11 months ago

Climate Action 2014-2015


RESILIENT CITIES SMARTER CARS IN SMARTER CITIES By Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) The smart cities and the cars of the future need each other to succeed. Combining smarter cars with smarter infrastructure is one of the best ways of ensuring that cities establish a sustainable, mobile transport environment. The European automobile industry’s investment in innovation upholds its commitment to leading development in vehicle connectivity, but it needs the support and investment of government and infrastructure providers to get new and emerging technologies onto the roads. The world we live in is shaped by the transport options open to us. Indeed, as transport technology has evolved it has had to be adapted to existing structures, but it has also completely changed how urban and rural spaces have grown. The centres of Europe’s surviving medieval cities are intricate arrangements of streets organised primarily for walking or driving a horse, as these were the prevailing transport modes of the time. Many of these ‘old’ towns and cities can be traversed on foot in under half an hour. Paris, a giant metropolis by oldworld standards, is still just a two-hour walk top-to bottom. These urban centres grew up to be a manageable size – often surrounded by walls – because of the imperative to facilitate the supply of goods and services, the easy expunging of waste and the implicit need for easy deployment of city defence forces. The result of these cities growing up as they did is that modern forms of transport have been bolted on as they have arrived. Train stations are often on the outskirts of towns and cities. This is partly because early steam locomotives had the unfortunate tendency of exploding ferociously or of running out of control, but is also because placing them right in the centre would have involved knocking down thousands of existing buildings. However, rail, in particular, can be credited with transforming the early modern world. The Industrial Revolution would never have happened without the then newfangled way of transporting heavy loads and people over formerly exhaustingly impossible distances. The internal combustion engine automobile came relatively late to the transport game, arriving to a world that barely had paved roads and very little designated on-street parking. Driving a car in such places as Bruges in Belgium, the old centre of London or the city of Lucca in Italy is still a dauntingly difficult task and the cities are narrow mazes. Many of these places weren’t even designed with cycling in mind: most medieval cities had (and some still do) cobblestones: pretty uncomfortable on a bicycle! 98

RESILIENT CITIES Such has been the success of the automobile since the 1950s that the evolution of our cities has been dramatically changed by their existence. While inner cities tend to retain their preautomotive layouts, suburban areas built since often have wider streets laid out in relatively logical patterns. There is usually better parking, with garages sometimes incorporated into houses or apartment blocks. Motor vehicle ownership has not only transformed how we get around, but it has also transformed the buildings we travel between. However, despite the remarkable innovations, levels of refinement, efficiency and safety, and despite the transformative power of mass car use, the vehicles themselves have not fundamentally changed from those of the Ford Model T in the early 20th century. Cars are still used in the same way: they have four road wheels, a motor, a steering wheel, and they have to be guided to their destination. They are still, despite the heated seats and the on-board entertainment systems, relatively dumb. "There are over 240 million cars in Europe alone – about one car for every two people on the continent – and about three quarters of the population live in urban settings." THE NEED TO BE SMART The popularity of motor vehicles – particularly cars – has therefore come with costs, partly caused by this overall primitiveness. The chief concerns are the congestion, safety and environmental issues that the use of automobiles causes in cities. There are over 240 million cars in Europe alone – about one car for every two people on the continent – and about three quarters of the population live in urban settings. There are so many cars in Europe that were the entire fleet to be parked all next to each other at the same time, they would completely cover an area the size of Luxembourg. Most of these cars are in urban environments, and cause congestion that the EU estimates costs € 100 billion (US$128 billion) a year to the economy – around 1 per cent of the EU’s GDP. In the long run there need to be solutions developed to ensure that traffic congestion – and the pollution this causes – can be managed. Simply building more roads is not a viable solution, and nor is it terribly effective in the long run. Smarter cars, 99