Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart Transportation: Benefits and Real Life Examples

Smart transportation is one of the main ways smart cities are improving the daily lives of citizens and improving sustainability. It includes: 

  • Information systems that collect data about traffic, vehicles, and usage of different modes of transport. These information systems can make public transport more efficient and accessible, and can also help optimize and regulate the use of private cars.
  • New smart city technologies upgrade existing modes of transport or introduce new ones. For example, connected cars that become a visible part of the city’s transportation fabric, mobile apps that turn taxis into ride-hailing services, bicycle sharing, electric scooter rental, and more.

One of the main goals of smart transport systems is to reduce the reliance on private cars, make private transport more attractive, and incentivize city residents and visitors to switch from private to public transport. For example, smart transport systems can limit private cars to certain routes and reserve priority lanes or even entire roads for other modes of transport. 

Read on to learn how today’s megacities, with unbearable levels of congestion and air pollution, are using smart transportation to survive and thrive.

In this article you'll learn about:

Elements of Smart Transportation

There are many elements, both technical and organizational, that make up smart city transportation systems. We’ll cover three important elements: connected cars, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) systems, and Advanced Traffic Management Systems (ATMS). 

Connected Cars

Modern cars are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that integrate with a city’s traffic management systems - this is known as Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I). 

Connected cars share real-time data about road conditions and their surroundings, becoming a sensor that can feed the smart city with valuable data and enabling incident response, traffic optimization, and traffic re-routing. They can also receive information from systems like smart traffic lights, streetlights, lane markers, street signs, and smart parking sensors. 

Connected vehicles can communicate with their surroundings. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication creates wireless communication channels between cars, letting them share information about location, direction, and speed. Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technology alerts drivers of pedestrians nearby and can prevent accidents. 

Mobility as a Service

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions integrate functions like trip planning, booking and payments, and offer commuters one interface for multiple modes of transport: train, bus, taxi, ride-sharing, bicycle-sharing, and more. 

MaaS gives commuters an attractive alternative to the private car - a variety of convenient transport options at their fingertips. Commuters can select the mix of transport services that can bring them to their destination at the speed, convenience, and price they desire. 

For cities, MaaS creates a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality and accessibility of public transport, introduce new types of transport and encourage their usage, and create system-level efficiencies by gaining a central view of all transport activity across the city. 

Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) 

Advanced traffic management systems, legacy systems that exist in many smart and traditional cities, combine information from toll booths, traffic lights, car parks, and new infrastructure such as smart roads. ATMS work by changing traffic lights and road signals in real-time, adjusting rates on toll roads, and relaying traffic information to city control centers. 

An ATMS provides the city and drivers real-time information about traffic conditions and can help optimize traffic flow, reduce congestion and emissions. Alongside MaaS and new modes of transport, ATMS fills in the gap of managing existing traffic flow and gaining better control of private car movement. 

Smart Cities Transportation Around the World

As smart city transport gains momentum, digitalization is changing passenger mobility, expectations, and experiences throughout the world. Let’s explore the smart transport technology used in Singapore’s and Barcelona’s smart cities. 

Smart Transport in Singapore

Singapore’s Smart Nation project is an inspiration to entrepreneurs, urban planners, technologists, and public sector officers around the world. Singapore’s smart transportation projects include:

  • Autonomous vehicle trials: The inclusion of self-driving technology in public transport and freight to deal with limitations in land and labor power. 
  • Contactless fare payment: Commuter-centric e-payment systems for public transportation use. Commuters enter and exit fare gates using this fare payment method. 
  • On-demand shuttles: Commuters book a self-driving shuttle via their smartphone. The shuttle takes commuters from their destination to the train station. 
  • Open data and analytics for city transportation: Public data resourced transport planning. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) studies data from fare cards to control bus fleets and pinpoint commuter hotspots. 

Smart Transport in Barcelona

In 2011, Barcelona applied data-driven, smart city technologies to better its services. The city put resources into infrastructure, including a comprehensive Internet of Things (IoT) sensor network with over 500 km of fiber optic infrastructure and a Wi-Fi network, which they use to source data about energy, transportation, and air quality. Here are a few of Barcelona’s smart transport projects: 

  • Orthogonal bus system: The bus network of the city is founded on an orthogonal grid scheme, which encourages intermodality, deliberately placing bus stops to permit connections between tram lines and bus lines, bicycles, metro trains, etc. 
  • Bicing shared bicycle system: Provides 6,000 bicycles which can be used for short trips around the city. Bicycle pickup stations are located close to public transportation and parking areas, for convenience. 
  • Smart parking spaces: Barcelona placed wireless sensors beneath roads to lead drivers, via an app, to vacant parking spaces. The app also allows users to pay for parking and supplies parking data for use by different smart city systems. 

Smart Transportation Should be Cooperative, Not Competitive

Today, transportation models have evolved from individual modes of travel to diverse collective initiatives. There is now a relationship between all forms of transport, based on price, proximity, and availability. People can choose to travel alone or share a vehicle with others, allowing them to exercise personal preference while considering factors such as the weather. 

For example, commuters who typically traveled by public transport are now using new ride-hailing services. In addition, when the weather is poor people generally opt to drive their private cars and store their bicycles away. 

In these scenarios, various modes of transport “cannibalize” one another, potentially hurting the overall collaborative functioning of the transportation system. Cannibalism should thus be avoided. The cannibalism phenomenon points to a key issue: mobility is a framework that must be founded on cooperation. 

Smart city transportation should not be driven by competition between different modes of transport, each of which aims to dominate the transportation market. Successful smart transport networks will combine multiple modes of transport, all working in tandem and cooperating to give passengers the best multi-mode mobility solution. 

To facilitate this type of cooperation, cities must put the power into the hands of commuters. By creating smart transport systems and a seamless MaaS interface to access transport services, commuters can instantly visualize and select from all available transport options. This will encourage transport providers to fill in the gaps missing in the city’s transport ecosystem, and together, provide an attractive alternative to private cars.