acatech HORIZONS: Transforming Mobility
When people think of mobility, they often first think of the car, the bicycle, the bus or the train. But mobility is much more than that: it enables us to get to work, go shopping or to the doctor, meet friends and take our children to school. In other words, it is also a way of participating in life. At the same time, it generates traffic, which in turn has serious consequences for the environment. How can we design mobility that meets the needs of all people and at the same time helps to achieve our climate targets? What role do technologies and new mobility models that focus more on using rather than owning play in this? What can we learn about modern urban planning from Copenhagen, the cycling capital? The acatech HORIZONS Transforming Mobility is dedicated to these and other exciting questions.
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What is mobility?
The word derives from the Latin “mobilitas”, meaning the ability to move or be moved. However, mobility is much more complex and comprehensive than the ability to move spatially. Each and every one of us is mobile on a daily basis in order to feed ourselves, travel to work, attend medical appointments, educate ourselves, or travel. Even when we are not moving, we are “mobile” by, for example, ordering online or participating in video calls. This allows those who are mobile to meet their basic needs and interact with others. Mobility means participation in life and society. Throughout history, mobility has shaped people. However, it does not only enable participation, progress and freedom. As great as the benefits of mobility are, for those who cannot participate in mobility, the situation is even more severe. Limited mobility can lead to social inequality, exclusion and lack of freedom. In addition, mobility and transport as we use them today have serious consequences for the climate and the environment. The following illustration shows the mobility of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Transforming Mobility: Challenges & Opportunities
Climate change, urbanisation, digitalisation and increasing movement of goods are driving the transformation of mobility. They are both a challenge and an opportunity for a new beginning.
Climate change: in search of sustainable solutions for the future
In recent years, we have seen massive growth in traffic: more and more people and goods move and are moved. Transport is responsible for a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the main contributors to urban air pollution. Environmental damage and climate change pose enormous challenges for Europe and the world.
To make the transport sector more sustainable, we need to reduce traffic and make it carbon-neutral with clean technologies: With electricity from renewables, hydrogen and Power-2-X, this can be achieved. In the illustration, you can see sustainable solutions for the future of mobility.
Digitalisation as a tool to transform mobility
Digitalisation is changing mobility. It is already making people’s lives easier, for example through navigation systems, parking aids, voice control, driving assistants and apps for charging parking fees. In addition, many new sharing services such as car-, bike- and e-scooter-rental systems via apps are only possible thanks to digitalisation.
In the future, digitalisation will be key to making mobility even more flexible, convenient and accessible to all. In addition, it has the potential to make mobility more environmentally friendly and space-saving by bundling transport services more efficiently, avoiding congestion and reducing traffic. In the next illustration, we show what this could look like in the future.
Rural and urban: the connection of two worlds
Fifty years ago, it was a good idea to separate the (then noisy) factories from the (then quiet) residential areas. Although nowadays many people no longer work in factories but in offices, many still have to travel long distances to get to work to doctors or shops, causing more and more traffic.
Today, a strict separation between residential and commercial areas is no longer necessary. This is a win-win situation for cities and rural areas: The cities, which currently often suffer from noise, traffic jams and air pollution due to outdated urban planning, would be relieved of traffic and could convert industrial areas into urgently needed residential areas. And rural regions would become more attractive thanks to new, well-paid jobs. Inclusive mobility means focusing on the different needs of rural and urban populations. The following illustration shows how inclusive mobility can succeed.
Freight traffic and logistics re-imagined
Ordering online is easier and faster than ever. There has been tremendous growth in this area in recent years: We order goods from all over the world, which are delivered to our doorstep in no time. However, this generates more and more traffic and thus CO2 emissions, even if we stay in the comfort of our homes.
Several cities are now researching and testing new, more environmentally friendly concepts to continue delivering shipments without clogging up city centers with delivery trucks. According to a study, new delivery methods using the so-called logistics tram save almost sixty percent in CO2 emissions in comparison with conventional goods deliveries! The illustration shows what the logistics of the future could look like.
