Urban Mobility In The Smart City Age

The rapid development in operational and information technologies can reshape the existing paradigm of urban mobility in cities towards sustainability.

This is the premise that Arup, Schneider Electric, and The Climate Group explored in their paper, Urban mobility in the smart city age.

How can urban mobility become smarter and more sustainable? Let’s find out by emphasizing the paper’s main points.

The challenge of urban mobility

Mobility is one of the primary infrastructures needed to maintain a well-balanced economic flow. We need to move in order to acquire our basic needs. A high-quality mobility infrastructure is key to a successful city.

The primary challenge of urban mobility is the continually increasing urban population. On top of this, there is also a shift in expectations when it comes to transport. Citizens now call for low-carbon and efficient vehicles.

With all these changes, managing the human flow in the physically-constrained transport infrastructures is becoming more and more difficult as time passes by.

The promise of smart mobility

Providing more infrastructure is very much needed to answer the ever-increasing demand of transport. However, Arup points out that there will come a point where any additional transport infrastructure will no longer be efficient as a response to this demand.

Building infrastructure is without a doubt necessary in order to keep up with the demand. However, building is not the end game. We cannot just keep building whenever the existing infrastructure hits full capacity.

What we really need to solve the challenge of urban transport is to improve the efficiency of the transport system — making use of the existing infrastructures in order to redistribute the demand across different modes of transport, routes, and even time.

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We cannot just brute force our way into better mobility. We need to make urban mobility smarter.

Smart mobility products are heavily driven by data. By incorporating smart mobility into our systems, we are:

  • Enhancing user experience
  • Enabling the efficient use of transport resources, making them sustainable
  • Providing urban planners with data to further improve our infrastructure
  • Generating economic growth

On the whole, the promise of smart mobility is more than just bringing you from point A to point B. Smart mobility promises an elevated experience of mobility for you, an accelerated development for the city, and a sustainable world for all of us.

The structure of smart mobility

How does a smart mobility framework look like? There are four types of infrastructure involved:

  1. Physical infrastructure
  2. Operational technology
  3. Communications technology
  4. Information technology

All of these are the main ingredients of a smart urban mobility system. Where does the “smart” factor in?

In a smart mobility framework, all these infrastructures are woven together by data.

The structure of smart mobility, Adapted from “Urban mobility in the smart city age”, by Arup, 2019, retrieved from https://www.arup.com/

The full potential of these infrastructures is made possible by data-driven optimization of their operations and the management of demand.

Mobility: A cornerstone of the smart, sustainable city

We see the central role of data in bringing about efficient operations of urban transport. However, this challenge of demand and supply is a problem common to the other city sectors as well.

In the words of Florian Lennert from the Innovation Centre for Mobility and Societal Change (InnoZ):

“In growing cities, the pressures of growth are so intense that we need drastic change to the standard way of doing things. Growth will out-grow the efficiency of physical technologies alone – we will need operational change too.”

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We cannot allow our growth to be our worst enemy — be it in urban mobility of the other sectors of the city. We should embrace the data-driven philosophy to drive the change very much needed for us to keep up with our growth.

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