Urban mobility: What does the future hold?

Urban mobility is increasingly becoming a service. Especially in cities, flexible offers to combine different means of transport from A to B are playing an increasingly important role. Because especially in metropolitans, traffic jams have been increasing for years and parking spaces are becoming increasingly scarce. The solution is multimodal mobility, which means that a high availability of alternative means of transport increases the willingness to use sharing services or on-demand offers and makes the use of cars less attractive. A development that is also to be welcomed from an ecological point of view.

Urban Mobility of the Future: Solutions

The key to the solution lies in multimodal mobility, i.e. the flexible use and combination of different modes of transport. The four most important solutions that will shape the future of urban mobility are as follows:

Urban mobility is increasingly becoming a service. Especially in cities, flexible offers to combine different means of transport to get from A to B are playing an increasingly important role.

read more: Mobility Hub

New Mobility is a collective term that summarises many innovations and concepts around the topic of urban mobility. The much-discussed topics include, for example, concepts on smart parking, micromobility, bikesharing, carsharing, e-scooter rentals, etc.

read more: New Mobility

Smart Mobility encompasses a wide range of new alternative as well as conventional means of transport, including gas and electric vehicles, bicycles and e-scooters, car-sharing and ride-hailing services as well as autonomous vehicles, rail lines, buses, trams, cable cars, ships etc.

read more: Smart Mobility

Mobility as a Service - MaaS for short - is described as the biggest transport revolution of the 21st century. The idea behind MaaS is to put the users of transport at the centre and provide them with customised mobility offers everywhere. Matching the individual needs of city dwellers, they can choose from a bundle of flexible travel offers at any time and thus get from A to B efficiently.

read more: Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

Challenges of urban mobility

Urban mobility of the future will become sustainable, or rather must become more sustainable. There is little doubt about this when one takes a closer look at the transport policy challenges that most cities and metropolitans around the world are battling against:

  • increasing traffic jams 

  • rising accident figures

  • too much individual traffic

  • too long waiting times at traffic lights

  • too few parking spaces

  • too much CO₂ & too much particulate matter

  • high noise & sound level

  • increasingly bad air

  • increasing health problems

  • inefficient logistics

  • unnecessary journeys to find a parking space

  • public transport services that are too unattractive

Good to know: The biggest challenge, however, is that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for all cities, as geographical characteristics play a major role in transport planning. In Rome or Barcelona, the use of scooters is climatically more attractive than in northern German cities. Flat cities like Amsterdam are predestined to be cycling cities, which is not the case with hilly Stuttgart, for example.

7 concrete trends for urban mobility of the future

To meet these challenges, many technologies and trends are being discussed that (should) enable more sustainable urban mobility. The biggest 7 trends that will shape urban mobility in the future are briefly presented below.

#1 Trend: Fewer private cars

The most important arguments why there is a need for fewer private cars in cities are:

  • Up to 40 per cent of traffic in cities is spent looking for a parking space.

  • According to studies, one car-sharing car can replace between 8 and 20 cars.

  • If less parking space is needed, more green spaces can be created.

  • Fewer cars on the streets mean more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Good to know: The biggest challenge will be to make new (as well as old) means of transport as attractive and universally available as possible, so that road users can travel at least as flexibly and as quickly as they currently do by car.

#2 Trend: Alternative fuels and drive systems

Regardless of whether the urban mobility of the future relies on electromobility, hydrogen, solar technology or hybrid drives: experts (largely) agree that we are in a transitional period from the "fossil to the post-fossil age". There are good reasons for this:

  • All internal combustion engines together cause around 30 % of all CO₂ emissions within the EU.

  • Private car traffic alone accounts for 60% of these emissions.

  • Low-CO₂ fuels will therefore contribute to meeting CO₂ emission limits and other climate targets.

  • Finally, electric motors and hybrid drives contribute to better air quality.

#3 Trend: Autonomous driving

Autonomously driving vehicles will certainly shape urban mobility in the future, but the technology will not assert itself overnight. Rather, the path towards autonomous driving will proceed in several steps:

Step 1:   assisted driving (e.g. parking or lane assistants).
Step 2:  partially automated driving (hand remains on the handlebar)
Step 3:  highly automated driving (hands-free driving possible to a limited extent)
Step 4:  autonomous driving (vehicle drives itself)

Good to know: The biggest benefits that autonomous vehicles will bring are: fewer parking spaces, more green spaces, lower emissions, increased efficiency and, above all, more safety: approximately 90% of all car accidents are caused by human error.

