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The future of mobility (1/2) – individual mobility in the city.

A bird's eye view of a motorway junction in Shanghai

MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter traveled to Cologne to find out how traffic congestion in large cities could be counteracted in the future.

Through the city at six kilometers per hour.

Noise, stress and air pollution – these buzzwords have long been associated with most of the world’s cities. Because they all have one thing in common – the problem of traffic congestion. In Mexico City, for example, a car travels at an average speed of six kilometers per hour. Progress is different, you might think. With all this, you have to ask – how can individual mobility still function in big cities in the future? How is the quality of life there changing? Moreover, what role will autonomous means of transport play in all this? MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter traveled to Cologne to The Future of Transportation World Conference to find answers to these questions. In an interview with four mobility experts from science and the field, Christopher tries to get to the bottom of the future of mobility.

Escalators in the conference building of the exhibition center in Cologne

In times of accelerating processes, it is all the more important to critically question one’s own actions.

Portrait photo of Ralf Frisch from the PTV Group

Ralf Frisch from the PTV Group.

Tailor-made mobility as a service.

Car sharing is no longer a strange word and has been used in city centers for some time via providers such as car2go. From the expert’s point of view, the sharing of vehicles is one of the important key ideas for making mobility even more efficiently available where it is needed individually in the future. The keyword here is “Mobility as a Service” or MaaS for short.

Ralf Frisch is Solution Director for MaaS at the PTV Group in Karlsruhe. “MaaS is about creating a clever combination of different types of transport systems,” he explains. In practical terms, this could mean that users now only have one ticket for all means of transport, from rental bicycles to car sharing to the metro, etc. Databased planning software, such as the PTV Group’s, can in turn calculate the fastest route for you.

A solution is often closer than expected.

Data and networking are half the battle. On the other hand, innovations are needed that make efficient use of both. Uber and Lyft, for example, managed to turn the mobility market upside down within a very short time by cleverly linking existing smartphone technology with a number of driving service providers in major cities. Other successful examples of on-demand mobility services are ViaVan and moovel. Transporting people to similar destinations makes it not only more flexible, but also cheaper.

A woman with a smartphone in her hand is standing in front of a Mercedes-Benz van with a ViaVan label

With ViaVan you can reach your destination quickly and cheaply.

Autonomous vehicles could improve the traffic situation.

Nevertheless, most discussions about the future of mobility revolve around autonomous driving, which has recently been approved. Here, too, the question can be asked – to what extent do self-driving cars provide increased benefit on congested roads? After all, they cannot fly like the “Volocopter” yet. “The problem is not only too many vehicles, but also how inefficiently we use them,” Frisch begins to explain. “When you drive to work in the morning and park your car outside the office until the end of the day, it doesn’t bring any real benefit during this time.” In the meantime, sharing systems could allow an autonomous, networked vehicle to drive to other passengers to transport them to their destination.

The problem is not only too many vehicles, but also how inefficiently we use them.

Sharing is caring – also in road traffic.

In rush hour traffic you often see that people in large vehicles driving to work alone. Where is the sustainability in that? “If the masses used a common pool of autonomous vehicles communicating with each other, the total number of vehicles could be reduced to a tradable minimum,” Frisch sums up. Conversely, this would also require the willingness to leave your car in the garage.

Three smarts with the car2go logo on the bonnet

The car2go car-sharing offer already provides the right approach.

Portrait photo of Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos from TNO

Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos from TNO.

Even an autopilot has to drive with composure.

Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos of the Dutch research organization TNO takes a different view of autonomous driving. “Mobility in general is marketed today as a pleasure of life,” he explains to us. This also means that driving comfort in a self-driving car must be in no way inferior to that of a conventional car. This is primarily for the prevention of travel sickness, in which the professor specializes.

In fact, nausea while travelling at sea, by plane or in a car is a widespread phenomenon in society. However, if you are at the wheel yourself, you are usually not affected. This raises the question: How can travel sickness in driverless cars be counteracted? “Above all, an autonomous driving pilot must be able to brake and accelerate in a controlled manner,” says the researcher.

Sustainable mobility is everyone’s responsibility.

Instead of just looking at the constantly growing mobility possibilities and enjoying them to the full, Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos advises us to ask ourselves once again before each journey: Is it really necessary to travel to place X? Isn’t Skype enough? Otherwise, experts agree that our transport system will collapse in a few years’ time.

The Volocopter is on display in an exhibition room

The "Volocopter" was also a must at this conference.

A hand on a Mercedes-Benz steering wheel

Driving alone is no longer sustainable these days.

Photos: Dennis Blass; Netherlands Organisation for Applied Sciences; PTV Group; Denys Nevozhai; epicantus

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