Traffic and transport is changing constantly and ever faster. What will cities need in five, ten or twenty years? How can they make their mobility smart?
To keep the world liveable we need to invent, improve and implement products and projects that have a real positive impact. Forum Virium Helsinki participates in international mobility-related conferences to showcase our best practices and learn from others. We listed 6 issues that cities should consider while preparing for the future needs in mobility and autonomous vehicles.
1. International co-operation
Last week, the biggest-ever European Intelligent Transport Systems Congress took place in the Brainport region in the Netherlands. Together with the Amsterdam Airport and Seaport Rotterdam, Brainport is one of the motors of the Dutch economy, notably in the field of traffic and transport innovations. It is the place where, for example, DAF’s first electric truck was recently revealed and where start-up Lightyear built the first commercial solar-cell fuelled electric passenger car.
By presentations in sessions on Living Labs, on Mobility as a Service and on automated shuttle buses for public transport, Forum Virium put Helsinki once more on the European map. Under the overarching theme of “fulfilling ITS promises”, FVH showed via our concrete projects and pilots how we make Helsinki the most functional smart city in the world and how we contribute to its 2035 CO2 neutrality goals.
2. Where’s the popcorn in MaaS?
The sector is hit by disruption. Everyone is preparing for the new reality where ownership of mobility is replaced by access to mobility. In addition, IoT, blockchain and 3D mobility infiltrate the traditional mobility field. While the automotive industry is lagging behind in innovations, various banks and insurance companies enter the mobility playing field. For example with MaaS solutions or forms of shared public transport. They have a large existing customer base that can work in their advantage. We need to listen to start-ups as well as established players if we want to be relevant for the future.
What added value does a mobility service exactly give? Take MaaS: it can be more than the convenience of having all available modes and their tickets in one app. It can be that “extra big bucket of popcorn when going to the movies”. A different narrative, for example emphasising health benefits, increased safety or environmental advantages can help convince previously untapped user groups.
3. The business case is scale
Most Mobility as a Service development currently take place at city or regional level. And operational MaaS schemes have only done small-scale evaluations. But: the business case is scale. Therefore, national and particularly also international MaaS solutions are the next critical step. But as it took thirty years to solve roaming issues in the telecom sector, can we expect it already now from MaaS?
How can we get more buy-in for mobility innovations? How do we accelerate deployment? Think data. The biggest challenge is on the back-end. In order to be able to merge systems and transmit all required data, private and public sector need to work together. And if data is the new “fuel”, AI is the new “engine”. Now that data connectivity is nowadays nearly everywhere, the use of big data and AI should be used more to answer real needs for companies and travellers.
4. Make new mobility services sexy in cities
Regardless of the technical challenges and progress: user acceptance is key to get it right. We need to know more about the people who are not using the service. The untapped audience is key to success. In addition, Vice-Chairman of the European Commission Frans Timmermans stressed human capital as a critical factor of success. Don’t forget about the people!
Cities are the hot spots. They are the places with the toughest problems and most innovative solutions. While new services are disrupting cities and might create challenges for local governments on the short term, they are benefiting the end users and bring about cleaner and more sustainable urban environments in the long run. Governments must take care that rural or peri-urban areas become or stay well-connected to the city.
5. Mobility labs and loose regulation
Public sector driven urban testing environments are gaining more popularity. Mobility labs of Helsinki (Jätkäsaari), Vienna (Aspern), Dundee (MILL) and Holland (SmartwayZ) had a panel discussion that highlighted some common solutions. They seem quite effective especially for co-creating between citizens, companies and universities. The most common solutions for that are innovation competitions, agile piloting and a living lab space gathering people and ideas.
Cities should create healthy markets by creating long term policies. In addition, both local and national governments should loosen regulatory regimes and set top-level strategies. Which regulations are genuinely necessary? How can companies ever prove something is safe if they have no place to actually try it? How safe is safe enough? Risk-adversity of governments can seriously hamper the roll-out of mobility innovations.
6. Include all the citizens
Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility was again the most busy topic at ITS. It has moved quickly from testing to real-world deployments. Not only in passenger car and shared vehicles, but also in freight – albeit on a much smaller scale due to, among others, fragmentation in the industry. Cities are increasingly interested in gains of driverless public transport and driverless freight vehicles. An important next step are larger-scale deployments and, in time, integration with MaaS.
We still do not know enough. The effects of new mobility solutions such as MaaS and automated (public) transport on sustainability, social inclusion or the ageing society are not known yet. We cannot tolerate a digital divide and therefore more (large-scale) deployments and research is needed. The products and projects we invent, improve and implement should at the end of the day be better for all citizens.
Are you interested in starting a collaborative smart mobility project with Forum Virium Helsinki? Please contact our project proposal team!