Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart Urban Mobility: A Quick Start Guide

Municipalities around the world are turning their attention to urban mobility, and are looking for ways to make city travel faster and more comfortable for citizens. Smart urban mobility solutions, such as smart city technology, autonomous vehicles, and vehicle sharing will change the transportation landscape. They will reduce congestion and pollution, improve quality of life, and ensure mobility is sustainable as cities grow—both environmentally and economically.   

In this article you'll learn about:

The Need for Smart Urban Mobility

Our world is becoming more urban and increasingly mobile, as citizens travel both domestically and abroad (with 1.8 billion tourists predicted for 2020). According to a 2018 UN report, over 50% of the population of the world live in cities. In the EU, more than 70% of the population call urban areas their home.

Cities require models of smart mobility based on sustainable transport systems to improve economic efficiency, the well-being of citizens, and environmental health. Cities worldwide use about 80% of total energy and create 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report published by the World Bank. However, cities are also responsible for the majority of production and consumption (85% of the EU’s GDP is created in cities). If the cities of the world are not sustainable, the global economy is at risk.

As cities grow, inefficient and environmentally unfriendly transport has numerous impacts: quality of life, urban productivity, energy consumption, congestion, air pollution, and personal safety are all negatively affected. Municipalities urgently need to develop new approaches to mobility that support growth, while reversing these negative impacts.

7 Trends Influencing Urban Mobility

Several trends are changing the landscape of modern cities. Urban life is changing fast, as life becomes connected and strongly augmented by technology. Modern urban economies depend on Internet connectivity, and citizens need fast, accessible, on-demand forms of transportation.

The UN predicts in its report that by 2050 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. Over-reliance on private cars has resulted in poor air quality, congestion, and inefficient use of public resources. Unchecked growth in the use of private cars is a direct threat to the quality of life in large cities. Productivity and economic development can also be negatively affected.

At the same time, however, younger citizens are showing less interest in owning a car, particularly in developed countries. This change in the attitude to private cars is paving the road for new opportunities. Many industrialized countries are seeing citizens adopt digital solutions as an alternative to private cars. A digital revolution is hitting the transport sector: smartphones, mobile broadband, location detection, and social media are laying the ground for the development of new services.

The following technological advancements and social trends will have a major impact on urban mobility:

  1. Smart infrastructure: Cities are adopting new technology, supplementing existing infrastructure with sensors, data analysis, and decision support systems. Smart cities are finding new ways to improve the flow of traffic and encourage more efficient use of transport infrastructure.  
  2. Public transit first: Public transportation development and the integration of digital transport management platforms are becoming common throughout the world. Autonomous driving, data gathered via IoT, and real-time analytics, are turning the old bus and rail system into a modern, digital-friendly transportation alternative.  
  3. Autonomous driving: Self-driving vehicles are expected to make driving effortless and make roads safer. This will save lives and will change the economics of road and parking infrastructure in large cities.
  4. Electric vehicles (EVs): EV sales are rapidly growing; they are now more affordable and governments are encouraging their production and use. The price of EVs may soon be low enough to compete with traditional gasoline-fueled cars.
  5. Decentralization of energy systems: It is now easier to own and recharge an EVs, as renewable energy sources are more widely available, and electricity can be generated by companies and private individuals. Decentralization of energy reduces demands on urban power grids and creates more charging stations, private and public.
  6. Ride-hailing: Travelers can use this service to “hail” a driver who will take them to their destination. This service is used on-demand via apps or a phone call. It is safe and eco-friendly as it reduces the number of private vehicles on the road.
  7. Smart mobility regulation: Many cities and governments are introducing laws and regulations that encourage and support the use of mobility apps and new transport methods. These include financial incentives for companies using EVs or ride-sharing and locally established traffic rules that prioritize public transportation and integrated mobility solutions.

How Cities Can Manage the Transition to Smart Mobility: 7 Factors to Consider

  1. Holistic view: Switching from traditional to smart and sustainable mobility requires a holistic view of the city, nearby regions, and current traffic flows. Initiatives should be coordinated with other municipalities and higher-level authorities such as state-level transportation authorities.
  2. Policies and regulations: Ensure policies support the smooth operation of integrated mobility systems, and don’t get in the way. A city should apply relevant taxes and redistribute the funds to support integrated mobility projects.
  3. Changes to the physical landscape: Consider changes to city layout and infrastructure, such as modifying roads to provide extra lanes for new forms of mobility.
  4. Smart mass transit system: Optimize public transport systems and add smart technology elements to make public transport more effective and attractive. Over time, this can reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  5. Parking space: Offer services that use real-time information to guide drivers to available parking space. Support ride-hailing services by converting some parking spots into stops where passengers can switch vehicles, or assign curb space for companies to rent for this purpose.
  6. Revenue: Leverage IoT to collect transport-related taxes—this can make up for losses in revenue in other areas (for example from the reduction in fuel taxes). For example, leveraging under-road sensors, it is possible to tax the use of road infrastructure by metering how many miles citizens travel on city roads. Another example is offering tax rebates for the use of ride-sharing services.
  7. Infrastructure: Upgrading existing roads, and augmenting them with technology, can be more efficient than building new ones. Smart transport systems can improve traffic flow; public transportation lanes can encourage public transport use, and autonomous vehicle lanes can allow such vehicles to travel at faster speeds than regular vehicles.

Smart Mobility Is Not Optional

As city populations explode and private car ownership soars, city transport is unsustainable—not just from an environmental perspective. Economic growth and quality of life will also be severely hurt if current trends continue.

Forward-looking municipalities are learning about and actively implementing smart mobility solutions. These might take the form of smart transport infrastructure, mobile apps and digital services that allow more efficient use of existing transport methods, and completely new transport methods like autonomous vehicles.

Whatever the means, the goal should be clear—every city should aim to reduce private car ownership, reduce congestion and pollution, and measure if these goals are met. All possible assets, including technology, city regulations, taxes, and political leadership—should be leveraged towards the goal of sustainable, efficient urban mobility.