14 June 2017 • 3:00pm
Smart cities, which use information and communication technology to make infrastructures more interactive, are altering how we move around.
As the number of smart cities around the UK increases, could we end up seeing less rush-hour honking, an end to speed bumps, and more green space?
The advent of connected vehicles in smart cities has the potential to dramatically change the way we drive.
Nathaniel Giraitis, strategy director at design company Smart Design, says: “In some cities parking takes up one-third of all land area and privately owned cars spend 95pc of the time not being used. It’s highly understandable that a lot of talk about smart cities focuses on drivers and cars.”
Smart sensors across cities have the potential to bring a raft of new ideas for keeping drivers safe on the roads, says Rob Green, chief technology officer of product development studio Big Radical.
“Detecting ice forming, or flooding from blocked drains or burst water pipes, could help drivers plan ahead for their journey or change their route to avoid getting stuck. Detecting wear and tear on road surfaces and whether or not signals are working correctly also adds to this.”
He adds: “The real excitement is leveraging machine learning to understand traffic congestion and detect accidents as and when they happen, trying to avert the accident – or at a minimum, ensuring emergency services can quickly get to the scene and other traffic can be redirected.”
The World Economic Forum thinks self-driving cars alone would reduce accidents by 70pc, improve fuel efficiency by 20pc and save about 1.2 billion hours of driving time over a period of 10 years.
“There is no doubt that a smart, connected city would create a more efficient parking experience,” says Mr Giraitis.
“Alerts for and directions to parking spaces would drastically reduce the number of cars circulating about, looking for parking. Eliminating engine time spent searching for parking would, in turn, reduce pollution and petrol consumption, let alone alleviate many headaches.”
Fewer car parks and more green space
We are already seeing the introduction of smart parking services in London. Mr Giraitis says: “In the longer term, with the introduction of autonomous cars, we could see a reduction in the number of parking lots in general as cars park themselves further afield, creating opportunities for space to be used for more sustainable purposes, like green parks or other social use.”
In a smart city, we might see better-connected mobility systems for those who are not independently mobile. Mr Giraitis says: “For people too young to drive and elderly people for whom it’s safer to be driven, think Uber-like shuttle services, subsidised by the city.”
Reduced noise pollution
In a smart city we might start to see reduced use of sirens and emergency vehicle noise, therefore reducing noise pollution for drivers. Mr Giraitis says: “Emergency vehicles could be routed around traffic or vice versa. Could we also lose the dreaded road humps for a smoother ride for emergency vehicles, cars and bicycles?”
In a true smart city, where you have vehicles more efficiently routed, you might have less tarmac – or certainly fewer road expansions, Mr Giraitis thinks. “This will be because we will find a more efficient use of the existing tarmac available. And reduced tarmac means more space for pedestrians and bicycles.”