Developing future mobility solutions requires an experimental framework
On a sunny afternoon in June the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, the municipality of Faaborg-Midtfyn and the Danish Design Centre was co-hosting the conference Future Mobility. The purpose of the conference was to gather Danish and international businesses, leading mobility operators and experts in order to discuss the biggest potentials of new technology and the use of data and design methods to foster innovative and scalable solutions to mobility challenges in rural areas. Furthermore, the conference was the kickstart of the dialogue on how to involve citizens, the municipality and businesses in the process.
The ambition with our project in the municipality of Faaborg-Midtfyn is to shed more light on rural mobility. We would very much like to get inspired on how to solve and how to face tomorrows mobility.
The conference was kicked off with an introduction and framing of the context for the theme of the day. The challenges and opportunities that the municipality of Faaborg-Midtfyn face in the coming years were introduced, and it was addressed how the Danish parliament deals with the mobility challenges of the future. These talks served as the background for the subsequent masterclasses and panel discussion.
We have to think of transportation as mobility – as something much wider than just roads, tracks and bus lanes.
Data transparency, sharing resources, and experimentation as the new standard
Focusing on “Mobility as a Service”, “Mobile functions”, “E-mobility” and “Self-driving technology” respectively, four masterclasses engaged the participants in discussions about potential solutions to the mobility challenges which Faaborg-Midtfyn will face in the coming years.
However their different foci, clear themes emerged in the debates of the four masterclasses. Among them were a call for “open standards” with regards to data, to make sure that it is available and transparent. Another suggestion was “facilitated sharing” augmented by digital solutions. “Shared driverless services could turn transportation into an event in itself; travelling time should not be time wasted, but time gained”, one of the participants elaborated.
The ambitious yet realistic goal, that was suggested, is to make the municipality of Faaborg-Midtfyn a platform for experimentation – a test lab for new mobility solutions. New types of regulation and new technology could be tested to see how the community and businesses benefit from the new solutions. Tying it all together, citizen involvement and co-creation with and empowering of local community should be the new standard.
In a project like this, design methodologies can be used to co-design and collaborate – bringing users, stakeholders, public organisations, policymakers and businesses together in a co-creative process to develop new ideas and new concepts.
People-centred innovation and embracing new technology
Following the masterclasses, the panel discussion unfolded some of the recent work and research on future mobility, state of the art of data, the newest technology and design, and the possibilities and challenges related to ‘the fourth industrial revolution’.
“Cities need to tirelessly innovate” stressed Alice Charles of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization. She pointed out that city leaders need to move their cities towards urban transformation; they must do more with less, embrace new technology, leverage data in the best possible way, and this in an inherently people-centred manner. “Cities should think of themselves as logistics companies,” she said, emphasizing the shift in mindset needed for cities to continue thriving in the future.
Electric bikes taking over the streets
On the potential of electric bikes, Jens Martin Skibsted, designer, entrepreneur, and Chairman of the Danish Design Council explained that “there are far more e-bikes than e-cars on the streets right now, at least in Denmark. And the good thing is, people are willing to ride longer distances on these than on regular bikes.”
Electric bikes are fast, economical and environmentally friendly, and they hold great potential as the preferred vehicle in rural areas in the future.
Leveraging data better to make transportation more intelligent
“The world today is awashed in data,” Carlo Ratti, partner in Carlo Ratti Associati and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, began his talk. He pointed out that a more intelligent use of all this existing data can inform us greatly about people’s actual transportation habits and needs, while at the same time enabling us to meet those needs by developing intelligent solutions on the basis of them.
Engaging citizens and businesses - together
Tying it all together, Ida Auken, Member of Parliament and Former Minister for the Environment of Denmark, suggested that doing more of what we already do well in Denmark – working across sectors and involving the users – is the way forward. Whether the focus is leveraging data, creating sound mobility services, or pushing for digital transformation, we need to engage the people who are at the centre of it all. “Citizen engagement is crucial if we are to come up with successful solutions to the challenges that we face in the future,” she concluded.