Smart mobility in tomorrow’s smart cities
Smart mobility is a general term for new technologies that are transforming city travel. These include new forms of transport like autonomous vehicles, systems that facilitate easier ordering and sharing of transport, physical infrastructure like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and smart traffic signals, and big data systems that help analyze and optimize mobility flows.
In this page you will learn:
- What Is smart mobility?
- What are the benefits of smart mobility?
- How does smart mobility connect to a smart city?
- The elements of smart mobility solutions
- What does smart mobility look like in the real world?
Smart mobility is the integration of different modes of transportation and infrastructure to make traveling safer, cleaner, and more efficient. It can also reduce the use of gasoline-powered vehicles. Smart mobility uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to facilitate communication between modes of transportation and user interfaces, via a wireless network.
Smart mobility encompasses many elements, including traffic-reducing measures like ride sharing and bike sharing; wireless communications, real-time data analytics and machine learning used in autonomous vehicles; and physical infrastructure like parking spaces and traffic signals. Cities use sensors, data platforms, and software to manage their transport infrastructure and services as a single, coordinated system
Smart mobility lets users choose transportation options to minimize commuting time, limit the effects of congestion, and increase safety. The following are examples of how smart mobility optimizes transportation:
- Reduced fatalities: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) warn drivers of potential hazards and provide safety measures. They use warning signals to highlight objects in the driver’s blind spot and can brake automatically in an emergency. Smart cars use Vehicle to Everything (V2X) technology to call an ambulance when a crash occurs. The ambulance can signal to other cars to make way, while traffic lights automatically change to allow the ambulance to pass.
- Decreased traffic congestion: Autonomous vehicles might not decrease the number of cars on the road, but they could reduce congestion in other ways. For example, platooning, or coordinating the speed of vehicles, can limit the effects of human error like stop-and-start driving. If all vehicles communicate and travel consistently, this could eliminate “phantom traffic”, the cumulative effect of drivers waiting for each other to move before accelerating. Additionally, congestion pricing uses real-time traffic data to impose a pricing structure at peak traffic times, prioritizing high-occupancy vehicles.
- Improved economy: By reducing congestion, smart mobility can save billions of dollars in fuel costs and productivity. In one year, Americans waste 3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in traffic, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the annual cost of traffic accidents at $299.5 billion. Eliminating the need for drivers could save time and money; for example, people can work while on the road.
- Decreased pollution: Existing mobility systems are the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in cities. Clean technology is one of the principles of smart mobility and can significantly reduce emissions. The aim is to replace polluting vehicles with zero-emission modes of transportation.
There cannot be a smart city without smart mobility. Building more roadways is not a solution to bottlenecks and congestion. By integrating automation and smart connectivity into existing infrastructure, cities can completely reshape their transport system.
Smart mobility requires the support of authorities. Cities can prioritize initiatives and incorporate them into their urban planning. They can use real-time data to provide traffic forecasts and to help commuters better plan their routes. For example, Columbus, Ohio, selected in 2015 as America’s smartest city, collects traffic data to identify and address potential safety issues before they materialize.
Smart mobility involves transport methods that can help reduce the number of cars on the road:
- Ride sharing: Can help reduce congestion by limiting the addition of new vehicles on the road.
- Bicycle commuting: Increasingly popular in cities with flat terrain and an extensive network of bike lanes, especially in Europe. Cycling can be the fastest way to travel short distances.
- Car sharing: Individuals or businesses rent cars by the minute or hour. The car sharing company owns and insures the cars and provides parking spaces at convenient locations around town.
- On-demand transportation: Services that allow ordinary drivers to use their own cars to offer transportation services, employing mobile apps and GPS technologies to optimize rides and make services more accessible.
Smart mobility can be incorporated into new smart city projects or retrofitted into old cities. European towns that have no room for new transport infrastructure have implemented smart mobility solutions to reduce car traffic. A few examples include:
- Viu Bicing in Barcelona: A bike sharing system estimated to save 2.5 million euros annually. An annual subscription costs €47. Users swipe a plastic card to rent a bike from racks located throughout the city.
- Big Data in Amsterdam: A decade-long data-driven initiative integrating data about Amsterdam residents from 12,000 databases in 32 city departments. The initiative resulted in 100 pilot projects, for example, a truck to collect both waste and recyclables, reducing the number of garbage trucks on the road.
- Helsinki smart mobility: The city aims to eliminate the need for car ownership by 2025. It provides an on-demand mobility system that calculates the fastest or cheapest way for commuters to reach their destination. Users can select public or private transport options via a mobile app, including ride sharing, automated cars, on demand buses and transport for children. Helsinki residents will be able to access the waterfronts and nearby islands using BOUT, an on-demand boat ride platform launched in October 2018.
- Songdo Business District in Incheon, South Korea: Built on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land, the city aims to be environmentally friendly and attract international business. Designed for 300,000 residents, Songdo is bike-friendly, car-free, and contains over 100 buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. A subway connects it to the Seoul and Incheon transportation systems. When completed, all residents will be within a 12-minute walk of a bus stop.
While smart mobility includes some futuristic transport technologies, by and large it is a technical reorganization of existing transportation methods. Cars, bicycles, buses and trains are nothing new, but technological means are making them much more effective.
Adding smart mobility to cities and encouraging its adoption is a smart investment that will benefit everyone—from commuters and travelers, who enjoy better and faster intra-city transport, to communities and cities who can reduce congestion, improve air quality and boost quality of life without major investments in infrastructure, to businesses and transport providers who can offer better, more effective and more profitable services.
The biggest winner is the environment—as smart mobility sweeps the globe it can dramatically reduce emission levels and contribute to a sustainable global transport system.