One of the central themes in our time is the rising importance of cities. Even though urbanization is not a new phenomenon the importance of cities has rapidly grown in recent years. One reason for this is the accelerated pace of change – cities are often better equipped to answer to the new challenges than nation states. Historically, people have moved to cities to find work and better prospects. However, people choose to remain in cities for the pursuit of good life. Even though the quality of life is a subjective experience the basis of it – equality, trust, access to resources, ability to lead self-fulfilling life, functionality and safety – are universal. As the new powerhouses of the globe cities are at the core of global transformation – the biggest social challenges will take place in cities, the most pressing need for new solutions will concentrate on urban areas and – most importantly – cities offer the critical mass of people and resources in order to create viable solutions to global challenges. Cities are scalable. Regardless of difference in culture, language or social structures a transformational idea can be born and utilized anywhere in the world as cities become more interconnected.
The future of cities is highly depended upon our ability to find solutions to the key transformations of urbanization, digitalization and climate chance. One issue where all these transformations come together is mobility.
Mobility has a fundamental impact on our way of life. On a global level mobility has profound implications on climate change, energyconsumption and our ability to sustain a global transactional network of goods and services. Getting people and products around in a smart and sustainable way is one of the key questions on every city Mayor’s mind regardless of their background or geographical location.
Developing smart mobility is highly depended upon our ability to foresee, how the issues of climate change, sharing economy, technological development and behavioural patterns will impact our future. In order to re-imagine mobility we must first re-imagine the everyday life of our citizens in 10 years from now. How will urban population growth impact their ability to live in cities? How will housing change? How will traffic congestion effect the way they are able to work and play? Will their everyday goods be delivered to their doorstep or a close by pick-up centre? How is the air they will breath? Will they travel to work or does the work travel to them? Many such innovations are already emerging in today’s society. IoT enabled by 5G technology is bringing every significant item online and making it smart, drones and autonomous vehicles are being tested in our streets and solutions like Hyperloop are seriously being considered as one part of future mobility.
In addition to being difficult predictions these questions also have political implications. How do we choose which solution or model to forward, when our view of the future is so hazy? What strategies can we take in order to make sure that the future will be better than the current day? How do we create the best possible conditions for urban life in the future?
Helsinki’s goal is to be the most functional city in the world. We want to offer the best possible conditions for urban life. This includes the reliability of basic services – like health-care, education and housing – but also a more profound idea of the city as an interconnected community of people.
This goal creates a great demand for smart and sustainable city solutions. The foundation for these solutions lies in our ability to combine technology innovations, fact-based insight, interconnected ecosystem, educated work force with the understanding of how cities should function in the future. However, the elements of success lie much deeper in the fabric of our city.
Helsinki has been build on trust. We believe that the greatest asset of any city are its people. We must ensure that people have the best tools available to create their own urban life experience. At the same time we aim to ensure that the functional city structure provides them with more freedom and free time to do what makes them happy. In short – we aim to create a city where people spend less time on mundane tasks – like waiting in traffic or queuing in lines – and free more of their time for creative, fun and innovative things. All this must be done in a sustainable way that makes more possible for everyone instead of the few.
The future of mobility lies on the same principles. Even though we cannot predict the future we can invest into things we know are the building blocks for a good life – transparency, good governance, functionality, openness. None of these can provide a solution in themselves, but when put together with data, new technologies, ecosystem development and behavioural change we will transform the world of mobility.
In September 2018 Helsinki won the first place as the world’s best city for services categorised as Mobility-as-a-Service and in June 2018 Helsinki was second in Overall Smart City Mobility Ranking. These achievements are not based on our singular vision for mobility, but on the fact that we have invested in the basic building blocks of a good city. We did not open data to create advanced MaaS systems. We did not invest in new test-sites in order to inspire an electronic buss. These things happened because the critical amount of right conditions came together – and lead to the wealth of new services.
A favourable regulatory environment has also been helpful. Helsinki is globally a forefront city with state-of-the-art knowhow on the future of autonomous traffic. Many tests and development projects take place in our city, partly based on Finland’s supportive legislation and wealth of special weather conditions that can all be tested on the same location. Also, flexible regulation of air traffic has lead to many interesting tests – like the recently announced GoogleX Wing drone tests in Helsinki.
In addition to data and technology one key driver of smart mobility strategy is behavioural change. Even though smart solutions and regulation play a key role in the future success of smart mobility a must-win driver is how and why people choose to adopt these new services. Functionality is one key attribute of any service. Safety, reliability and adaptability are as important. A well-designed user interface makes any service more desirable. All this leads to the undeniable conclusion, that a successful smart mobility service is fundamentally a people-centred service tailor-made to urban life experience.
There is no denying that digitalization and smart solutions play a vital role in our future success. Mastering the ecosystem surrounding these developments is a key issue. Social, cultural, economic and technological disruptions will lead to a world where transformation is quicker and less predictable than ever before.
Instead of searching for a single trend, a transformational service or a new innovation to take us forward we as cities must invest in the basic building blocks of any good community. Trust, transparency, inclusion and education. These will not only help us stay intact when the forces of transformation surround us, but also lead to an ecosystem that will produce more of what people associate with a good life and less of unwanted side effects of urbanization. Optimally, the result of the work of the city is a platform, which companies can use to create new business models and ideas, paving the way for the sustainable and smart mobility of tomorrow.