On the 18th of November, we gathered at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental hotel in London, for the Telegraph sponsored Smart Mobility Summit. The event saw some of the leading figures in transport and sustainable energy look at a variety of innovative modes in which we aim to promote green transport, and tackle some of the issues of our age. The overriding theme for the summit was ‘prioritising collaboration to create cleaner, connected, less congested and more customer-centric solutions in line with the electrification agenda’. With ambitious targets set for eradicating toxic air in cities and a pressing need for more efficient, seamless and environmentally friendly mobility solutions, the race is on to accelerate the transition to cleaner and smarter mobility.
One of the main focuses of the summit was surrounding the implementation of 5G and ‘smart cities’. This revolutionary network (not to be confused with the successor of mobile 4G) will see a fast evolution of information and technology which will have a major impact on road safety, business models and driver experiences. With markets commitment to hydrogen and electricity to fuel the future of auto-mobility, 5G will see the introduction of more and more autonomous vehicles interconnected by 5G. By 2025, we are expected to have 67 million 5G cars on roads, all connected to traffic lights, able to sense when a pedestrian is crossing the road, or even knowing when and by what speed to slow down when another car wants to overtake. 5G will become the unifying technology for V2X communication, providing capacity, latency, and security to support extremely diverse applications.
The summit also looked at case studies from the UK (Newcastle), and overseas (Amsterdam). Newcastle demonstrated how connectivity is key to helping a city thrive, with the improvements they have made to their bus routes and reducing inner-city parking to ease congestion in the more central areas. With an immense talent pool to make use of, with Durham and Newcastle universities both within the region. Amsterdam have pledged to be fully carbon neutral by 2030, and they are well on their way to achieving that. They have collected immense amounts of data dealing with congestion in the city’s inner sector, where the narrow alleyways and canal streets clogged up with tourists and posed a safety hazard as sometimes people could fall into the canals, especially in the cold winter months. They pride themselves on the fact that in that sector there are no trams or buses, encouraging people to walk from place to place through the tourist hotspot. In the other two sectors they have an integrated tram and bus system which operate at incredible efficiency, with over 200km of track, they relieve congestion, and compliment many citizens who decide to cycle (which is already very popular in Holland).
Despite the many proposed solutions to the issues we face, there are a number of roadblocks on the path to this faster and greener future, most acutely, improving charging infrastructure and networks for EV’s, creating more customer-centric seamless solutions and achieving cost parity with less desirable modes of travel to stimulate change in consumer behaviour. Consumer behaviour was a very interesting factor, as it is quite a challenge to modify the way people perceive transport. The ‘first car’ is still generally considered as a rite of passage, a symbol of freedom, independence, status and offers thrill, aside from being a mode of transport. It will be interesting to see how transport solutions will attempt to tackle these issues, and how far it will go to change consumer behaviour, along with societal issues such as rising obesity and loneliness, among others. Diversely, as consumers we tend to assume that we can predict the future based on what we know now. One speaker, quoting Henry Ford who said, “If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, explained how similarly to this statement, the future is unpredictable, and excitingly, will be so advanced that it will be beyond anything we could possibly imagine. For example, the introduction of ‘mobility package solutions’ is not far off, which could see subscribers benefit from impeccable door-step travel, possibly becoming the ‘Netflix of transport’.
Overall, it was a reassuring and exciting insight into the work going on across the transport sector to provide cleaner and more customer-friendly modes of transport for the future. There is much to be learned and although there will be bumps in the road, it is clear that we are heading in the right direction in terms of mobility and sustainability in the UK.