The technology that is driving the future of smart mobility

Population growth presents new opportunities and challenges for city planners especially when it comes to transportation. Sue Tabbitt highlights the technologies that are building more resilient and sustainable urban transport systems.

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban settings, according to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This poses some significant challenges for local authorities and city planners, as they strive to balance a good, safe quality of life for local inhabitants and commuters with carbon reduction targets and available funding.

It is becoming increasingly clear that technology offers a big part of the solution – especially where this supports smarter and more coordinated means of managing infrastructure and its capacity, and when it enables advantageous collaborations between the multiple infrastructure and service providers as well as public-private partnerships across an urban region.

Attracting more people to cities and their expanding suburbs may be good for local economies, and for concentrating investment where it will deliver maximum return, but unless forward planning proactively caters for swelling populations – without degradation to people’s quality of life, convenience and personal safety – an urbanised future could introduce as many problems as it solves.

Impact of pandemic and climate change

The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the sensitivity around overcrowding on public transport, as populations have tried to heed the advice about social distancing to keep each other safe.

It has brought home the importance of putting people and their safety and wellbeing at the centre of future urban plans – making sure that they have enough space for their physical and emotional comfort as they move around urban environments. This includes making it easier for populations to plan, book and pay for journeys in a more seamless and contactless way.

Unless forward planning proactively caters for swelling populations, an urbanised future could introduce as many problems as it solves

Maintaining good air quality is just as important, and a vital part of climate considerations which are now central to urban planning. Most countries have now signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change, a collective effort to reduce carbon emissions and keep the global temperature to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels.

In doing so, they have pledged to work towards carbon neutrality, or net zero emissions, by 2050. Within this collective commitment, many cities have set their own targets to deliver significant improvements to their carbon footprint long before then – often with strong interim measures by as soon as 2025.

The hero role of smart mobility

It is in the context of all of these developments that smart mobility becomes critically important. Smart mobility involves leveraging technology and innovation to manage multiple forms of transport in more efficient, resilient and sustainable ways, making best use of available capacity, ensuring continuous mobility services despite disruptive incidents and encouraging the take-up of greener options.

Technology plays an important role in driving these benefits. From collecting and aggregating data to analysing and making sense of the data from various modes of transport and infrastructures (trains, buses, autonomous shuttles, and road junctions), smart mobility solutions integrate drivers, vehicles and infrastructure to optimise transport management and operations, and provide more informed travel information to commuters.

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