On February, the EuroTech Universities Alliance organised a session during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS is the world’s largest general science society and its annual event is one of the world’s most prestigious and well-visited science conferences. This year, it took place in Boston, US and focused on the theme “Serving Society Through Science Policy”.
The EuroTech Universities session on “Urban Mobility as an Engine for Change: European Innovation for Sustainable Cities” covered trends in urban mobility and showed how technological research, innovative policies, and cooperation can turn this challenge into a leverage point for constructive, locally appropriate change.
After a short intervention by Shadi Sharif Azadeh from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne on new technologies to bring about a post-car world, Carlo van de Weijer from the Eindhoven University of Technology discussed developments towards disruptive mobility. According to the Dutch expert, it is clear that transport and mobility will change more in the next five years than they have changed in the last 50 years. However, he does not believe in a future without cars. Still, he admits that they need to be used in a more sensible way.
However, Niels Carsten Bluhme of Municipality of Albertslund pointed out that for citizens, liveability and health are becoming more important than cars. He called on the public sector to become more ambitious, ready to learn and partner with industry and universities to deliver urban mobility goals.
On the other hand, Gebhard Wulfhorst, the Chair of Urban Structure and Transport Planning at the Technical University of Munich stressed that public space is the most valuable asset a city has. Thus, mobility should be an integral part of urban planning projects and accessibility should be the key driver in the urban mobility systems. Car ownership rates and urban mobility go hand-in hand thus individual intents and common objectives need to be well balanced.
During the discussion with the audience, it became clear that the perception of mobility and methods of transport are different in Europe than in the USA. Carlo van de Weijer made it clear that these cultural differences need to be considered while developing new, sustainable mobility systems. He stated that, especially for the emerging countries, innovative ICT based elements of smart mobility could be a real asset in tackling transport challenges.
The session was moderated by Maria Kamargianni, Head of the Urban Transport & Energy Group at University College London.