Dr. Carl Friedrich Eckhardt

Better quality of life and improved mobility.

In its Urban Mobility Strategy department, the BMW Group is working towards creating hospitable, sustainable mobility for our cities of tomorrow. Dr Carl Friedrich Eckhardt explains which concepts are most beneficial.

 

Hello, Dr Eckhardt. You are employed in the BMW Group’s Urban Mobility Strategy department, yet you encourage some of the urban population that owns an electric vehicle to sell it on. It’s quite an unusual approach for a vehicle manufacturer...

Hold on! This is not meant to be a simple recommendation, although the idea shows that we think far beyond the vehicle itself. I was getting at something different, far more constructive with this advice. We know that around half of people who live in inner-city areas hardly use their vehicles and see them as more of a functional means of transport. Mind you, that goes for both the current generation of car owners and the much-cited younger generations. It would be beneficial to all if we could offer these people a service that still guarantees a high degree of car availability. So our plan is to lay the foundations for those who are willing.

You mostly allude to car-sharing services.

Yes, some parking spaces could be reserved for car-sharing vehicles, and others could be made available to other means of transport or as new public spaces. Although residents can continue to be just as mobile as before... But to go back to your question, for us it is not about nudging people or laying down the law. We develop services that benefit local people, the city and the BMW Group – a win-win-win solution. Expanding SHARE NOW is part of this.

You believe that such services can increase both quality of life and the quality of mobility in cities – despite the fact that there has been a noticeable population growth in cities.

We can use public spaces more sustainably and effectively. The main problem with inner-city traffic flow is how inefficiently it is controlled. This exacerbates traffic jams and parking issues, but this inefficiency can be curbed and resolved. Car-sharing is just one part of this. Another is how vehicles are used in the city; during rush hour around 80% are only occupied by the driver. This means that single-seaters can improve individual mobility as the space is used far more efficiently. Ride-sharing/car-pooling forms the third part of the solution. This is where several people arrange to share a larger vehicle using an app.

Is it your understanding that we don’t need to limit our freedom of movement despite the population growth in large cities?

If we want to create credible, consistent and enduring change, we will not succeed by asking people to stop. We need to keep inspiring people and develop services that meet their needs. The opportunities that the ACES strategy, formulated by the BMW Group, offer us for this are tremendous. But we will not succeed with service innovations alone. The framework conditions also need to improve because even city and regional planning in particular as well as how cities manage limited public spaces can cause traffic problems.

ACES stands for automated driving, connectivity, electrification and services.

That’s right. Advancements towards sustainable cities of the future started a few years ago. There are already many vehicles that don’t produce any emissions and they are growing in number. Car-sharing has already been successfully operating in many cities for years. A city can commit to a few improvements with just these two building blocks.

Then there are the opportunities that arise from networking vehicles with each other and with infrastructure. Or take intelligent parking management systems which, thanks to digitalisation, enable drivers to find a parking space quickly and benefit the general public at the same time by eliminating parking pressure. A city doesn’t need to wait for autonomous driving but there is no question that it will improve things considerably.

Sustainable implementation also involves communicating and engaging with policy-makers, administrative departments, associations, research and, most importantly, the general public. That’s why you want to keep encouraging people to think out of the box.

The BMW Group offers numerous events, meetings, workshops and panel discussions for this all around the world. Take the BMW Group Dialogues for example, which take us to the world’s metropolises to discuss how to design the cities of tomorrow. We are also looking to collaborate with partners from municipalities and industry on the German Urban Mobility Platform or within the European EIT Urban Mobility