Urban mobility

Sustainable development.

The BMW Group is the founding partner of the “Urban Mobility” platform created by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Christian Steiner, head of Corporate Strategy Sustainability and Mobility, talks about the benefits of this initiative for urban development.

Mr Steiner, the European Union has created the “EIT Urban Mobility” initiative with the goal of significantly improving mobility in European cities ...

... and we want to support the EU in that aim. As a vehicle manufacturer and technology provider, we have know-how around the globe. We can help develop and realise practical, convenient, affordable and interconnected solutions for our cities in the future. But innovative solutions are not enough. They need to be embedded in a framework that is geared towards sustainability so they can deliver benefits for people and make cities more liveable. It is important to us to scale holistic solutions with cities that reflect these interdependencies. At EIT Urban Mobility’s inaugural meeting in Barcelona in November, we began sharing and developing suitable ideas and concepts.

Why is the BMW Group so deeply involved in further development of cities?

Because more and more people live in cities – which are becoming more crowded than ever. We need intelligent approaches so we can use the available space sensibly. That’s the only way we can enhance quality of life in our cities and improve mobility at the same time. Through commitments like our current involvement with EIT Urban Mobility, we now also want to share the work and insights gained by the BMW Group's Centre of Competence Urban Mobility over the years more widely at international level.

The BMW Group has been working for years with cities around the globe to understand their specific problems and develop solutions.

Yes. EIT Urban Mobility will also allow us to use its organisational structure for sharing ideas and experience between different partners. 16 cities, 18 universities and research institutes and 17 selected industrial partners are participating in the platform. Ultimately, we are all working towards the same goal.

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A number of ideas on issues like the shortage of parking spaces, car sharing and expanding public transport have already been put to municipalities. Why is it so difficult for cities to cope with the demands of urban mobility?

Because of the nature of cities’ activities and operations. Political pressure means isolated solutions that can be realised quickly are often preferred for current problems. There is hardly ever a holistic or strategic approach that tackles the actual causes; in most cases, cities just address individual symptoms, instead. Then there’s the historical understanding of the city and its heart, with everything centred around it, that has developed over the years. In actual fact, the city of the future could potentially ease the situation if it were viewed as a region with different satellite sites providing residential and working spaces, educational institutions, sports facilities and cultural options. The advantage of the platform becomes particularly clear when such fundamental questions are considered: Here, urban planners, academics and companies like the BMW Group work together in a consortium to implement comprehensive solutions together.

Decentralisation might also improve public transport.

Let me give you an example: Why shouldn’t we support and promote new "on-demand mobility" offerings situated between the traditional, radial public transport structures in a much bigger way? This could fill the availability gap in public transport! And why are so few cities clearing the way for more road pricing and fees for scarce parking spaces?

The BMW Group already has experience with these kinds of ideas and initiatives.

That's right. In Rotterdam, for instance, we worked with the city and other partners to develop a concept that automatically switches plug-in hybrids to electric mode wherever possible when they drive into the city: This means noise and CO2 emissions stop at the city boundaries. We also support modern, demand-oriented incentive systems, such as dynamic pricing of traffic routes or parking lots, according to space requirements and emissions. In Berlin, we also tested concepts exploring how to provide residents with an individually configured mobility mix that could serve as an attractive alternative to car ownership – especially if the car is an older vehicle that might have higher emissions. What we hope to achieve with EIT Urban Mobility is joined-up thinking and approaches, with joint piloting of revolutionary mobility ideas. Because we are not the only ones with multiple blueprints that could become part of the solutions we are looking for.