Brave New World Of Mobility

The ITS World Congress in Bordeaux demonstrates the potential of future mobility solutions – and the challenges that lie ahead.

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Self-driving cars are no longer a vision of the future. At the 2015 ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, visitors had the chance to test a car in which a device from automotive supplier Valeo took over the driving, steering, accelerating, and breaking. And not only on testing grounds, but also on Bordeaux’s busy A630 highway.

The ITS World Congress, the largest trade event in the intelligent transportation systems sector, did not stop there. It showcased a wide array of solutions that have the potential to simplify our lives and make mobility more comfortable, from intelligent lampposts to smart bus stops that sell bus tickets and also locate the nearest pizza parlor for you.

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While some solutions looked like nice-to-have gimmicks, others promise to increase safety immensely. Outside of the main exhibition hall, NXP and Honda demonstrated the power of “vehicle-to-X technology” that enables vehicles to communicate with their environment. The chip-equipped car was able to tell the driver at which speed he needs to drive to still catch the green traffic light ahead. It also detected other cars behind obstacles and warned of approaching motorcycles and children at distances of up to two kilometers.

The technology has the potential to increase safety substantially. One prerequisite, however, is that a critical mass of traffic participants are equipped with the technology. While large-scale implementation will take a few years for vehicles, the traffic infrastructure can easily be equipped with V2X chips. One possibility would be to place a chip in the backpacks of school children, for example, to communicate with intelligent traffic lights. To accelerate the adoption in cars, policy makers in the U.S. are already pushing the implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Their ambitious objective is 100 percent implementation in new cars by 2021.

Support by lawmakers will be required to really take advantage of the technological possibilities. Different stakeholders need to be involved. Consequently, tech companies were not the only firms present at the ITS World Congress. Also, many cities and regions displayed how they tackle the traffic problems today and how they will deal with them tomorrow. Bordeaux, host city of the Congress, demonstrated their traffic management system ALIENOR, which provides drivers with real-time traffic information on the city’s busiest roads. The city of Hamburg, Germany is also involved in the show promoting their existing and planned traffic management solutions.

This seems like steps in the right direction. Cities will have to come up with smart transportation solutions. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will live in metropolitan areas. At the ITS World Congress, there were different solutions on display, from intermodal mobility systems to self-driving shuttles like the EZ10 and Navya. Also, 20 European organizations announced they would join forces to establish the so-called Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Alliance. It is a concept where users can chose between various monthly mobility options that include easy access to different transport services, for example, a certain number of free taxi rides and full access to public transportation.

In many visions of the future of mobility, humans literally take a backseat. This raises many questions. How can users be convinced their privacy is still protected? How can we ensure the data is secure? Who is responsible in case of accidents? What is expected from legislators?

In the end, developing new technological solutions is just the first step. In order to benefit from them, we also have to talk about their consequences and discuss what needs to be done so that people will trust those solutions.


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