The arrival of new technologies influences urban mobility

There are several reasons why the context is favorable to urban mobility. Among them, the arrival of new technologies has enabled the creation of new mobilities on several levels (public transport, multiple home delivery services, traceability solutions for greater security). The entire urban transport system must be adapted and rethought as we go along. The solutions and systems related to urban transport respond to changing travel requirements according to the needs of users and the data collected through information systems.

We are therefore going to define the framework of the notion of urban mobility in order to understand what it is, which public it encompasses and who are the actors in France. Then, we will be able to evoke the arrival of new technologies by examples of concrete solutions at the service of mobility. Thus, the challenges of these technologies and their necessary integration into urban mobility networks will seem more understandable.

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Urban mobility sets the pace for travel in cities

Mobility is urban when it is described on the scale of an urbanized environment by definition. Cities are obviously part of this. But we also speak of a mobility scale at the level of the networks of a conurbation or a metropolis as well as a city center. It is also necessary to think further by integrating that any urbanized space integrating communication and physical displacements can potentially be thought according to an urban mobility scheme even outside a big city:

  • smaller cities and developing town centers can think about the organization of their transport services and the movement of different publics;
  • companies are also sometimes required to deal with the travel flows of their users beyond 100 employees since January 1ᵉʳ, 2020(employer mobility plan);
  • some outlying areas or neighborhoods may claim to develop their space in order to integrate notions of safety for different trips (lanes for cars and other motorized vehicles, space for recreational EDPM, bicycle lanes, bus lane, etc.). The search for harmony and cohabitation between different transport and travel solutions is an objective at the service of the public and users as well as local residents.

As we have just seen, urban mobility applies more to the concept of public mobility (whatever that may be) than to the purely urban dimension. However, some transport mode infrastructures cannot be considered as spaces dedicated to urban mobility (freeways, national roads, airport, etc.), although they have an action on the interconnected urban mobility.

The urban mobility plan (UMP)

In France, there is a document (the PDM), which determines, within the framework of a PTU (urban transport perimeter), the organization of data related to the transport of people and goods as well as traffic and parking data. This plan meets the requirements of Articles L1214-1 et seq. of the Transport Code and is derived from the former Urban Travel Plan (PDU).

The usefulness of such a plan allows any entity (municipality, department, region, companies, associations, individuals) to examine travel and transportation within a given perimeter and to assess the consequences and impacts in the medium and long term for any public.

  1. Environmental consequences (fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, soil sealing for road infrastructures).
  2. The health consequences (fine particle emissions, concentration of oxides in the air, increase in related diseases, etc.).
  3. Economic consequences (balance of fossil energy purchases at the national level, social security deficit for the care of related diseases).
  4. Social consequences (location of new housing, preferred modes of transport, implementation of public transport services to irrigate dense areas and reduce road "traffic jams" at working hours).

The mobility plan does not answer all the questions, of course, but it does address the issues of individual mobility and transportation services. It is therefore an aid to reflection for any community or company concerned with organizing "living together" as well as possible.

Let's use a small example to illustrate what we mean. If a community realizes that the daily travel of the active population creates more nuisance than it creates added value and environmental benefits, then an overhaul of the mobility plan can be a crucial issue for the community and for the companies in service.

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The arrival of new technologies in the mobility plan

In the 1970s, the thinking on travel and transport (following the successive oil crises of 1973 and 1979), concluded that there were few modes of transport:

  • goods were transported by truck or train
  • people travelled mainly by public transport in cities (where available), and by private vehicles in the countryside.

The mobility plan was quite simple, although this was already an issue at the time. But lifestyles have changed, and the scarcity of land and growing demographics have pushed the working population away from city centers, thus increasing the number of personal vehicles in circulation. Medium-sized cities have been equipped with public transport as well, and inter-city travel has increased significantly thanks to airplanes, high-speed trains and highways. At the same time, theenvironmental aspect and the data related to such an impact have created additional issues that are often contradictory to the nuisances of travel and transportation.

The development of new technologies therefore provides an effective response to the actors of urban mobility (municipalities and communities, companies and individuals). It enables concrete action to be taken thanks to the innovation of means of transport:

  • electric bicycles and other personal mobility devices (PMDs)
  • electric or natural gas buses;
  • telecommuting, which makes it possible to cancel home/work trips thanks to information technology;
  • organization and optimization of the flow of goods in urban areas thanks to new technologies (software for optimizing delivery routes);
  • creation of dedicated traffic areas (bicycle lanes for soft mobility requiring high-performance surfacing technologies) to the detriment of rights-of-way for personal vehicles;
  • setting up a network of connected electric bicycle rental centers that can be adapted to the different users in the same city (residents, tourists, professionals, etc.).

New technologies provide effective answers to a wide range of economic, social and health issues. Connected devices now extend to personal mobility devices as well as to other motorized or non-motorized vehicles.

The design, distribution, maintenance, guidance and recycling of the new means of urban travel now benefit from new technologies. Safety (of goods, the public and the environment) is a real issue for the future of any society or community. Mobility must constantly be rethought.

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