eyes. In recent years, with the fast development of technological solutions, we are witnessing the rise of a whole new ecosystem of urban mobility solutions which can be more efficient, clean and sustainable. These include, among others, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs).
Three innovative solutions which will shape the future of urban mobility
- Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)
The integration of smart mobile devices as part of our daily life and the consequential exponential growth of data-production around us (Big Data) are having a profound impact in the lives of urban dwellers. Furthermore, it is fuelling the creation of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), new platforms which rise as an alternative to the supply-based transportation which have been used to in the past.
Often referred as the “Netflix” of mobility, MaaS provides on-demand transportation services in which vehicles are connected to a platform and shared between their users. Due to this condition, daily struggles such as parking-finding and the wait for public transportation can be avoided as users can use cars, bikes and scooters and leave them according to their needs. As the number of MaaS platforms offered in the market increases – the sector is expected worth over one trillion euro by 2030 – it promises to have a huge impact on long-established trends such as private vehicle-ownership and urban space destined for parking spaces. In addition, the integration of on-demand solutions from the private sector with existing public transportation under one platform could actually redefine intermodal urban mobility. On the other hand, MaaS is posing new challenges for local governments, which are increasingly regulating this rapidly evolving sector. In addition, collaboration between different levels of government is fundamental in order to address privacy and data protection and other issues in MaaS services.
- Electric Vehicles (EVs)
In order to ensure a sustainable future in this planet, reducing carbon emissions worldwide are a global priority. New energy models for transportation are needed and the electrification of vehicles rises as a low-emission alternative. Although they still represent a small share of the market – 1% the global car fleet today – the sale of electric vehicles worldwide increased 54% in 2017. In addition, the EV 30@30 campaign launched by the Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI) and supported by a series of governments around the world, targets at least 30 percent of new electric vehicle sales by 2030 in order to meet the targets agreed on the Paris Agreement.
Innovation and technology are playing a big role in this phenomenon as key components of electric vehicles such as batteries are becoming increasingly more affordable, their price decreased by about 80 percent since 2010. Despite the fact that buses, trucks, private vehicles, bicycles and scooters are rapidly being electrified around the world, electrification represents a new urban challenge and cities need to adapt their urban infrastructure and policies.
- Autonomous vehicles (AVs)
Often regarded as a long-term scenario, the automation of vehicles and rise of self-driving cars is increasingly a closer reality. With the development of artificial technology (AI) and the input of big data, vehicles are reaching automation level 4 (vehicles can drive themselves almost all the time without any human input) and level 5 (fully automation). The implementation of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is expected to have an important impact in our lives, making transportation more efficient and safe, and freeing up around 50 minutes per day that could be destined to other activities. In addition, in combination with MaaS, autonomous vehicles are predicted to have a spatial impact in our cities, for example making parking spaces in buildings and streets obsolete.
As the future remains uncertain, self-driving vehicles are currently being tested in many cities around the world and initiatives are being developed in order to guarantee “clearer and more consistent policies”. In this process, cities are experiencing the challenges of implementation, which range from making ‘smarter’ infrastructure to facilitate and monitor this network, as well as privacy and safety regulation to ensure a responsible use of AVs.
The rise of new technologies is bringing up new solutions to our urban mobility systems as well as new challenges. As these are being developed and implemented, new rules of the game in terms of regulation and governance need to be applied in our cities in order to ensure these technologies will bring social, economic and environmental benefits around the world. Innovation and technology and its implications in mobility will be one of the main topics of the SUM Bilbao 19 Congress, where representatives of the private, public and academic sector will look ahead and discuss the mobility of the future.