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Old cities, new mobility: the private car must be dethroned

2020-10-23T23:44:51.102Z

Before the virus, transportation in large cities was moving towards a new model, in which data rubbed shoulders in importance with vehicles. The pandemic has shaken the game board, but not the big trends.



J gets up just in time to get to the first business meeting of the day.

Call a taxi on your mobile while taking the last sip of coffee.

After tomorrow's day, and taking advantage of the good weather, he uses an electric scooter to get to the restaurant where he is meeting a friend.

He returns to the office by bicycle - there was no

carsharing

at hand - and, at the end of the day, he decides to return home with a VTC, which at the moment is at a good price due to low demand.

Any given day of any person can involve many mobility decisions, using various means of transport without owning any of them.

It is also a data exchange trail, and in the 21st century data is very useful.

Collected by sensors, interpreted by machines, managed in the cloud and placed at the service of cities and citizens, the data promises us better mobility, cleaner air, and better quality of life.

Against classical mobility, based on ownership of a vehicle, allow the call mobility as a

service (Maas,

mobility as a service

), ie, choose from several options to get from A to B turning to companies of all kinds.

And data also drives

smart cities

, which will not only collect garbage better and regulate public lighting more efficiently: they will also reduce temporary distances through intelligent management of spaces and vehicles.

Pedestrians walk along the Paseo de la Cstellana, in Madrid, which was closed to traffic in May.

Getty Images

And it's just the beginning: the deployment of 5G networks will bring the development of autonomous cars even closer, fully connected to their environment thanks to the Internet of Things.

They will not emit polluting gases, because the future is electric motors.

The development of smart electrical distribution networks and home self-generation using solar panels will make them much more competitive.

We lived in that future, with a growing supply of mobility services, until the demand drastically changed.

The fault was a virus.

We stayed locked in the house and, very little by little, we began to go out.

And we discovered, suddenly, that life could be lived on foot, one kilometer from home;

that private vehicles, almost unused week after week, took up too much public space;

that spending two hours a day in the car to go to work was, on many occasions, unnecessary.

Miracles happened: It was raining and the city smelled of dirt, not carbon dioxide.

There was the chirping of birds, not the honking of cars.

We lived in that future until a virus forced us to return to the past.

And now the demand for mobility may not be exactly what it was.

If 50 years ago we cut down trees and destroyed boulevards to make room for the car, the symbol of modernity and status, now we want wider sidewalks and pedestrianized walkways.

And we need more square meters for bikes and electric scooters.

But not all is good news for air quality: distrust of crowds is a threat to public transport, essential to combat pollution;

The logistical challenge of the e-commerce boom also raises sustainability issues.

When the mobility of the 21st century struggled to prevail over the urbanism of the 20th century, based on the use of the private car, the pandemic came to change our view.

The model is being defined, and technology offers all kinds of alternatives.

It will be the societies who choose how they are organized, and the mobility of the future depends on that decision.

King car wobbles

April was ending, masks were still in short supply and the Minister of Transport and Mobility, José Luis Ábalos, appeared before Congress to give details of the then imminent de-escalation.

"The private car is not a sustainable solution for the future, but in this parenthesis and in these circumstances it is an option," he said, causing the stupor of environmentalists.

Some executive in the sector remembers it with surprise several months later.

Although Ábalos is still haunted by the phrase, at least he spoke of "parenthesis."

It is not entirely clear if this parenthesis due to the pandemic is definitively closed, but it is clear that the design of the mobility of the future, over and above ideologies and differences between countries, has much less space reserved for private vehicles.

Like tobacco

The pandemic has reinforced that idea that the car should no longer be king.

So much so that Jesús Herrero, secretary general of ATUC, the Association of Urban and Interurban Public Transport, even sees parallels between the change in perception towards tobacco in past decades and what is happening now with the private car.

“The current mobility model is unsustainable”, he says, and not only due to environmental problems: “We have 85% of the public space dedicated to the car, four square meters most of the time standing on the road or, many times, with a single person circulating ”.

According to data from the European Commission, vehicles are parked 92% of the time, and effectively only 5% circulating, with an average occupancy of 1.5 people per trip.

“Mobility by car is the option that takes up the most space and wastes the most space, as well as the most harmful to the environment”, sums up José Carpio-Pinedo, university professor and consultant specialized in sustainable mobility.

To counteract this trend, the motor industry has been pursuing two qualitative leaps for years: the electrification of engines and autonomous driving.

The first phenomenon is already beginning to be a reality: according to data from Anfac, the employer's association for car manufacturers, in the first nine months of 2020 sales of fully electric cars grew by 32%, almost the same as those of vehicles fell of gasoline and diesel, 38%.

They still represent very little for the market as a whole - 1.67% - but the National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate 2021-2030 foresees a fleet of five million electric vehicles within ten years, which would mean around 15% of the total.

Energy companies are already taking positions on the electrification of the car.

It requires a significant adaptation of their network, which has to be superimposed on the mobility network, as explained by Juan Ríos, Director of Planning and Regulation of Iberdrola i-DE, the former Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica.

“We have to start creating a public vehicle recharging network even before there is demand.

And we already have mobility control centers that allow us to know patterns of use that we need to plan more efficiently ”, he says.

But the big change will be the arrival of autonomous driving: "I have no doubt that it will be a reality in 2030", predicts Begoña Cristeto, partner in charge of automotive at KPMG Spain.

Thanks to the deployment of the 5G network and the

omnipresent

sensorization

on public roads, cars will not need a driver and services such as

carsharing

, whose profitability is currently hampered by the need for operators who eventually move vehicles from one point to another, will become widespread even more.

“The vehicle is going to become the least valuable thing in the mobility industry.

Manufacturers know and are concerned.

If they don't sit well, they will simply be the producers of the carcass.

And they don't want to be the ones to deploy an infrastructure so that later it will be others who make it profitable, as has happened in other businesses ”, explains Cristeto.

The double side of teleworking

The car was one of the losers from confinement: teleworking proved that it is not an essential tool in working life, and when we started to go out on the street we realized all the space it occupied, a public space that we could not enjoy as pedestrians or on the terraces.

"Teleworking is good news in terms of the most environmentally unsustainable transports, but it is bad news for those who have to be financially sustainable," says Carpio-Pinedo.

Fewer travelers, less tickets sold by public transport and more problems for the public coffers, which will not go through good times.

A history of technology, mobility and dirty streets

In August 2013, a new comprehensive contract for the cleaning and maintenance of public spaces in Madrid came into force, with a term of eight years.

The City Council, then headed by Ana Botella (PP), presented it as a great advance, since it meant a reduction of 300 million euros for municipal coffers, thanks, it was explained, to the fact that the use of technology would allow dedicate fewer staff to these tasks.

However, the deterioration in the quality of service was immediately apparent.

Madrid began to have a problem of dirt in its streets that, like the contract, survives, and the unrest of the workers led to a strike that plagued the city with garbage for 13 days that November.

Inés Sabanés, now a deputy in the Más País Congress, inherited that contract in 2015 when Manuela Carmena appointed her as delegate for the Environment and Mobility of the Madrid City Council, with responsibility for urban cleaning.

In his opinion, this contract is a good example of the limits of technology to solve the big problems of cities: “That failed because they forgot that it is labor intensive work.

Technology is a tool, a complement.

The fundamental thing is to have a city strategy ”.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2020-10-23

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