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Pictures of the Future



Mr. Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel


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Werner-von-Siemens-Straße 1
80333 Munich

Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation

The Future of Mobility

Rethinking How Cities Work

Many rural areas could this transition from cars to bicycles that assist a rider’s pedaling with an electric motor – so-called will initially take the form of pedelecs.

The vision of the car-friendly city has lost its charm. Today, mobility in congested urban areas means smart connectivity – not only for private cars but also for the booming commercial transport sector.

By 2050, 70 percent of the people on earth will live in cities. And if current trends continue, those people are likely to face even more crowded conditions, polluted air, and overburdened infrastructures than we do today. Urbanization statistics warn us that the quality of life in many cities will be decided by the degree to which major cities can implement intelligent, sustainable transport solutions.

The good news from the World Health Organization (WHO) is that cities can significantly improve their air quality through local measures, including efficient state-of-the-art solutions for creating smart infrastructure as well as simple and quickly implemented measures such as traffic regulations and attractive offers for pedestrians and cyclists.

In fact, the use of private cars is decreasing in many big cities and people are traveling greater distances on foot, on bicycles and  via local public transportation. Yesterday’s vision of the car-friendly city is increasingly becoming obsolete.

The StreetScooter is an electric delivery van, developed in-house and produced by Deutsche Post.

CO2-neutral Amazon Deliveries?

London is a great example of the fact that less car traffic means better air quality. Ten years ago, it introduced a congestion charge for vehicles driving within the city center. This payment system is managed with the help of sophisticated Siemens technology. The result has been a 20 percent reduction in traffic, two thirds less congestion, and 150,000 tons less CO2 emissions per year.

A major roadblock, however, is commercial transport, especially by means of diesel-fueled vehicles, which is still increasing. Much of this increase is due to the delivery of packages ordered through the ever-growing online trade – and this increase cuts right across congestion charging zones. Here too, climate-neutral solutions are on the horizon – for example through the use of electric commercial vehicles such as the StreetScooter, which was developed by Deutsche Post.

Solutions against gridlocks: Riyadh is now planning the world's biggest subway project, which will be 175 kilometers long.

Investing in Public Transit

Clearly, simply banning cars is not an effective solution. Instead, cities must offer alternatives – not only for road traffic, but also for rail transportation. The city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is a good example of the tremendous efforts that are being made in this area. Riyadh, which has five million inhabitants and is still rapidly growing, is now planning the world's biggest subway project, which will be 175 kilometers long. The system’s rail cars will come from Siemens, which has already built driverless subway trains for the city.

Riyadh is still rapidly growing and planning the world's biggest subway project. The system’s rail cars will come from Siemens.

Green Light for Bicycles

Of course, subways don’t deliver passengers to their front doors. So what’s needed is integrated mobility that creates dense transport networks – a seamless combination of transportation modalities. Bicycles are becoming increasingly significant in this mix, in part because the success of electric bikes has enabled many city dwellers to move quickly, safely and inexpensively from door to door. The switch to bikes could be encouraged by offering solutions such as the SiBike smartphone app from Siemens, which enables cyclists to take advantage of phased traffic lights. When a cyclist approaches an intersection, the app communicates with the traffic light, which automatically switches to green.

The SiBike smartphone app from Siemens enables cyclists to take advantage of phased traffic lights.

Infrastructure projects of this kind make it possible to reduce urban traffic quickly and at minimal expense. Meanwhile, the real revolution – the advent of digital systems throughout transportation ecosystems – is proceeding invisibly. This process is the prerequisite for providing urban planners and local authorities with the information they need in order to make sustainable decisions. Such information may eventually become so granular that cities may one day be able to autonomously make themselves more efficient.

Digital Infrastructures

A model project of this kind is now running in Singapore. In pursuit of its goal to become a “smart nation,” the city-state is introducing an operating system from Siemens called MindSphere – essentially a gigantic toolbox for improving the performance of urban infrastructures ranging from energy supply systems to healthcare services and transportation. All of this may sound futuristic, but in fact the city of tomorrow will probably not look very different from today’s cities. That’s the opinion of Carlo Ratti, a professor in the Urban Studies and Planning department of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He points out that the primary difference will be in  the use of digital technologies, which will turnour cities into “open-air computers.” Such cities will connect transportation systems into smart networks, thus boosting sustainability and improving the quality of life.

Bernd Müller
Picture credits: from top: gettyimages, Imago, gettyimages