Hyper-mobility seems to be a distinguishing feature of urban areas. Mobility flows have become a key dynamic of urbanization with the associated infrastructure invariably constituting the backbone of urban form. Yet, despite the increasing level of urban mobility worldwide, access  to places, activities and places has become increasingly difficult. Not only is it less convenient, in terms of cost, time and comfort, but the very process of moving around in cities generates a number of negative externalities.

What is Urban Mobility and What are its Benefits?

Mobility underpins everything we do as individuals, as communities, as regional, national and international economies. People need to move around to secure basic human needs, but mobility is also a luxury, contributing to quality of life by enabling exploration, leisure and recreation.

In the city, high quality mobility is a necessity for the success of other urban sectors and the creation of jobs and plays a key role in cultivating an attractive environment for residents and business.

Brazil traffic jam Courtesy of http://thecityfix.com

Brazil traffic jam Courtesy of http://thecityfix.com

Characteristics of Urban Mobility

Historically, mobility has been viewed largely as a product, which includes the vehicles, physical infrastructure and fuels required to move people around. Increasingly, however, mobility is approached as a service: the method by which we procure food, engage in economic activity, access entertainment or meet with friends and family, all through seamless movements from place to place. Already, the ways in which we fulfill these tasks are changing radically as we use mobile phones, web and video to manage our lives on the go (Smart Cities Cornerstone Series, Unknown).

Urban transportation Courtesy of https://www.itdp.org

Urban transportation
Courtesy of https://www.itdp.org

Problems Facing Transportation in Cities

Yet mobility is widely cited as one of the most intractable and universal challenges faced by cities the world over. As urban population increase, existing and emerging cities face the challenge of meeting rising demands for efficient mobility within limited infrastructure capacity. Simultaneously, citizen’s expectations are changing continually, influenced by ongoing innovations around low-carbon and efficient vehicle technologies and improvements in infrastructure management (Smart Cities Cornerstone Series, Unknown).

The combined influence of population growth, demographic change and changing urban form leads to increasing demand for travel in city centers, suburbs and between the two. Demand for improved inner city mobility is also growing, to create faster and more direct connectivity between settlements. As demand rises, so too do concerns about transportation as one of the leading contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, congestion, noise and poor air quality in cities.

This growing demand converges with an inadequate supply of physical transport capacity in many cities, which can result in crowding, congestion and an unpleasant experience of the city. Meanwhile, in many developing cities investment in infrastructure construction is struggling to keep pace with the rapid rate of urban growth.

Mobility Systems for Tomorrow

New capabilities rely on physical and digital infrastructure whose potential is only beginning to be realized. By supplementing urban planning and management practices with digital technologies, there is an opportunity to improve mobility services for citizens, while managing demand on physical transport networks and generating wider economic and environmental value.

Thus, to meet the urban mobility challenge, cities need to implement a strategy of networking the system. This can be applied in mature cities with a high share of sustainable transport modes. The next step must to be fully integrating the travel value chain to foster seamless, multimodal mobility while ensuring “one face to the customer” and to increase the overall attractiveness of public transport by service extension (Van, Korniichuk and Dauby, 2014).

Sustainable public transport (grass lined tram) Courtesy of http://assets.inhabitat.com

Sustainable public transport (grass lined tram)
Courtesy of http://assets.inhabitat.com

Connected Vehicles: The Future of Transportation

Imagine a future where vehicles talk to one another and to critical infrastructure. This connected vehicle technology change our transportation system as we know it by enabling safe network wireless communications among vehicles infrastructure and personal communication devices. These vehicles are characterized by:

1. Safety:

Connected vehicles provide drivers with a 360 degrees awareness of similar equipped vehicles. This secure system keeps personal information anonymous and does not trap the vehicle. Drivers will receive warnings that inform them of potential hazards through a visual display seek vibration. These warnings make the driver remain in control of the vehicle at all times and can help him to respond quickly to avoid potential crashes. For example, the “intersection movement assist” application warns the driver when it is unsafe to enter an intersection.