#4 Trend: Connected vehicles

The steps towards autonomous driving are closely interwoven with networking between vehicles (e.g. car-to-car communication). Here are two examples:

  • Cars or lines of cars that brake and accelerate at the same time increase the flow of traffic.

  • Vehicles driving ahead can warn other road users in real time - e.g. of obstacles, black ice, road works, etc. and thus minimise the risk of accidents.

Good to know: Fewer traffic jams, fewer accidents, hardly any stop-and-go traffic and more traffic flow - these are the major advantages that connected vehicles will bring in the future.

#5 Trend: Connected transport systems

In addition, networking between vehicles and traffic systems will also play an important role in the future, the so-called Car-to-X communication. What are the advantages if, for example, traffic lights and other traffic control systems are networked with the vehicles of a city?

  • Traffic lights that respond to real-time data have been shown to reduce waiting times by up to 40 % and increase traffic flow by up to 60 %.

  • Automated systems can monitor compliance with traffic rules (speeds, distances, etc.) much more efficiently and thus contribute to greater safety in urban road traffic.

#6 Trend: Mobility on demand

If you can access the means of transport of your choice - e.g. rental car, e-scooter, e-bike, etc. – at any time, it will be easier for you to do without your car more often or even permanently. The key to success is: Mobility on demand. 

Ideally, this concept works like this:

  • If all accessible means of transport are centrally linked and can be accessed via an app, you can simply book the vehicle that will get you from A to B the fastest.

  • Central apps on the smartphone also make it possible for road users to share means of transport in a meaningful way (keyword: shared mobility).

#7 Trend: Shared Mobility

Many city dwellers already use mobility services such as car sharing or ridehailing. The latter means booking rides on demand, e.g. via Uber. The market share of the ride-sharing market is still relatively small, but it still holds great potential in the future.

  • As long as drivers control private vehicles, the profitability of ridehailing is rather low.

  • However, as soon as such ridehailing services are offered by autonomously operating vehicles, this will significantly reduce the cost of travel per kilometre and thus attract many more customers.

  • And there is something else that car-sharing or ride-hailing cars have over passenger cars: they do not have to park in city centres, but can be located where there is really space, e.g. in central car parks.

Conclusion: Urban mobility of the future

By 2025, the world's population will have grown to more than 8 billion people. Of these, more and more people live in cities. Despite this development, urban mobility in the future will have to reconcile climate change, space and resource scarcity.

One of Germany's largest management consultancies defines four major trends in this regard that will significantly shape the future of urban mobility:

  1. Autonomous Driving

  2. Connectivity

  3. Electrification

  4. Shared Mobility

Therefore, the availability and exchange of (traffic) data will play a key role in reducing private car use in the city while still guaranteeing maximum availability and flexibility for residents.

Last but not least: urban mobility is increasingly becoming a service that puts the individual needs of city dwellers in the foreground. Depending on the city or place of residence, various alternative means of transport will be available in the future. Always ready for use, safe, environmentally friendly and efficient.

FAQs – Frequently asked questions briefly explained

Urban mobility refers to future scenarios of how traffic in cities can be organised more efficiently and sustainably. The flexible use and combination of different means of transport plays a major role in this in order to reduce individual transport.

Good to know: New transport concepts and alternative means of transport should ideally always fit the topographical conditions of a city. This is the only way that far-reaching transformation processes can meet with broad acceptance among the population.

The future of urban mobility will mainly be shaped by four major trends that are already in the starting blocks:

  • Autonomous driving

  • Connectivity

  • Electrification

  • Shared Mobility

The main goals of urban mobility can be summarised as follows:

  • Efficiency in traffic flow: e.g. through more traffic data and better networking.

  • Greater safety: e.g. through autonomous vehicles and automatic early warning systems.

  • More environmental protection: e.g. by reducing emissions and using alternative fuels.

Small, quiet, electric? Cars that drive themselves? As hybrids? Much is speculation. Two things are certain: 1. cars will not simply disappear from the scene as individual means of transport. 2. fewer internal combustion engines will be produced in the future.