The interface between technology and mobility: A scientific overview of the current state of affairs

The interface between technology and mobility: A scientific overview of the current state of affairs

Futuristic-looking vehicles are just part of a comprehensive mobility revolution. © Maximalfocus,

Mobility plays a crucial role in the sustainability development of cities. The population density is growing, and concepts for mass mobility are becoming correspondingly important. A further look into the future points to self-driving cars and artificial intelligence for maximum safety. Many ambitious goals should be achieved by 2030. Modern technologies are a basic building block for the development of mobility in the future.

Plans alone are not enough, implementation is important. The example of the 9 euro ticket in 2022 showed how important the relevant logistics are. Although it was possible to move masses, the capacity was not there.

E-mobility continues to develop

When it comes to the term e-mobility, the e-car is of particular importance. One Study by the Association of Engineers (VDI) in collaboration with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) showed that the ecological balance of hybrids and electric cars is significantly higher than that of combustion engines. This is relevant from 90,000 kilometers traveled. Ecology can be improved by generating electricity from renewable sources.

In the study, researchers directly compared the resulting emissions. It started with the production of the vehicles, because there are differences here too. There is clearly potential for improvement in electric cars.

Battery production still takes place primarily in Asia, where there is little understanding of renewable energies. By the time the battery has reached German production, it already has a large CO2 footprint. If this factor can be avoided in the long term, the ecological balance of electric cars will increase significantly.

Consumers have already recognized the advantage; around 2.3 electric cars are on Germany’s roads. New registration will be tax-exempt until the end of 2030, with the aim of promoting the willingness to use e-mobility. The following graphic gives a practical overview of how widespread electric cars are in Germany.

E-mobility infographic
© Source: smava

The role of rail transport in the future

Until Studies predict this by 2030 that multimodal transport solutions become established. Rail systems are primarily used for long distances. Freight transport plays just as important a role as passenger transport.

The DB Group decided at the beginning of the 2020s to increasingly rely on hydrogen vehicles. They replace trains with classic diesel engines. The railway made large investments to expand a hydrogen refueling network.

Local generation is a future-oriented system and takes place through wind power and photovoltaic systems. In a future scenario, the study cited above assumes that the number of hydrogen filling stations will increase from 100 (early 2020) to 1000 (2030).

New concepts in mobility development

Areas of the economy and life in Germany and other industrialized countries depend on mobility solutions. The number of transport services in freight and passenger transport is increasing, but there is an increasing push for more environmental protection.

Thanks to digitalization, there is the potential to develop a new mobility structure. Modern and future-proof concepts rely primarily on the interaction between means of transport, goods, infrastructure and people.

In 2017, a study found that humans travel 3.2 billion kilometers per day. At that time, 75% of these kilometers were covered by car. The additional traffic volume caused by freight movements was not taken into account in these statistics. The estimate here was 666 billion tonne kilometers (as of 2018).

Around the to make new mobility attractive and at the same time sustainable, innovative and comprehensive concepts are needed. To date, the expansion of e-charging stations in Germany is too weak and local public transport capacity is not sufficient.

Digitalization makes it possible to develop new types of systems and at the same time use existing data for optimization. Individuality plays an important role here, because social development does not work the same way in every place.

The trend is towards individual mobility; from a consumer perspective, interest in mass movements is rather low. In addition, each region has its own requirements and lifestyles. The same system may not be suitable for every location.

The future laboratory for mobility determined what solutions of the future must deliver:

  • Multimodal approaches with a holistic focus are necessary
  • Planning and later coordination through the use of digital technologies
  • Interaction through increased sharing offerings
  • Strong networking for exchanging data

In order to develop an efficient mobility network, the needs of the users play a major role. People’s demands are different in urban areas than in rural areas. It will be crucial to provide all groups of people with a well-structured connection to public transport.

Especially in remote regions, people often have the problem of not being connected to the hubs. If the bus only runs three times a day, using the car is almost mandatory. In the future, it will be necessary to prevent such predicaments and to ensure an offer tailored to the user.

