Sharing data will smooth the road to smart mobility

PwC’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – Revolutionising Mobility In Society report finds that over 50% of all surveyed respondents feel that their mobility is restricted and yet the consultancy firm argues that “greater mobility could improve access to education, employment and healthcare”.

Its research reveals 43% of people would use a connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) if one was made available to them. So, key to revolutionising urban mobility in today’s society has to begin with, as PwC argues, creating a positive image of the technology to “encourage its broad acceptance among the public”.  The public awareness campaign is crucial to the technology’s adoption and to increase the push for the appropriate digital infrastructure to support smart urban mobility.

Nick Reed, academy director at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) says: “What the automated and connected technology give us is options to meet our mobility needs in different ways; they are ways that are safer, cleaner and more effective.” He thinks it’s important to be mindful to avoid providing a transport system that “reduces people’s tendency to use active travel modes – such as walking, running and cycling”. For this reason, he explains: “Most automated solutions sare3 designed as last mile solutions to encourage people to use public transport.”

So the new urban mobility roadmap has to consider the last mile and Reed thinks that understanding and planning is required by local authorities. In his opinion this planning has to consider the need to have transport services that can meet the mobility needs of underserved areas in an equitable manner and without inhibiting travel.


It will also need to adopt a systems-of-systems approach, because it is about how transport systems interact with one another and it also configures how they interact with relevant systems such as communications and energy. The latter concentrates how, for example, air quality could be improved by facilitating electric vehicles that become part of the electricity grid. In other words, he explains that manufacturers are looking how the energy they create can be stored “and balanced across the energy network when it is viable to do”. To make this and CAVs, the technology and infrastructure has to become commercially viable. Once this is achieved Reed believes that these vehicles will proliferate.

Cara Haffey, automotive and manufacturing leader at PwC, adds that beyond vehicle electrification the roadmap will include autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and car-sharing. “Cars are often under-utilised and so shared mobility could certainly have a huge impact and if you are being autonomous driven you can work more effectively with your time – or as a consumer you could do other things with it.” She says that the urban mobility roadmap will change the focus from being on the vehicle, a car for example, to concentrate on mobility itself. This will change the motor industry and, yet, she says the ageing infrastructure needs to catch up to include ADAS and the human machine interface – not just pods on monorails. So the roadmap has to consider how everyone will react with the changes.

People flow

Kary Framling, professor in building information modelling and computer science at Aalto University in Finland, says the global urban mobility challenges include the growing urbanised population. Cities are, therefore, promoting car-free areas. “This signifies that new ways of dealing with people flow become necessary.”  He warns that increasing the number of vehicles or transport systems of different types is insufficient. “The whole ecosystem has to become smarter in the sense of not increasing the number of crowded collection points (such as metro, subway or underground stations).” Instead there is a need to increase the usage rate of distributed transportation by cars, buses and so forth.

Frost and Sullivan’s industry principal for mobility, Shwetha Surender adds: “There is a change in the urban mobility landscape with the evolution of new models, whether it is first or last mile solutions like bike-sharing, micro-mobility, e-hailing, car-sharing, or low cost long distance car-pooling services that are available.” He says this evolution is taking off because “these services are starting to solve some of the core challenges faced in cities”. So he foresees the future of urban mobility being a multi-modal and dynamic solution “that combines a journey from point A to B through the seamless integration of different forms of transport and with one single digital ticket”.

Intelligent systems

Framling comments that many of the challenges can be overcome and the opportunities realised, with “vehicle-level intelligent systems that can make it more efficient to get through cities by avoiding traffic jams and similar obstacles”. To achieve this he says they should also “automatically take care of the increased information flow in the systems-of-systems mobility ecosystem because intelligent systems should make it easier to drive”.

With regards to significant projects such as BioTope and Traffic Management 2.0, he adds: “Many scenarios have already been – at least partially – implemented by pioneering companies such as Google.” He says that BioTope will enable “the creation of such systems using open and standardised application programmable interfaces (APIs), which should make it possible also for small actors to join in an open ecosystem of solution providers, rather than having to choose between or to support multiple commercial APIs.”

BMW’s vision

Reed then spoke about BMW’s vision: “BMW is increasingly talking about ACES – a vision of future mobility where vehicles are Automated, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES) [as the company] recognises the need to offer mobility in diverse ways.” He muses that BMW already describes itself as a mobility provider and in the past they have been in terms of being manufacturer of cars and motorcycles.

“Now, they see how new business models are changing the way they need to operate,” he says before commenting: “BMW is moving towards shared, connected and automated vehicles to improve the experience of their customers, and so it will be interesting how they change their brand position from being ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ to one that is about providing mobility services, and which doesn’t involve any driving.”

Importance of data

He concludes that everything has to be underpinned by data. This may be “data gathered by an individual sensor from an automated vehicle, from a city management macro-level.” TRL, therefore, continues to “develop its ability to record, manage, interpret and exploit the data as it is needed to optimise our cities for now and for the future.” With this approach global urban mobility and traffic management can and it will eventually both improve and proliferate.

However, there will still be some people who’ll prefer to own and drive their own car. So while technology companies eye the market like cloud service providers do, they will still need to add these people to the equation. With car-sharing and ride-sharing, there is the perception of a loss of control and of inconvenience. So there will be a corner of the market that will still see the traditional car as both their first and last mile option. Urban mobility service providers may not convince everyone that they should abandon their vehicles for something that isn’t instantly available outside of their house.


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