The smart mobility team of Forum Virium Helsinki visited a congress related to our field in Lisbon. We soon noticed that Finland and Helsinki are pioneers in modern mobility in many ways.
The theme of this year’s ITS (The Intelligent Transport Systems) congress was Game changer, meaning the factors that will most likely affect the future of mobility.
1. Data merging contributes to a more useful digital twin
Digital twins will help make traffic planning and control smoother in the near future. Simulations can provide information on how weather conditions affect congestions and maintenance needs, and in the future, various means of transport can even use the real-time data from digital twins.
But what is slowing down the development of digital twins in Europe? For digital twins to be useful, they need a sufficient number of diverse data sources. Opening up data requires trust, and collecting and processing it requires standardisation. Traffic signs should also be changed to meet a shared European standard. The old infrastructure has not been updated for the latest technology, and as such, reforms would require additional investments. Data transfer from servers to the cloud would reduce costs and also improve privacy protection, at the same time.
Of the Forum Virium Helsinki projects, the Digital Twin for Mobility (LiiDi2) and Mobility Lab Helsinki, with their testbed, data catalogue and data standardisation tools, are at the heart of the latest smart mobility development, but also at the head of it. Our extensive experience of digital twin development, in particular, will continue to give the City of Helsinki a high level of expertise and a competitive edge even in the future.
2. Urban transport and logistics will be increasingly automated
Autonomous delivery robots are here to stay. In addition to companies, consumers are also starting to see the value of digital logistics. Autonomous means of transport are establishing themselves. At the ITS Congress, one of the innovations presented was a robot bus – which have been tested in Helsinki for years now.
In addition to delivery robots, the advancements of machine vision and learning have also been accelerated by traffic control. For example, innovations exhibited in Lisbon included traffic lights that monitor the traffic volumes.
Surprisingly, urban aviation was barely discussed at the Intelligent Transport Systems Congress. The only presentation that covered drones was by the AiRMOUR project of Forum Virium Helsinki and its partners.
3. Transport connections in Europe will improve
At the press conference, Herald Ruijters from the European Commission emphasised that we need faster and more functional railway connections. According to him, the existing connection between Lisbon and Madrid could be shortened from eleven hours to three hours.
Ruijters also highlighted that the war in Ukraine has shown that we cannot rely solely on air transport. He thought it was essential that Finland and the Baltic States introduce a functional railway connection to Europe as soon as possible. In addition to this, purchasing tickets for ground trips should be as easy as for flights: just like stopover flights are bought on a single ticket, train tickets with an exchange in another country should become available.
Joost Vantomme, CEO of ERTICO (European Road Transport Telematics Implementation Coordination), added that travel chains require close cooperation across Europe, and one ticket should combine various modes of travel from trains to buses, electric bicycles and e-scooters. Multimodality was a recurring theme in the keynote speeches at the event.
4. Climate change will reduce the reliance on cars
In smart mobility, the development of ground transport is one of the most significant actions for the climate. The European Union is aiming for urban transport to become zero-emission by 2050. In the coming years, each city will be required to have a plan for sustainable urban mobility.
At the moment, chains of ground connections are being slowed down by the lack of open data and the divergent regulations on various means of transport. As such, the legislation on mobility should be made more uniform.
Several cities will likely ban private passenger cars altogether, or at least impose tolls on them. Alternatives to privately owned cars are offered by robot taxis on demand and MaaS, Mobility as a Service, in which Forum Virium is a pioneer.
5. Cooperation between cities and companies will become closer
Cities are key operators in transport development. It was repeatedly mentioned in the discussions how European cities will be required to cooperate both with each other and with companies to a greater extent. Furthermore, partners should be made easier to find.
There are few European operators like Forum Virium Helsinki: non-profit organisations that connect research institutes and cities. Helsinki would have much to offer in representing such co-creation and innovation operations.
The ITS Lisbon 2023 Conference was organised by ERTICO – ITS Europe, the European Commission and the City of Lisbon. The congress was attended by 2,500 visitors and 80 exhibitors from 50 countries.