Climate change affects us all. Numerous international approaches and pilot projects show how mobility can be redesigned. More and more cities around the world are demonstrating that with innovative solutions sustainability is possible and can improve people’s quality of life.
Copenhagen: Bike Capital
The citizens of Copenhagen live in the first true cycling metropolis in Europe, if not the world. A number of measures have contributed to this title: Both slow and fast cyclists feel safe on wide, multi-lane bike paths that are structurally separated from the car lanes. There are bicycle bridges everywhere with beautiful vantage points, bicycle highways for commuters, service stations with air pumps and water dispensers, dedicated parking garages for bicycles, footrests at traffic lights and trash cans, and the green wave in the city centre. In winter, the bike lanes are always cleared first – even before the car lanes. So riding a bike is more comfortable, healthier, usually faster and costs less. This has worked out so well that the term “to copenhagenize” is now a common term in urban planning, meaning to plan a city around the needs of cyclists.
Singapore: Garden City
Singapore has a special recipe for sustainable, efficient traffic: The Southeast Asian city-state introduced a cap on vehicle licenses back in the 1980s. This limit was reached in 2018; since then, new cars can only be registered if one existing one is deregistered in return. Those with a license also pay an additional city toll. Since gaining independence in 1965, the island nation has struggled with its small land area, a growing population, dense traffic and high levels of pollution. Because cars are the most land-intensive form of transport, the city decided that it wanted to use its land for parks and green residential areas, some of which are even being built on deconstructed roads. It is not for nothing that Singapore calls itself the “Garden City” and has made it to the top of the “greenest” cities in the world in recent years.
Beijing: From bicycle to car – and back again?
The People’s Republic is the country with the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, ten per cent of which is attributable to the transport sector. Until the end of the 1990s, Beijing was still considered a bicycle metropolis. Now, driven by economic growth and prosperity, cars and condominiums are must-haves on the marriage market. The number of cars and the length of traffic jams are correspondingly high, and noise and air pollution are reducing the quality of life for Beijing’s population. There are days on which the authorities declare a “smog alert”: from stores and schools to highways and industry – the whole city shuts down. This real threat affects everyone, and the government has long recognized that. Beijing’s metro is one of the longest in the world, more and more zero-emission vehicles can be found on the streets, and bike-sharing services are booming. In addition, you can combine bicycle, car and public transport in Beijing through an app according to the principle “Mobility-as-a-Service”! The app is also intended to encourage individuals to travel in the most CO2 -neutral way possible. If you ride a bike, take the bus or walk, you are rewarded with coupons, for example for public transport.
What active role can individuals, business, science and politics play? One thing is certain: mobility is participation in life; it affects everyone. The transformation of mobility is a transformation of society as a whole, which requires a fundamental rethinking on everyone’s part. The direction is clear, the path is described in rudimentary form, but there is still a long way to go before we reach our goal.
Women in motion
Well-founded advice on questions concerning the future of technology and science cannot function without a diversity of perspectives – and presupposes that the gender dimension in research and science is taken into account. In the broad innovation field of “mobility”, insufficient inclusion of women’s perspectives has a particularly significant impact. From a lack of data on mobility behaviour to insufficient consideration in accident research – the inclusion of women is central to a successful shift toward more people-oriented and environmentally friendly mobility. Project group members Christine Weis-Hiller from the City of Munich and Michael Bültmann from HERE GmbH are convinced of this – this can be read in an article on the International Women’s Day.
- Michael Bültmann
HERE Deutschland GmbH
- Stefan Gerwens
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dietmar Göhlich
Technische Universität Berlin/ acatech
- Prof. Dr. Helmut Holzapfel
Zentrum für Mobilitätskultur
- Prof. Dr. Stephan Rammler
IZT Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung Berlin
- Dr. Corinna Salander
Deutsches Zentrum für Schienenverkehrsforschung beim Eisenbahn-Bundesamt DZSF
- Dr.-Ing. Jörg Salomon
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Weber
- Dipl.-Ing. Christine Weis-Hiller
Overview: the acatech HORIZONS series
In the acatech HORIZONS series, the academy explores important technology fields that are already looming large on the horizon, but where there is still some uncertainty about their potential impacts. More