Mobility has always defined the shape of our cities. Riverfront settlements grew into major cities, railways cut these cities into pieces, and systemic support of private vehicles made suburbs possible. Investments in autonomous and shared mobility are drastically accelerating the evolution and digitalization of the urban mobility stack. This is invariably, inevitably, and permanently reshaping our urban networks.
We find ourselves at the advent of a paradigmatic shift. Over the last three years alone, investments in excess of 120 Billion USD have laid the groundwork for explosive change in connected and autonomous mobility. From aerial highways unlocking city airspace, to pedestrian gates protecting autonomous vehicles from would-be jaywalkers, ideas in the works today paint a picture of what cities might look like tomorrow.
At Trafi, we believe that by embracing digital mobility management, cities can proactively define and shape a modern urban environment. For cities to gain accurate understanding of public space usage, make data-informed policy decisions, and effectively monitor compliance to increase the safety of drivers, riders, and pedestrians, we must install digital mobility management as soon as possible.
Beyond just changing our cities, the aforementioned investments are increasing the complexity of the mobility system. Fleets are becoming more diverse with the adoption of e-bikes, cargo-bikes, drones, e-kick scooters, and autonomous vehicles. The number of mobility and logistics providers operating in cities is also set to grow, despite an expected consolidation of the market.
Propelled by large technology companies, investments in autonomous and shared mobility are increasing the speed of technological change. Developments that were expected to take years are brought onto roads in months, such as free-floating bikes and kick-scooters — or the fast digitalization of the logistics industry promoted by DropShipping practices.
For governments, the implications of these investments and concurrent results are evident.
First, progressively diverse fleets will require governments to prioritize investments in infrastructure across ever-growing and competing needs for roads and public space. For instance, the popularity of e-bikes and e-kick scooters is prompting cities (especially those who have not done so in the past) to invest in cycling-lanes. Delivery robots might soon join the user pool of public space, and will require changes in both physical and digital infrastructures.
Second, a higher infrastructure load and speed of technological change will require governments to adapt policies and regulations even faster. Curb spaces, previously disputed mostly for parking and delivery, are now being claimed by e-hailing services too. This is prompting cities to define specific areas for passenger pick-up and drop-off. As on-demand mobility evolves, novel products and services fight for their space in the existing infrastructure, creating a saturated and conflict-prone environment that requires responsive regulations.
Third, competing needs from users and providers will require governments to create multiple incentives. These incentives should answer to the context of each urban space, and ultimately promote equity, affordability, safety, sustainability, and accessibility of mobility services. Mobility budgets are exemplifying incentives that promote individual mode-choice and, hopefully, overall benefits for cities.
Most importantly, autonomous and connected vehicles (as well as their makers or operators) will expect these regulations and incentives to be communicated digitally. One practical example is the implementation of low-speed zones to remotely control the speed of e-kick scooters. Currently, these regulations are primarily communicated in pseudo-digitized formats such as PDFs.
At Trafi, we believe that governments should embrace the increased digitization of the mobility stack to digitally regulate and incentivize an optimized usage of the public space, including right-of-way.
To this day, most cities rely on mapping providers to translate road-usage and other regulations digitally to users; a mostly inefficient process resulting in misuse of the public space. Direct digital policy communication could offer unified means for broadcasting changes in parking and road-access, among other infrastructure usage rules. For us it is clear that national and local governments should create, issue, and monitor policies digitally.
Digital policies will open up the opportunity for regulations and incentives to be adapted quickly and in real-time, thus promoting a more balanced utilization of the infrastructure. Case studies such as implementing dynamic pricing for toll roads based on usage have already seen a certain level of success. Moreover, defining traffic volume limits for routing algorithms prone to suggest local and often underserved roads could help avoid unsustainable strain and disruption of infrastructure.
Governments should make better data-informed decisions about policies and infrastructure investments. One area ripe for optimization relates to on-demand vehicle deployment caps.
The application of artificial intelligence to data-based decision-making will open the doors to a highly streamlined and efficient system. Governments will need to identify which decisions should remain within the direct purview of people, and which should be allocated to algorithms. Regardless, understanding these algorithms will be mandatory to ensure that they are employed and regulated correctly, and securely.
Governments should claim their right to access relevant data. Working in tandem with mobility service providers, governments should define the extent and methods of data sharing and processing, while maintaining user privacy and the competitive advantage of providers. Providers, in turn, are responsible for collaborating with governments to attain the set mobility goals, while competing for market share and profitability through innovation and user experience.
The sizable investments in mobility impose two key challenges for cities:
Addressing the growing and competing infrastructure needs
Keeping up with and adapting to the speed of technological change
By embracing the digitization of the mobility stack and leveraging digital mobility management to their advantage, cities can:
Make better data-informed decisions about policies and infrastructure investments
Create and communicate regulations and incentives digitally
To make digital mobility management a reality, governments should:
Ensure their right to access relevant data
Proactively work with the industry on creating solutions that promote their mobility goals
Over the last five years, urban mobility has undergone fundamental changes that continue to echo throughout all city life. Governments are today reacting to the symptoms rather than addressing the causes. A lot more is going to change, and cities can no longer afford to stay behind the train of innovation. Cities need to shape, rather than be shaped by, tomorrow’s technology. As a platform for mobility, we are here to talk — and help.
Founded in Vilnius, Lithuania, Trafi has been revolutionizing urban mobility since 2013. Our MaaS platform is designed to run even the most complex transport systems and has been trusted by Berlin (BVG), Brussels (STIB), Portsmouth & Southampton (Solent Transport), Munich (MVG), and Zurich (SBB).
Trafi’s mission is to empower cities with state-of-the-art MaaS solution that helps to tackle their mobility challenges and to achieve ambitious sustainability objectives. Our white-label product offers all the features and components needed to launch your own-branded MaaS service. With more than 50 existing deep integrations to mobility service providers and payment facilitators, we help to reduce risk, cost, and time-to-launch for new services.