The Future of Urban Transportation


Sitting in traffic for hours on end isn’t just annoying—it can be costly. This is driving a global need to depart from overdependence on private cars. Ride-hailing and micromobility services are helping, but they remain confined to certain roads and […]

Sitting in traffic for hours on end isn’t just annoying—it can be costly. This is driving a global need to depart from overdependence on private cars.

Ride-hailing and micromobility services are helping, but they remain confined to certain roads and neighborhoods. Residents need more options and more public transportation infrastructure.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will revolutionize urban mobility in many ways. For example, AVs will make mass transit and public transport services more efficient, thanks to their ability to brake promptly in response to electronic sensors that track their surroundings. They will also allow for a more flexible service, as passengers can exit and enter the vehicle with greater ease and frequency.

In fact, AVs are already available to the public as driverless shuttles from companies such as Navya and Easymile. The vehicles are powered by electric engines and have a maximum capacity of 15 passengers, making them ideal for commuter or shopping trips. Moreover, AVs can be shared by multiple users, reducing costs and increasing accessibility.

However, the AVs of the future will be capable of much more than what current systems can do. Several automobile manufacturers and technology companies are currently working on cars with Level 3 automation, which can drive themselves in specific conditions but still require the driver to take over when necessary. Eventually, highly automated vehicles will reach Level 5, which can drive themselves anywhere without the need for specialized infrastructure or dedicated lane markings.

AVs will also have an impact on land use. If private AVs become increasingly attractive and affordable, they will encourage more people to buy them, resulting in increased traffic and urban sprawl. Conversely, if AVs are used in combination with robust public transportation networks and made more accessible to lower-income households, they may help reduce travel times and costs.

Electric Vehicles

The increasing concern about the environmental impact of the petroleum-based transportation infrastructure and the fear of peak oil led to renewed interest in electric vehicles (EVs). They run solely on electricity, either from a battery that can be plugged in to recharge or a fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity. The energy they consume can be produced from a variety of sources including fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewables such as wind and solar power.

As EVs become more widespread, the use of electricity will decrease our dependence on oil. They are also quieter than ICEVs, so they can reduce the high levels of noise in urban areas caused by road traffic.

In addition, many cities are implementing car-sharing programs to allow residents to share and rent EVs when they need them. This will allow them to reduce their car ownership costs and help the environment by reducing unused vehicle miles.

Despite these benefits, EVs still face numerous barriers that must be overcome before they can make a significant impact on the future of urban transportation. A key hurdle is the cost of EVs. In order to be competitive with ICEVs, they must be priced at less than $30k. Additionally, EV owners are likely to need charging stations at home, work, and other locations. Therefore, it is important to build in these capabilities in new buildings when they are constructed.

Smart Cities

Cities can benefit greatly by embracing smart technology. It can help reduce costs and improve efficiency in areas like energy distribution, trash collection and traffic management. By using sensors, a city can better maintain its infrastructure, reducing the need for costly construction projects in the future.

Other benefits include improved public transportation services, including real-time updates on bus and train schedules. Smart traffic signals and control systems can monitor current congestion levels, and optimize signal timing to relieve congestion during peak travel times. Autonomous cars can also improve traffic flow, allowing for faster ride-sharing and more efficient vehicle routing.

In addition, Smart Cities can use sensors to monitor air quality, allowing for more effective strategies to combat pollution. This may include changing traffic flows, redirecting emissions or even closing off some streets to vehicles at certain times.

The key to successful smart city initiatives is the participation of local leaders. They must be willing to experiment with innovative technologies and solutions to solve their citizens’ problems. Ultimately, the best smart cities will be those that can successfully combine their unique sets of resources to offer the most value to their residents and visitors. For example, cities that integrate ridesharing with public transit can allow commuters to get to work more efficiently. Similarly, a city with smart parking meters can enable digital payment, eliminating the need to spend time searching for an open spot.

Air Taxis

Imagine traveling from Liverpool to Hull in 20 minutes instead of taking two hours by train or car. That could soon be a reality thanks to air taxis. These small aircraft are designed to fly commuters from local airports to their destinations, bypassing traffic and flight delays. They use electric power, so they emit far less carbon than a conventional passenger vehicle.

The Californian company Joby Aviation is leading the way with an eVTOL that has completed more than 1,000 test flights. Other manufacturers have similar designs in the works and are working with real estate companies and vehicle parking managers to build the first vertiports for these vehicles.

According to a recent study conducted by EASA, the public supports urban air mobility and would be willing to try out these new forms of transportation. But it will take a lot of work to make it a reality. There are regulatory issues to tackle, including the need for a unified global system of rules and regulations for both piloted and autonomous eVTOLs, as well as the development of infrastructure like vertiports where these vehicles can take off and land.

Other challenges include the need to ensure that eVTOLs can integrate with existing transportation systems, and that they comply with aviation safety requirements. In addition, there will be a need to develop innovative business models for these new vehicles, such as pay-per-ride, corporate lease, or mobility as a service (MaaS). All of these will help drive the growth of UAM and its integration into multimodal transport systems.

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