Five Forum Virium Helsinki colleagues and over 10.000 other people from all over the world met in Copenhagen last week. Centred around the theme “quality of life”, we heard about the most recent technical developments, research insights, and upcoming technologies in Intelligent Transport, with a time window of 2020–2030. This is a summary of some of the developments that will bring us to a “Super Smart Society.”
Automated and autonomous vehicles will be the next big change in the field of mobility. They will lead to safer roads, less congestion, more efficiency and cost savings. Sessions on connected and automated transport were the most-visited ones at the conference. In many countries the cute looking shuttles still have a “wow-factor”, but in the meantime we are moving slowly from trials to limited deployment and from there on to full operational deployment. Increasingly many new manufacturers are coming to the (European) market with shuttle-type vehicles, such as Local Motors (USA), Ohmio (NZ), Transdev (FR) and HFM/Paravan (DE). Integration with logistics is foreseen to shake up the transport market even more.
Safety & security
The overriding case for all autonomous vehicles is safety: over 90% of crashes is caused by human factors. It is a main point of concern for public authorities. Therefore, the European Commission makes millions of euros available for, among others, cyber security in automated mobility. Also, investments in intelligent infrastructure are crucial to anticipate connected and automated vehicles in next years. Increased cooperation between road and telecom authorities as well as between the private and public sector is needed to ensure that AVs (cars, shuttles and buses alike) can achieve their expected benefits.
The future of mobility relies on a mix of high-definition maps, advanced navigation software and live data from vehicle sensors. At the heart of the transformation is 5G, a complete overhaul of the wireless infrastructure in order to dramatically improve quality of service. Several companies and cities are testing with 5G already this year and by 2025 most of the major cities are expected to have 5G networks. Also on this topic, the European Commission provides grants: e.g. 90M€ for the next ICT call on 5G. Availability of 5G is deemed necessary to manage the huge amounts of data that autonomous vehicles will increasingly generate.
In spite of all technologies, the human factor will be crucial in the coming years. It is widely recognised that taking the human factor out of traffic will significantly increase road safety. The other side of the medal is user acceptance. This should evolve into embracement, for AVs to take a permanent spot in our transportation system. Pilots, trials and also education of citizens on their benefits are important in this respect. In addition, large scale behaviour change towards shared mobility will be a difficult but necessary target to realise in the next years.
Without any legal framework, all of the above becomes uncertain. The European Commissioner for Transport stressed in her opening statement that a regulatory framework should be flexible but give clarity. Legislative reform is needed on all governmental levels and this came back in many of the ITSWC sessions. Pilots with AVs like shuttles can drive regulatory improvements. Privacy and liability are just some examples on fields in need of clearer regulations. On a local level, smart, brave and forward thinking cities are needed to bring change forward, by adopting regulations that allow for innovative solutions to come to the streets. In this respect, Helsinki has an excellent track record and is internationally well-recognised.
Mobility as a Service continues to be one of the hottest topics in Intelligent Transport. On top of the roughly 20 sessions related to this, there were also number of MaaS side events. Most notable was the MaaS Summit, originally organised by Finland’s Ministry of Transport and this year in cooperation with MaaS Alliance. It brought together over 60 top-level representatives from relevant stakeholders. You don’t often see a European Commissioner roll up her sleeves and host debates using flipboard, as Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc did.
As MaaS gains more momentum and has attention of ever more wider audience, the message inevitably gets degraded, the normal Chinese whispers (in finnish rikkinäinen puhelin) effect taking place, leading to some confusion about the MaaS concept. It became clear in Copenhagen that there is a need for good information, hands-on training and hard evidence from first implementations such as Helsinki. This is needed to take us from initial enthusiasm to wide deployment, as was called for in practically all keynotes in the event.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.”
Hans Christian Andersen
Forum Virium Helsinki is the innovation unit of the City of Helsinki, which aims to build Helsinki into the most functional smart city in the world in collaboration with companies, the scientific community and residents. Follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter!