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The future of smart city mobility in one word: integrated

Submitted by doug.peeples on May 3, 2018

Image courtesy of Continental

Mobility has become one of the hottest issues for cities that want to become smarter, more livable, sustainable and competitive. For many cities traffic congestion — driven by growing populations — is getting worse. And while mass transit would seem to be an obvious solution it's a hard sell in cities where ridership numbers are dropping and revenues are slipping. Council Global Lead Partner Deloitte has studied urban mobility challenges and issues closely and has come to the conclusion that now is the time for cities to embrace integrated mobility platforms. Read the story below for details and examples of cities that are making integrated mobility work. — Doug Peeples

Options for getting around in cities are no longer limited to cars and mass transit. They may not yet be a big presence in the overall transportation environment, but the popularity of car and bike sharing, ride hailing, microtransit, bike and pedestrian paths and other options is growing.

As Deloitte explains in an article on  accelerating seamless, integrated transportation, expanded mobility options and today's connected technologies offer opportunities cities shouldn't pass up. "With the emergence of shared autonomous mobility, connected infrastructure, and smart city technologies, the prospects for an urban intermodal transportation ecosystem that is faster, cheaper, cleaner, and safer appear to be just over the horizon."

Putting the pieces together
However, to really take advantage of those opportunities to improve mobility and solve its current problems requires a different way of thinking, a way of thinking that recognizes the need for comprehensive, intelligent transportation systems that are standardized, interoperable and integrated.

Deloitte's article offers several examples of how cities throughout the world have approached integrated mobility:

  • Columbus, Ohio, winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge, will build a Smart Columbus Operating System to provide near-real-time data on traffic conditions throughout the city and other relevant information. The city will later expand the system to all smart city operations and services.
  • Singapore's Intelligent Transport System keeps tabs on traffic congestion charges and electronic road pricing and monitors traffic via road sensors and GPS apps in taxis, and sends the information to a control center that relays the information to travelers.
  • Helsinki, Finland, citizens can use Whim, a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) app, that allows them to plan their trips and pay for their rides, whether it's a bike, train, taxi, bus or car share. The city of Cascais, Portugal, a popular travel destination, offers a very similar service for citizens and visitors. MaaS can take several different forms and, as Deloitte found, several cities and private sector operators are looking at ways to adopt it.

From the technology provider side, Council Associate Partner Ford is heavily involved in integrated mobility platform development. The company earlier this year launched its Transportation Mobility Cloud. As Ford describes it the cloud-based platform "can manage information flow and basic transactions between a variety of components in the transportation ecosystem—service providers, personal vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, mass transit systems and city infrastructure, including traffic lights and parking locations."

It's easy to see that urban mobility projects are taking a variety of approaches. Here are a few more examples of where cities and technology companies are heading with their initiatives.

Mobility initiatives and innovations
The city of Olympia, Washington, in April launched new parking management software and technology to make it easier for citizens to pay for parking permits and apply for them. The city also is phasing in a Pay-by-Phone system that will allow payment by smart phone at city parking meters and notify users when the meter is about to expire so they can add time remotely.

The city of Dallas, Texas, is exploring ways to integrate smart technologies into street rehabilitation projects. It’s too early in the planning process to say specifically what the program would entail, but likely candidates include smart-powered lanes which would provide in-road charging for electric vehicles. Other options include traffic controls that regulate traffic lights according to traffic flow and LED street lights equipped with multiple sensors.

Highly and fully automated driving is another set of technologies expected to change the future of urban mobility—and testing the vehicles is becoming more sophisticated.

Council Global Lead Partner Continental in April expanded its automated test car program on autobahns in Lower Saxony. The real-world testing is focused on the safety and performance of the highly-automated and autonomous vehicles as they negotiate real-world driving and cope with cross-traffic, bicycles, pedestrians and varying road conditions.
Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.