Connected vehicles (intersection movement assist) Courtesy of

Connected vehicles (intersection movement assist)
Courtesy of

Also, the “do not pass” application warns the driver when it is not safe to pass a slower moving vehicle. The “emergency electronic brake light warning” application notifies the driver when an out of sight vehicles several cars ahead are braking. Imagine the value of this blind spot warning application which have let commercial drivers virtually see what’s happening in his/her blind spot. Connected vehicles can communicate with smart road infrastructure like railway crossings to alert drivers when a train is coming even if the driver cannot see or hear the approaching train.

Connected vehicles (railway crossing alert) Courtesy of http://i95coalition.org

Connected vehicles (railway crossing alert)
Courtesy of http://i95coalition.org

2. Road Weather:

Connected vehicles can help with weather related traffic and safety issues too. This is especially true with conditions such as black ice where weather may not appear to be dangerous but the roads are slippery. Anonymous information is collected from multiple connected vehicles which can help to determine one of the tension hazards that exists such as icy roads and warn drivers how they experience them. Road weather from the vehicles can be sent to traffic management centers or TMCs providing detailed real time information to help monitor and manage transportation system performance. These centers can take actions like adjusting traffic signals and speed limits, dispatching sand trucks and broadcasting warnings from motorists. Drivers can get real time and weather information in car display or by dialing 511 or by listening to highway radio stations. Moreover, motorists will be able to get weather information on their personal devices before leaving home.

Connected vehicles (road weather application) Courtesy of http://www.transpogroup.com

Connected vehicles (road weather application)
Courtesy of http://www.transpogroup.com

3. Environment:

Connected vehicles can even help us to reduce a carbon footprint and facilitate green transportation choices. Ecolanes are similar to today’s VE lanes but with a big difference. Motorists in these lanes drive eco friendly vehicles and a speed that conserves fuel. Drivers will be altered about the proper speed with dynamic message signs.

Connected vehicles (ecolanes) Courtesy of http://media.directionsmedia.net

Connected vehicles (ecolanes)
Courtesy of http://media.directionsmedia.net

Connected vehicles applications can help vehicles to reduce unnecessary stuffs by communicating with smart traffic signals. Traffic signals broadcast data about their current signal phase and timing and systems inside. Vehicles use the data to determine speeded drive for drivers. Drivers then could adjust their vehicle speed to pass the next traffic signal on green or slow down to a stop in the most eco friendly manner. Thereby, saving fuel, reducing emissions and saving driver’s money.

Connected vehicles (adjust vehicle speed) Courtesy of http://www.trustpointinnovation.com

Connected vehicles (adjust vehicle speed)
Courtesy of http://www.trustpointinnovation.com

4. Emergency:

Connected vehicles can enhance awareness on expected road side incidents like disabled vehicles, crashes, police activity and so on. Incident zone warnings will alert drivers about incidents ahead and warn them to slow down and change lanes. Communications could also be sent to first responders at the seen via shoulder radios to warn them of the approaching vehicle. Connected vehicles technology can help to control traffic flows and reduce the resulting congestion at accident sites before it gets out of hand.

Connected vehicles Courtesy of http://telematicswire.net

Connected vehicles
Courtesy of http://telematicswire.net

5. Mobility:

With millions of connected vehicles our ability to share buses will continue to improve the traffic flow, enhanced coordination with transit and make our communities even more safe and livable. The “connection protection” application gives public transportation providers and travelers the opportunity to communicate two ways. The connected network gives passengers real time transit information, so that they can more accurately predict when they will make their next connection. “Dynamic ride sharing” application make the logistics of ride sharing easy by connecting vehicles.

Finally, we can say that urban transport systems worldwide are faced by a multitude of challenges. Planning and design for future urban mobility argues that the development of urban transport systems requires a conceptual leap. The main purpose of ‘transportation’ and ‘mobility’ is to gain access to destinations, activities and goods. So the question now is, how to bring people and places together, by creating cities that focus on accessibility and by applying the new technologies in urban mobility like smartphones and connected vehicles?

Written by: Riham Nady


– Smart Cities cornerstone series. (Unknown). “Urban Mobility in the Smart City Age”. Arup. London.

– Van, Francois-Joseph, Korniichuk, Oleksii and Dauby, Laurent. (January 2014). “The Future of Urban Mobility 2.0: Imperatives to shape extended mobility ecosystems of tomorrow”. Future Lab.

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