Traffic congestion in big cities is one of the major challenges of our time. In the first part of our series of articles on The Future of Transportation World Conference in Cologne, we dealt with the topic of how individual mobility in cities could be shaped in the future. The question now is to what extent new transport systems and means of transport will change the cityscape and what this implies for the quality of life there. MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter talked to mobility experts Claudius Schaufler and Wouter Haspeslagh to get to the bottom of this question.
Claudius Schaufler is a research representative at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart and deals, among other things, with the effects of autonomous vehicles on the infrastructure in cities. “The technology of autonomous driving will not change the quality of life in cities for the time being. It depends much more on how it is implemented,” he explains. And in his opinion there is no future-proof master plan for this. The economy only concentrates on purely technical issues, such as how an autopilot can be better programmed or an electric vehicle can be driven longer distances. But technology alone is not the solution, Claudius makes us aware. Instead, a public debate must finally be launched in which various interest groups can discuss the sustainable use of these new means of transport in equal measure.
But what makes the quality of life in a city? This is a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. For Claudius, social interaction plays a particularly important role: “If we create spaces in which people like to spend time and exchange ideas, then both the quality of life and the potential for economic innovation are much higher,” says Claudius.
But this is easier said than done in view of the fact that lack of space in cities is the order of the day – not least because of asphalted roads and parking lots. As described in the previous article, the concept of “mobility as a service” offers the potential to reduce traffic to a minimum and avoid unnecessary downtimes of vehicles. But how can more space be gained from this?
The technology of autonomous driving will not change the quality of life in cities for the time being. It depends much more on how it is implemented.
Wouter Haspeslagh is a researcher at the Vehicle and Mobility Design Office Granstudio in Turin, Italy. He believes, for example, that driving bans in cities, which are already being applied with the Euro standard, are not a long-term solution.
Instead, he and his team are looking for ideas to enable an effective coexistence of cars and other mobility infrastructures in cities. If it were possible to reduce the downtimes of cars through networked and autonomous driving assistants, inner-city parking areas would gradually lose their purpose. Some of them would then become transit areas in which you would only change from one vehicle to the next in a flowing process. The other part could be rebuilt.
For example, cafés and public spaces could fill these emerging gaps to create more spaces where people can come together. Claudius also has other ideas, such as “decentralized production”. This means that the city of the future no longer has to be classically divided into production areas such as industrial estates and residential areas. Instead, the resources needed in each case could be produced in the same district or even residential complex. Of particular interest here is the space-saving concept of vertical farms, where, for example, house roofs are used for agricultural purposes.
Alternatively, areas freed up could be converted into small production facilities, for example for 3D printing, by means of mobile production units. Just as you can take a shirt for cleaning, you could go around the corner to print a 3D part. This would be a plus in flexibility, especially for start-ups. One thing is certain: Whether opportunities or challenges, the future of mobility has a lot to offer. However, the right path can and should be taken today.