The Experts’ Vision on Smart Mobility

How will we organize urban mobility in the future? Using a smart city model with self-driving cars and flying taxis? A hundred experts from the fields of science, industry, culture, and sociology share their view of the future with BMW. Here are their insights into the most exciting scenarios.

Imagine an app that combines features of Tinder with those of Uber. We can use “Tuber,” as the app is named, to find car-sharing opportunities and select our preferred drivers and fellow passengers. This is how Tuber represents the future of mobility – as a transportation system that not only gets people from A to B but brings people together.

The idea of Tuber originated at the BMW Group 2018 rad°hub gathering in Rotterdam. In a series of workshops that took place there, around 100 experts explored the future of transportation systems and smart mobility. They also considered such questions as what “smart habitats” will look like. How will our lives change when everything is interlinked in a kind of “connected living?” And how can we ensure our economic systems are sustainable, creating a “circular economy,” as experts call it?

Meet Kim, a 35-year-old woman living with her child in a suburb of Paris. Kim’s husband used to be a taxi driver. Why “used to be?” Because we are now in the year 2030 and in this future scenario of urban mobility, conventional taxis no longer exist. And neither do private cars – because they are not necessary in this city of the future!

Instead, the entire public transportation system operates with a system of autonomous and intelligent cells. These modes of transport offer customized services, such as a flying conference room, a mobile physiotherapy treatment room, and a traveling hair salon. Because services travel to people via these cells, residents like Kim have much less need for transport.

Mobility services are also less important in a professional context, thanks to innovative technologies. On “Virtual Mobility Day,” Kim can work as a self-employed healthcare consultant from the comfort of her own home. She meets customers and colleagues from all over the world in her living room – with the aid of highly sophisticated hologram technology.

Kim’s personal assistant, depicted here as a snowman, helps provide efficient mobility services. He optimizes her daily routines, suggesting the most appropriate mobility option at all times. He also takes Kim’s preferences into account.

With the time she saves through these more efficient mobility solutions, Kim gets to spend more time with her loved ones and on volunteering for the local “community day.” Kim’s biggest luxury, however, is her digital detox day – a day she spends only with real people whom she visits on her trusty old bicycle. 

What we see here is a model of the “circular economy.” To save resources, reduce waste, and conserve energy all emissions are either reused or recycled. In this scenario of the future city, waste is used to produce the energy needed to manufacture the industrial goods required for connected living. The city thereby supplies its own needs. It’s worth mentioning that while everything is computer-controlled in this scenario, genuine interpersonal encounters are at the heart of the system.

The smart city integrates many of the things that can be found in very different locations in urban and rural settings today. For instance housing, mobility services, agriculture, and energy production all operate within this autonomous environment. Energy systems, too, are decentralized. Pedestrians and cyclists, for example, help to supply the energy needed for a whole fleet of electric cars. Special coatings on sidewalks and cycle paths convert the surface pressure into electrical energy. Even children at the playground are a source of kinetic energy: Whenever they use the slide, the frictional heat is converted into electricity.

In this scenario of the future, the families live in a high-tech modern apartment block. The connectivity that comes with digitization is especially helpful for creating free time, which people can spend on their friendships, relationships, and other important aspects of life. And what’s more, connectivity also makes life easier. For example, a robot records which family members are currently home and serves them dinner in a way that’s tailored to the children’s preferences or their grandfather’s special diet.

The roof of the apartment block is home to a landscaped garden that is used to produce food for the building’s residents in an “urban farming” scheme. The building itself generates electricity – energy its occupants use to power the electric cars and bikes they use for trips to the countryside in their leisure time.

Overall, there is less of a need for mobility solutions in this scenario. The intelligent apartment block now incorporates several functions that are currently spread out over different locations, such as jobs that involve networking with the outside world. And when people feel like a break from being connected, they can still do that – by spending time in a special offline room that has no data connection.

This space is located within a smart city and is intrinsically designed to be intelligent. Everything is easy to use, multifunctional, and based on the principles of sharing, learning, and connectivity. In this connected city, self-driving cars are taken for granted.

People go to this smart habitat to cook and to meet other people. Or to work. The space automatically adapts to its visitors’ needs and preferences. However, people can also pay a virtual visit to the habitat. In terms of energy, it is self-supporting. It generates its own power for electric cars and even produces its own food, like fruit and vegetables. Similarly, any garbage is recycled within the habitat itself.

At the heart of this scenario is an entity that guides the operations – a kind of benevolent spirit. By this, we don’t mean a friendly algorithm or even a robot. Instead, the city’s inhabitants will select a real human being from within their ranks as the steward for this smart habitat. That person will understand the needs of every single visitor and ensure that everyone feels perfectly at ease.

This scenario is set in the year 2028 in a major European city. Thanks to the urban garden and urban farming movements, the boundaries between the city and the countryside have been blurred. The city is organized de-centrally in so-called “hubs.” These hubs contain everything you need, reducing the demand for mobility solutions in this smart city. Even so, in this scenario people can still travel whenever they want.

Going way beyond self-driving cars, the infrastructure is built around a sophisticated mass transportation system that relies on magnetically levitating trains and flying shuttles. These are accessible and affordable for everyone. For an extra fee, guests can also book individual mobility services, such as passenger drones.