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Smart Mobility & Disruptive Approaches

by Can Uludag

The terminology we use in Smart City concepts can be confusing sometimes and not be so clear that everybody can understand what we mean just like it occurs about using the term of “Smart Mobility” instead of simply using “Transportation”.

Mobility describes the ability of people and goods to move around an area to access the essential facilities, communities and other destinations, which incorporates the transportation infrastructure and services that facilitate these services.

Within this aspect, it is a more inclusive terminology than transportation since it refers to the optimized mobility of everything in a city for the success of urban sectors, creation of jobs, and cultivating an attractive environment for residents and businesses.

As for Smart, it implies a connected, technology enabled environment where the creative power of information & communication systems (ICT) are benefited as a leverage to manage the city services and improve citizens’ quality of life.

Combination of both terms create a powerful synergy and together make sense more. The impact of the outcome is like a magic of shifting from giant push-button telephones to wireless smart touch screens supported by millions of mobile applications via internet.

Considering the daily cycle of transport demand in a city, the primary challenge is to addressing the peak demands because it is the weakest link of the whole system, which will give real insights about the future of sustainability and the extent of intelligence of mobility in a city. Regarding surplus capacity in the system outside peak hours, it is a costly outcome for cities which must be financed by local administrations. In this regard, this is a question of either additional capacity building, or redistributing demand over time and across different transport vehicles or routes. Therefore, a holistic system optimization approach to the issue is needed at the both of demand and supply sides for mobility services i) by maximizing the operational efficiency of the physical infrastructures, ii) by improving the management of operating capacity and iii) by distributing reliable information to travelers to promote behavioral changes iv) together with reducing the overall need to travel.

In this regard, mobility is one of the most difficult topics especially in large metropolitan areas. We can gather the most important Smart Mobility objectives of a city government into six categories: i) reducing pollution, ii) reducing traffic congestion iii) increasing people’s safety, iv) reducing noise pollution, v) improving transfer speed and finally, vi) reducing transfer costs. Moreover, a smarter mobility system is a multifaceted topic generating a lot of benefits for all the smart city stakeholders and uses all paradigms of composing a Smart City. Yet again, new disruptive approaches are still needed.

Finland – Individual Mobility Program

According to the research work commissioned by the urban development department of the City of Helsinki, new generation Y aged between 18 and 29 no longer considers private cars as a status symbol or object of fast transportation. They are more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation. Considering those outputs, Helsinki, Finland has announced an audacious goal: By 2025, the city plans to make it unnecessary for any city resident to own a private car.

The goal is an on-demand mobility system that would allow travellers to choose among public and private transport providers and assemble the fastest or cheapest way of getting anywhere they need to go at any time. In the context of the project, citizens will be able to pay for kilometer-based mobility packages that would cover a range of fees from trains to buses, to bike rentals, to ridesharing options or potentially even to autonomous taxis rather than using multiple tickets.

The system will operate through mobile applications which will allow to book and pay for any multi-model trip in one-click away. Bus routes will be dynamic and changing based on current demand at any moment. By doing so, citizens could arrange a personalized travel experience irrespective of location.

Finland’s first experiment dates back to 2013 when the Kutsuplus minibus service was offered. Accordingly, passengers were allowed to choose pick-up and drop-off points, to decide their preferred route and to pay for the trip via smartphones. It was like small Uber version for buses. Nevertheless, it was costly to tax payers and the project failed. Yet again, it inspired US cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Kansas City to benefit from on-demand transit options. Today, each Zipcar (an ICT-enabled car sharing service provider in the United States) replaces 15 private cars on the road, and every Zipcar driver drives 80 percent less than if they used their own cars (watch the TED speech by Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar).

Time is changing. Individual mobility is getting more important than mass transportation plans. The local administrations and start-ups try more to design customized options and Helsinki will be an exemplary mobility pioneer for the whole world.

That is a disruptive system design of mobility and US cities have started also reimagining their transportation eco-systems around this concept.

InfoSys – Managing Demand

An Indian IT company, InfoSys, piloted an ICT-supported incentive project in 2008 to encourage its employees to travel to its suburban campus at different times, significantly reducing congestion during the morning peak hours. Similar tools are now being used in New York and by the Singapore metro system to voluntarily shift travel demand from peak to non-peak hours. These initiatives can lead to huge financial savings by reducing the need for costly investments like additional roads (in the case of New York) or trains (in Singapore).

Hyperloop – The Fifth Mode of Transportation

Hyperloop project is reinventing transportation to eliminate barriers of time and distance as the fifth mode of the transportation. It is a high speed transportation system in tubes for both of passengers and cargos, which might provide 1,200 km/h speed at top. The project is supported by Elon Musk and SpaceX to encourage others.

Designs for the first test tracks and capsules of Hyperloop One have been currently developed with a construction of a full-scale prototype 8km track between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. According to Musk, Hyperloop would be useful on Mars since no tubes would be needed because Mars’ atmosphere is about 1% the density of Earth’s.

On May 11, 2016 Hyperloop One performed its first live trial technology. First real full scale project will start in 2017. First freight is planned to move in 2019 and the first passengers in 2021.

As a reminder, in July 2016, Hyperloop One released a preliminary study suggested a connection between Helsinki and Stockholm as well by reducing the travel time to 30 minutes. At the project suggestion, construction costs were estimated to be around €19 billion. The cost also includes €3 billion investment to build one of the world’s longest marine tunnels through the Aland archipelago.Transportation

Mobility beyond transport in smart cities, Vinay Venkatraman, TEDx

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