Voice-controlled services, a mobility application tailored for children, real-time public transport capacity data and virtual route previews. Älyliikenne kuuluu kaikille 2.0 (Smart Mobility Belongs to Everyone 2.0) workshop was all about coming up with ideas to address the major mobility challenges of different people.
Älyliikenne kuuluu kaikille 2.0 (Smart Mobility Belongs to Everyone 2.0) event brought together just over 60 people in front of screens on Thursday 21 January 2021. The event was a follow-up to the first Smart Mobility Belongs to Everyone event held in November 2019.
The event was organised by Forum Virium Helsinki and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences’ Mobility Launchpad project, in collaboration with the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab, the Carbon Neutral Drone Service Solutions in Southern Finland project and the Intelligent Transportation Society of Finland – ITS Finland ry. The event and workshop were hosted by Kirsi Kostia and Niko Herlin from Great Minds Oy.
What is smart mobility? “Digital solutions that help you get from one place to another,” defined Project Manager Raimo Tengvall from Forum Virium Helsinki in his opening speech. These can include journey planners, navigation solutions, shared cars or electric scooters, mobility as a service, traffic automation, roadside smart solutions and the utilisation of traffic data.
These types of digital solutions can both pose major threats and present great possibilities. One of the threats is that the typical challenges associated with the use of digital solutions and smartphones can also be a hindrance to traffic. On the other hand, one of the possibilities is that digital solutions can offer a new degree of flexibility and be better tailored to each user’s personal needs. Access to a wealth of mobility-related data can also give rise to new and individual service needs.
The accessibility of the physical environment and digital services to be integrated into all service development
In her presentation, Terhi Tamminen, CEO and accessibility expert at Avaava Oy and Avaava Digital Oy, took a closer look at the accessibility of digital mobility services.
She pointed out that accessibility is by no means a marginal issue, as nearly 20% of the population has some manner of reduced mobility, which in Finland means nearly 1.2 million people. As such, accessibility should always be a part of all operations.
The concept of accessibility can apply to both the physical environment and to services and communication. Whatever the context, the aim is to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to access and use all services and physical spaces and participate in society.
Legislation and the directives that steer it at EU level are the primary driving forces behind accessibility. The European Accessibility Act (EAA), which has already entered into effect, will be implemented in national legislation soon. This means that the private sector will soon be required to provide the same level of accessibility that is currently required in the public sector.
Although everyone is different and individual, consultation company Avaava has noticed that to make things easier, people who need to be given particular consideration in regard to accessible mobility can be divided into three groups:
- those with visual impairments
- persons with reduced mobility, such as those using a wheelchair, a pram or other aids
- so-called accessibility users, who can include persons with a foreign background, the elderly or persons with intellectual disabilities, for example.
Service development should be focused not only on providing tailored accessibility services to these groups, but also on presenting basic information to everyone in a clear manner, which benefits all other users as well.
Whether a journey is accessible and whether it can be made independently can be up to minor factors
The discussion about accessibility in practice was continued by accessibility expert Atso Ahonen from Riesa Consultative Oy. He pointed out that people with reduced mobility together make up the world’s the largest minority and, as a result of ageing, the world’s fastest-growing minority.
Ahonen’s presentation took a closer look at the life of a person with reduced mobility. In addition to obvious considerations, such as ramps and no thresholds, people with reduced mobility can also benefit from clear signage. The need for signs increases especially when accessibility is achieved through the use of alternate routes.
Seemingly minor issues can have major impacts. For Atso Ahonen, who uses a wheelchair, the West Metro’s new lifts that are equipped with motion sensors proved revolutionary. He had grown accustomed to not being able to reach the buttons in lifts due to not being able to raise his hand high enough. But the West Metro’s lifts can also be operated without pushing buttons, which alone has had a tremendous positive impact on Ahonen’s independent mobility.
Ahonen’s presentation also included an example of how the lack of appropriate services can lead to creative solutions. If you are riding a bus that does not announce stops and you have to sit facing back in the wheelchair space, you can keep track of how the journey is going and the check when the right stop is coming up on Google Maps, for example.
Children and young people’s mobility needs could be addressed with smart mobility solutions
Next up was public transport YouTuber Krishan ‘Krisu’ Nuotio, who talked about public transport and smart mobility from the perspective of children and young people. Krisu, who is now 13 years old, has been following the mobility sector and running his own YouTube channel, The Helsinki Traveler, since the age of nine.
Krisu highlighted that children and young people are just as important as adults when it comes to public transport. As a practical observation, he pointed out that young people tend to travel in groups: “the best journeys are made together.” This is further evidenced by the popularity of Snapchat’s SnapMap function among young people, as it provides an easy way of determining your friends’ locations. This community-orientation could also provide ideas for mobility applications.
