Human development has been dictated by a continual rise in mobility in all areas of life. People move around between jobs, sectors of industry, and even different regions, and this mobility is often fueled by changes in the working world and residential patterns. As people change locations, they create traffic. The term mobility is used to describe the phenomenon of how people move around in their business and social environment, so this is intrinsically linked to a variety of decision-making processes made by different parties – and is reflected in the movement of people and goods.
On a regional or local level, much attention is given to reducing the negative impact of traffic, especially particulate matter pollution and noise, and carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions. It is not difficult to introduce so-called traffic-calming measures, neither in political terms nor when it comes to actual implementation speed limits can be reduced and road systems can be changed to keep entire inner-city areas as free as possible from cars. But one thing that is often overlooked is that being able to travel places without difficulty is an essential prerequisite for a fully functioning economy.
When planning urban areas and entire regions, the key priority is take the mutual impact of traffic control measures and regional developments into account during the actual planning phase. Improving public transportation as required means introducing measures that make it more appealing than personal travel solutions. One way to do this is to significantly improve multimodality. This means people can choose between different modes of transportation, such as trains, buses, cars, and bicycles, either between the places they live or between economic or industrial areas within a region. What is important is that intermodality is strengthened, so if different means of travel are needed in a certain sequence in order to reach a destination, they have to be coordinated and this keeps waiting times to a minimum and eases accessibility. There are many cases where such ideas have been at least partially implemented, but without the desired effect.
Using the kinds of innovative information and communication technologies that are now available to us, hand in hand with satellite-based systems, opens the door to completely new ways of solving such problems, however. Doing this means expanding the use of electric vehicles, cars with much more driver assistance technology, and autonomously driven cars. The task is to ensure that these are networked with one another and are equipped with adaptive traffic control mechanisms. By calculating traffic data in advance over a period of many hours, it is possible to work out the impacts of accidents, road closures, or major events. That way, drivers can be informed good and early about the alternatives.
By aggregating data from different traffic and environmental sources, general traffic can be adapted much more effectively to the individual needs of passengers, which makes traveling more appealing. This is especially the case when innovative ways are found to link up different travel solutions, giving people easy access to different transportation options – mobility concepts that are simple to switch to such as car2go, taxi services, buses, or trains. In the medium to long term, this would bring us closer to the goal of achieving significant improvements in the environmental friendliness of human mobility.
We can all look forward to the various challenges and possibilities that this offers to our society. This latest edition of the Steinbeis Transfer Magazine provides you with some interesting insights into the current projects in the Steinbeis Network, many with a direct bearing on modern travel solutions.
With kind regards,
Prof. Dr. habil. Günter Haag