Part 3: Smart Mobility for Smarter Cities
Regulatory changes in Europe are creating restrictions around the use and convenience of private cars, pushing European cities to find solutions for greater auto-urban integration.
Worldwide, increasing mobility challenges are inspiring cities and OEMs to deliver innovative solutions that adapt to regulatory expectations. Smart cities are pushing electric vehicles and efficient transit options to aid in the efforts for a cleaner environment. One of the most proactive markets, Norway, reported nearly 40% of newly registered cars as electric vehicles in 20161.
The result of combining regulation and innovation is a drastic change in city-auto relationships, especially in urban centers where cities are focused not just on managing pollution, but congestion, quality of life, and balancing public finances.
More People, Fewer Cars
With urbanization speeding up and 30% of urban traffic looking for parking spots2, densely populated urban areas are becoming the premier testing grounds for innovative public transportation solutions and mobility as a service (MaaS). Increased urban density leads to increased adoption of public transport use, regardless of how developed the local economy is according to the UITP Mobility in Cities Database. City governments are focused on serving their growing, ever-more-selective population. It’s not just getting private cars off the road; cities are exploring solutions for moving constituents on-demand as flexibly and sustainably as possible.
The Helsinki Experiment
The Finnish capital is looking to make its city center car-free by 2025. The initial foray into mobility-as-a-service began with an experiment that involved an on-demand minibus service. Although the service gained popularity with commuters, profitability didn’t keep pace, causing the two-year trial to be discontinued in 2015.
Helsinki quickly tried again. This time, with the private sector behind the wheel. It was a success, with multiple providers of MaaS solutions now originating from or testing solutions locally. Some of the integrative apps allow users to have access to seamless multi-modal mobility inclusive of public transport (buses, ferries, city bikes), car rental and ridehail taxis—all from one interface. Users can either pay per trip or with a subscription that covers all their mobility needs. The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority provides access to data through an open API to routes, accurate timetables, and fees. The app is then integrated into users’ daily calendars so travelers can plan in advance and can sort by speed, price and comfort. The concept is growing in appeal internationally, with more European and Asian cities jumping onboard.
Traditional public transport can be inefficient, especially in off-peak times. It makes sense for set regional travel but not always for responsive inner-city movement. By allowing the private sector to lead the way with an open platform, suites of providers and public data, European cities are rapidly looking at such MaaS solutions for their cities.
For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), cities are potentially the ultimate mobility playground. Here, rather than on highways, they can begin to form relationships with city governments, be awash with data through operating new services directly to customers, and initiate a wider ecosystem of partnerships to provide demand-responsive services. Furthermore, as cities look to rationalize the use of cars, OEMs are challenged to evolve from manufacturing and selling cars, to providing innovative mobility solutions.
Soon, rather than private car journeys and empty double decker buses waiting for passengers, cars and shuttle services could hit the road only when they’re needed, with mass transit and mobility as a service becoming the new normal.
See the next article in this series, "Diminishing Roadblocks: The Journey to Autonomous Vehicles"
1. Source: Opplysningsrådet for Veitrafikken (OFV), 2017; 2. Source: Donald Shoup, 2007