Developing mobility

by Hans Jeekel

Let me first introduce myself. I am Hans Jeekel, working as a topadviseur at Rijkswaterstaat (RWS, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, red.). I published my thesis The Car Dependent Society in april 2011, and I am now delegated from RWS for one day a week to the TIS  group (Technology, Innovation, Society), with a keen interest in mobility. I am working on the introduction of the USE learning line on the Future of Mobility, and I will act as a linking pin between RWS and the TU/e. As a “new kid on the block” I would like to give a few observations.

For its Strategic Area Smart Mobility, TU/e published an interesting leaflet. The title of this leaflet is “Smart Mobiltiy. Driven by Technology.” The TU/e believes that technology is the answer to transport and mobility problems. The leaflet shows a strong technology push, technology creating the change from a current sloppy mobility system, towards a real clever and modern one.

Framing a great societal question – how to reach a smart transport system? – in such a way, can give rise to skepticism from non-technical circles. “Technology: the answer”, sounds out-dated.

Technology is very important, certainly, very much so, but the framing of the strategic area smart mobility should be broader. Since I started I could notice that this is already being seen in the strategic research area itself. To give a few examples.

A focus on technology is understandable at a Technical University. But technology has to be accepted, and has to be bought. Studies on the acceptance of new technology will be part of the strategic research area, and the same could hold for studies of the conditions under which potential users would really buy the technology. And a perspective on smart mobility as seen through the eyes of indirect users, such as infrastructure providers and traffic managers, is also something that is now invested in.

Smart mobility is a great concept, but not only for trucks and cars. The other transport modes also need a technology injection; public transport, the slower modes. Smart mobility could be seen as the possibility to create a really integrated transport system, for the first time in history, where changing modes becomes easy instead of a difficult challenge with long waiting times and different pricing systems.

In the world of mobility the real buzzword now is sustainable mobility. We are working on the clarification of the contribution of smart mobility, to the range objectives of sustainable mobility? What will be the results from smart mobility on safety, reliablity, CO2-emissions, energy efficiency and social equity and fair pricing, to name a few of these objectives?

And finally, we can now notice an interesting new development in society. The world of car drivers seems to be splitting into different segments, with substantially different wishes. Older car drivers basically want safe cars, the middle aged drivers indeed want smart cars, and the younger drivers, what do they want? They want just basic mobility; simple, plain cars, as they already have all IT in other ways. We are busy considering what these trends mean for smart mobility.