The role of artificial intelligence in mobility

Changing mobile concepts is about protecting the earth and the environment on the one hand, and increasing safety on the other. Optical character and facial recognition using AI will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s traffic control.

Using intelligent cameras, it is already technically possible to observe traffic events by segmenting them. AI systems recognize traffic signs, objects and road users and can independently distinguish them from each other.

When it comes to developing future-oriented concepts, AI is not only a key factor, but essential. With automated driving, hopes are not only placed on more intelligence, but also on increased safety.

The accident statistics in recent years have still been worrying, but AI should significantly reduce the number of accidents in the future. Increased safety will significantly change the implementation of innovative mobility concepts.

People often make decisions intuitively and based on feeling. AI systems act purely logically and analytically and decide in a split second how to react to the ball on the street. This helps to promote road safety, reduce traffic jams and create more comfortable mobility.

An interesting approach from TU Wien is that autonomous and AI-based models will not completely replace existing traffic. In order to make a serious contribution to the planned mobility transition, AI systems must be seen as a supplement and not a replacement. Automated vehicles can help expand existing public transport.

However, a complete replacement of all human drivers is unrealistic. One of the main problems in public transport is the lack of staff. The result is overloading, which in turn increases the risk of accidents. In the long term, autonomous vehicles could make it possible to relieve the burden on human drivers and thus contribute to greater safety on the road.

How will mobility management succeed in the future?

A functioning society depends on mobility. In order to function, there must be efficient options for transport from A to B. At this point, sound mobility management is needed.

This instrument serves the goal-oriented control of mobility and transport in cities, regions and organizations. The aim behind it is to improve transport and reduce the impact on the environment. This increases the quality of life of everyone who participates in transport.

There are various goals that need to be implemented in the short or long term for modern mobility management of the future:

  • Creating solutions and promoting alternative means of transport
  • Networking individual mobility solutions to reduce traffic
  • Increasing the quality of life through more socially acceptable design

Here too, it is primarily the needs of road users that are important as a basis for decisions. In order to switch to public and alternative transport, the user must be satisfied with the offer.

At the beginning of 2024, many train drivers in Germany are disappointed because there is too little comfort due to strikes, a lack of staff and poor quality. It is therefore important to find solutions for everyday life that are relevant for the user and can actually be implemented.

A well-known European example is the country of Sweden. It is considered a pioneer in e-mobility and has broad acceptance of alternative mobility solutions among the population.

In order to achieve lasting success, the interaction of different areas is important. This starts with operational mobility management. CO2 emissions are largely caused by rush hour traffic as management is still lacking in companies. The employer doesn’t care how their employees get to work.

In the interests of sustainability, it is important to expand mobility concepts at the company level. Leading companies in Germany are already relying on this and, for example, are integrating the promotion of e-bikes for employees. It showed in an investigation (PDF-Doc) that municipalities also benefit from the willingness of private companies.

The next step is required at the local level. Healthy and livable cities are one of society’s wishes and this only works with efficient mobility management.

Networking plays an important role because not every means of transport takes the participant to their destination. The combination of trains and buses with bicycles, sharing systems and ride-sharing cars is a crucial feature of the new mobility. It is already clear today that cities are ready to rethink.

Bicycle rentals are available in more and more large and small cities, and the network of e-scooters is more extensive than ever before. The offers are actively used by consumers. This makes it clear that society is willing to change.

Conclusion: Modern technology is changing the mobility of tomorrow!

The history of the development of modern mobility is immense. Society has changed from using oxen and horses and using our own muscle power to electronic mobility.

Due to climate change, the new era of sustainability is approaching. The reduction of fossil fuels such as diesel, coal and gasoline is probably still the core issue of tomorrow’s mobility.

There are different approaches to achieve the combined goals. Key factors are consumer satisfaction, technical innovations, artificial intelligence and efficient planning.


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