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Reinventing the Wheel

Atos - reinventing the wheel

We need to rethink urban transport if cities are going to thrive

As cities become more vital than ever and pressured by a huge variety of forces,  traditional transport approaches are breaking down owing to major challenges to infrastructure, maintenance, resource usage, etc. But perhaps we should look not at transport networks themselves but at the real needs people and urban governments have for better Mobility, Access, and Availability. By looking at these, we can see how to deliver a simpler, more seamless and sustainable transport solution for cities. But how?

Simplifying mass transit

To simplify and enhance transport to deliver the essential mobility, access and availability we need, we can make different forms of transport integrate and connect together. Huge amounts of inefficiency are created (time cost to business, poor use of materials, drain on resources and wear for infrastructure) through siloed approaches to transport where car networks, rail, tram, bus and subways aren’t linked. By connecting them all and ensuring that citizens can see how their rail journey and bus journeys are interacting for example, we can not only save time and resources, we can help people be calmer, more engaged and more productive. By driving inter-service communications, we can build transport around the ways people use it, not just around point-to-point travel.

Kill the car?

Could we do away with cars altogether within cities? Well, many cities practice strong anti-car measures – and creation and management of controlled zones for traffic is standard practice. With careful planning, the result can be positive – but zoning can easily lead to poor planning and in fact greater inefficiency, as well as negative feelings towards the city’s government. But you can’t easily get rid of roads as a whole without a huge impact on efficiency, business, and of course freight: how do you get essential goods into a city without roads?

A new urban transport future

Perhaps we need a new form of transport, such as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, launched in concept only a short while ago, to shorten the distance between urban centers. But there are other answers to the car problem that are more practicable in our car-addicted world. Through ‘connected cars’ we can make the car part of the wider integrated transport network, aware of blockages, able to plan around them and interact with other areas of transportation, reducing loading on networks, resource consumption, heat, etc.  Other solutions might look outside transport, for instance at better communications infrastructure that enables successful telecommuting – reducing road use and unnecessary travel.

But in the end the answers lie not only in technology but in how people use systems. Most of all, city governments need to discover what their people want and need and involve them in the decision making process – because no two cities are the same: a program of bicycle promotion in one won’t work the same way in another. Switched on city and regional governments are actively seeking answers and involvement from their populations to decide on the next steps towards an integrated transport future – where connected services for transport and communications are vital, but people are the key to how everything can move forward.


Categories: IT Infrastructure, IT Management, Markets, Technology, Trends
Albert Seubers

Albert Seubers (1959) graduated at Agricultural University Wageningen in building technologies and biomass gasification. Ever since he worked in IT consultancy focused on governmental topics. He worked for Dutch Telecom implementing the first fiber networks in Netherlands, for CMG as director in the Public Sector Service group, for HP as Public Sector executive before he joined Atos. Since 2011 he is Head of Global Strategy IT in Cities for Atos. The Atos MyCity program focusses on the virtuous circle of managing a city on all aspects as safety, citizen services, employment, education, social and health care, transport and traffic, sustainability and governance and economics. Engaging citizens and business communities to create and maintain a sustainable, safe and prosperous city is the key message in Atos MyCity. In his role he works with cities all over the world to help them define a strategy often referred to as a Smart City Strategy or find solutions to support their strategy. Albert is a strong believer in the fact that IT plays an important maybe even the most important role in creating the city of the future.

  • Nolise

    Hi Albert,
    Are there any global examples of bespoke journey fulfilment in cities? So consider a network of many people movers (taxis/mini buses to retro fit this in the current world). Consider people having a smart phone app, with a destination and time ‘i need to be at the train station at 6pm’, ‘take me home now’. This will be the new way to call a cab or a bus on demand. The network can use route optimisation techniques used in logistical companies to journey plan optimised taxi routes which incorporate multiple peoples journey and combine to give an in-time delivery of people door to door for the lowest cost and reducing multiple similar journeys.
    The routes are fed to the taxi driver via sat nav routing.

    The data of peoples movement can be used to fine tune other local services from train timetables to policing to advertising.

    The tech is out there, is any city using it in this way?

  • Luc Quadflieg

    Leaving myself in the Brussels, where cars are really a problem, I fully adhere to the statements of this blog. It is with pleasure that I will follow and contribute.

    • William Jessop

      Hi Albert,

      Thanks for an interesting read!

      As we are are all living longer and therefore continue to live in more densely populated areas, travel will continue to be a source of frustration for us all. Governments need to continue (start?) to invest is newer technologies to combat this issue but will most probably be faced with a pushback from the tax paying public – HS2 being one of the most recent cases (my views are impartial).

      One area for invention seems to lie in ‘two-wheeled’ transport – the most interesting one I have founnd is the C1 from Lit Motors. This enables the driver to drive in more comfort and safety over its traditional 2 wheeled cousins. Touted to be released in 2014 it could help alleviate some commuters woes – albeit receiving a lot of many strange stares from fellow commuters im sure.

      Heathrow’s Personal Rapid Transit System from Ultra is another method that is also available in this country. Never having used it it does look to be an innovative solution to tackling this problem.

      I look forward to seeing how the landscape changes.