This article focuses on “Smart Mobility” and why transportation is one of the paramount issues of Smart Cities development. The mobility and accessibility of a city is often seen as a major issue of development, because it represents both citizen advantages and comfort, and ecological responsibilities. Actually, if there are many disparities between transportation of the different cities, they all aim to develop to better serve their city and to develop ecological ways of transportation in order to create a responsible mobility.

Smart Mobility: Initiatives that aim to reduce transport CO2 emissions; improve public transport infrastructure and reduce congestion; make public transport safer, faster and more connected.                              

Why is it important?

Much like Energy, Mobility is a major aspect of all cities looking to be sustainable, technologically advanced and prepared for the future. The main focus of mobility is the transport sector, which is projected to account for 64.4% of total energy use in the EU in 2030 and 29.5% of CO2 emissions. Therefore, city authorities are increasingly under pressure on an international level to reduce energy use and thus, CO2 emissions in their respective cities. As a result, numerous initiatives have been planned, trialled and/ or deployed across Europe to pioneer the next generation of smart mobility.          

Decrease CO2 emissions: the main goal of smart mobility?

The biggest challenge facing the transport sector is the over-reliance on fossil fuels, especially petroleum and diesel, as sources of energy. For the cities to achieve their CO2 emissions and air quality goals, this trend needs to be altered. So, there is a clear pattern in the initiatives being undertaken across the cities being evaluated in this report. A large proportion of the projects either involve increasing the number of electric vehicle (EV) use or increasing the number of people using bicycles to travel around the cities. Another growing area of interest in smart mobility is the implementation of smart traffic management systems. Several cities are involved in rolling out cloud connected, live traffic information systems to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.   

What are the main differences in European cities regarding smart mobility?

There are some factors to take into consideration when analyzing and comparing smart mobility initiatives in the European cities chosen for our study. As the cities differ significantly in terms of size, population and geographic location, it is important to keep in mind that certain aspects of certain cities are being focused on more heavily than others. Hence, there are disparities when trying to draw one to one comparisons. For example, London is the most populous of the cities with a population of 8.3 million. The London Underground is a vital part of the public transport system and thus, receives much attention from the city authorities. By comparison, Milton Keynes, the smallest city by population, has around 230,000 inhabitants and no underground rail network. So, the focus on smart mobility for Milton Keynes is different to London’s.          

The example of electric vehicles:

Looking at the initiatives in EV use, Paris is the leader in Europe, having over 600 charging stations in the city alone. After that, Amsterdam and London are two cities heavily promoting EV ownership through installing EV charging stations throughout the cities. In Amsterdam, there are 400 charging stations and the Source London scheme has given Londoners access to approximately 800 charging stations. This accounts to 0.42 and 0.5 charging stations per square kilometer for Amsterdam and London, respectively. Both cities have a clear, long-term vision for EV’s with Amsterdam looking to steadily increase EV numbers through to 2020 and London planning to be the EV capital of Europe by having 100,000 EV’s on the road with 1,200 charging stations across the city. Paris already has 5.7 stations per square kilometer and even hire electric cars that can be rented for short periods of time. These initiatives have been made possible through partnerships with global carmakers such as Renault-Nissan and Toyota.

Promoting cycling: the other solution

For smaller cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, promoting the use of bicycles has been important. For Amsterdam particularly, this has been an ever long vision. 73% of Amsterdammers own a bicycle making the city the ’cycling capital of Europe. To compete with Amsterdam’s enviable cycling uptake, Barcelona pioneered the Bicing bicycle rental scheme in 2007 which has been mimicked in Copenhagen, London, Paris and Vienna to great success. The next step in the evolution of this scheme is providing users with an app that tracks empty spots, borrowed bikes, rental and commuting times. This has been deployed successfully in Barcelona enabling users to always be connected and informed.

What is “Smart traffic management”?

The most technologically advanced projects being trialled in some cities, and already deployed in others, is one that falls under the smart traffic management category. They vary slightly city to city but, the basic feature is the installation of a cloud enabled system that tracks traffic flow in the cities and provides real time information to road users. The goal is to improve congestion by giving drivers optimal routes to reach their destinations which in turn reduces time wasted travelling and decreases CO2 emissions. An added benefit is quicker response times for emergency services due to lower congestion on roads. Vienna and Milton Keynes both have plans to introduce such a system, albeit with differing goals. Vienna is more focused on improving emergency response times whereas Milton Keynes wants citizens to know if there is an alternative mode of transport than driving their car. As over 70% of journeys are made by car, there is a push to use more public buses. In contrast, Hamburg have already begun a pilot project for their smart traffic management system. Originally planned as a logistics IT solution, designed to link up port-based companies, partners and customers more closely and limited to only serve the Port of Hamburg, the scheme was extended to incorporate intelligent parking, a fully integrated traffic management system, smart streetlights and monitoring of port infrastructure.

Different cities: different initiatives?

It is important to note that smart mobility covers a wide range of aspects of a city, so the direction taken by each of the cities is different. Actually, the size of the city plays a major role in the choice of initiatives. Additionally, the ‘smartest’ of the cities, Barcelona, Hamburg and Vienna, seem to have populations in the narrow range of 1.7 to 1.8 million. This is interesting as it could mean that larger cities like Paris (2.2 million) and London (8.3 million) may be too big to manage as a whole and conversely, smaller cities like Milton Keynes (230,000) and Copenhagen (570,000) may not have the urgency to implement smart mobility initiatives.     


Smart Mobility Ranking on 8 European Smart Cities                                  


From an Imperial College & BearingPoint study