For young people who live their lives with smartphone in hand, digital services are generally familiar and easy to use – until they run out of battery. Because of this, Krisu also reminded participants about the importance of having USB charging ports on public transit vehicles.
To facilitate the independent mobility of younger children, Krisu presented the idea of a ‘Journey planner for kids.’ A simpler version of a typical journey planner application could be ideal for children who are just starting school and do not necessarily know how to read yet. The application could be linked to a parents’ version, through which they could take care of more complex matters such as purchasing tickets for their children. The parents’ application could also show the child’s location and allow parents to limit where their children are allowed to go. Of course the application could also provide instruction to children about when to get off the bus, for example.
Software is key, but not everyone needs to be able to code
Smart mobility is largely centred around software. But software is not just about coding, as highlighted by Milja Köpsi, coordinator of the Finnish Software and E-business Association’s Mimmit koodaa (‘Women Code’) programme, in her speech before the workshop segment of the event.
The fact is that software development requires not only coding, but people with all kinds of other skills and backgrounds as well. When it comes to mobility solutions, the people who you should turn to first are mobility experts and those who have faced mobility challenges in their lives. Every one of us has life and work experience that can be utilised to shape the services provided to users.
Teams can always bring in another person who can code or is learning to code. In other words, not everyone has to know how to code.
The world changes based on people’s strengths and concrete actions. There is always time to shed prejudices and learn something new instead. Your understanding of how the world works increases every time you listen to another person.
Creativity and solutions in the workshop
The workshop segment of the event involved identifying the special needs of different users related to transportation and mobility. Participants were divided into small groups to discuss what kind of new services or services designed in new ways different people need, with a particular emphasis on what kind of new services digitality and new smart solutions make possible and how new ideas should be tested in practice.
Each group recorded their thoughts on notes similar to Post-its for everyone to see using the Flinga service. Discussion was also carried out verbally, as Flinga was not accessible to everyone, with some topics garnering additional discussion. Below are some of the solution proposals that people came up with during the workshop:
Checking the accessibility of the travel chain in advance
- Many consider it important to be able to check routes in advance. A travel chain is only accessible if all of its segments are accessible.
- The solution would be a ‘journey planner for accessibility’ or the integration of accessibility data into existing services, such as the HSL journey planner.
- Solutions that are already used in virtual tourism could also be used to verify accessibility. Pilot idea: a 3D model or similar solution that could be used to virtually go over the planned route – at your own pace, not as a video running at a pre-defined speed.
- Pilot idea: the digital review or verification of a travel chain’s accessibility, for example on the West Harbour – Airport or Itäkeskus – city centre routes (major construction is currently being planned in Itäkeskus in the vicinity of the Iiris Centre for those with visual impairments).
Real-time information on the accessibility of routes and vehicles
- It is important to have access to real-time information on the environment and the features of public transport vehicles, especially when it comes to exceptional situations and temporary disruptions.
- Examples include information on changing conditions such as the operation of metro station lifts, traffic disruptions caused by road or construction works and information on the accessibility of individual vehicles.
Real-time data on the available capacity of vehicles
- Customers could be provided with real-time data on the available capacity and seats of buses and trams, for example.
- Knowing whether there is room on the vehicle is especially important for those travelling with a pram or a walker and those with reduced mobility.
- During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this information is of interest to anyone wanting to avoid crowded vehicles.
Voice control in all kinds of transport services
- Controlling applications with voice commands.
- Being able to listen to application content.
- Voice-controlled services are easier to use for anyone who is walking, cycling, driving or engaging in any other activity at the same time.
- Announcements concerning stations and stops on vehicles are vitally important for those with visual impairments, but also make life easier and offer affirmation for others. Furthermore, when facing away from the direction of travel in the wheelchair space, for example, you typically cannot see the stop display or what is coming up.
Other needs and solution proposals highlighted during the workshop
- Accessible on-demand service for different users groups, such as robot buses for those with visual impairments.
- Sign language guidance on public transport info boards.
- Organisation of carpool and on-demand services for various special needs groups.
- Collection and aggregation of information from different services via APIs, for example.
Finnish ‘snow-how’ (there was more heavy snowfall during the workshop)
- Robot snowmobile
- City skis
The event organisers will be utilising the results of the workshop in their smart mobility development and pilot operations.
The event was organised by the Mobility Launchpad / Jätkäsaari Smart Mobility project in collaboration with Forum Virium Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab and Carbon Neutral Drone Service Solutions in Southern Finland projects and the Intelligent Transportation Society of Finland – ITS Finland ry.
The Mobility Launchpad / Jätkäsaari Smart Mobility project helps create business out of smart mobility. The project is being carried out by Forum Virium Helsinki and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and will run from 2018 to 2021. The project is funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council through the European Regional Development Fund.
The webinar can be watched on Youtube (in Finnish).
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