Intermodal mobility: it’s all in the mix

What will count in the cities of tomorrow will be getting to your destination in the simplest way, not what means of transportation you use. Will cars be unnecessary in the future?

When the topic of how we will live in the future is discussed, the ideal of a car-free city is often brought up. Cars are too dirty, too loud, and too space-consuming to continue to be a part of livable urban spaces. Indeed, roads and parking areas account for nearly one-fifth of the infrastructure built in cities today. Furthermore, whoever travels through a city by car often needs patience. The search for a parking space constitutes up to 30 percent of urban traffic.

Cities and cars – are they simply incompatible? At first glance, it would seem so. Yet this contrast will soon be history. Those who still call for car-free cities today overlook the facts that transportation and mobility will fundamentally change thanks to technological developments and that this change will affect cities considerably. So-called intermodal mobility is of central importance here. Behind the complex term is a simple yet intelligent principle: to get from A to B, various means of transportation can be combined seamlessly with each other. Whether public transportation, cars or rental vehicles – what you use to get to your destination is no longer important, but how, namely quickly and efficiently.

One destination, many options!

The principle originates from freight transport. In logistics, it has long been common practice to transport goods with different means of transportation. Supply chains include everything from airplanes to ships and trains and down to cargo bikes. In the future, it will be common that chains of transportation for individual persons will be spread over various means of transport. There are already apps and platforms that combine different service providers and different means of transportation. Gradually, these will become even more intelligent: they integrate current traffic situations into route planning and include the parking situation at the destination. Integrated payment systems that allow customers to pay for their trip with just a few clicks despite using different means of transportation are also being developed.

Cars will remain an integral part of this networked urban mobility because they allow flexibility up to your front door. This makes intermodality really attractive. Furthermore, automobiles will continue to complement the mobility mix as part of car-sharing fleets. The increasing number of users shows that such options are valued by customers, especially station-independent car-sharing, which German manufacturers have introduced and pushed forward. At the beginning of 2016, nearly two-thirds of the 1.26 million registered car-sharing users were registered with station-independent programs.

Clean, quiet, and networked

Thus, cars will still be driving in the cities of tomorrow and beyond. However, their appearance will change. They will be quieter, cleaner, and smarter. For electric vehicles, cities today are already the ideal environment. More than 90 percent of all driving routes are under 50 kilometers. Statistically speaking, the range of one battery charge, which is still a barrier for many customers, is sufficient for several days.

Increasing networking and automation is also making cars more suitable for city use. For example, using a mobile phone or smartwatch after taking the train or the metro, you will be able to conveniently request that an autonomous vehicle come to the station. Having arrived at the destination, you will not have to spend a lot of time searching for a parking space, but will instead allow the car to do this with the push of a button. For some, this may still sound like science fiction, but initial versions of such cars can already park without driver assistance.

Thanks to the work being done to develop the fully automated vehicle, it is only a matter of time before self-driving, electrically powered cars can transport people safely from their front door to their destinations. People with reduced mobility will become more independent, and cities will be clean and spacious. The automobile will not be a problem for the city of tomorrow – it will be part of the solution.