Cities must harness new technology to keep people moving, report says

A new report has called on the government and city leaders to show an increased willingness to utilise technological advancements like autonomous vehicles in order to improve transport connectivity.

The Rethinking Urban Mobility report has been published by the engineering firm Arup, together with the London Transport Museum, law firm Gowling WLG and transport company Thales. Findings have been collaborated through three roundtable discussions which were held to consider how to achieve transformational mobility change in UK cities. The discussion focused on topics including changing user demands and expectations, autonomous and intelligent technologies, and the strategies and policies required to achieve change. 

Conclusions made from discussions with key industry stakeholders identify how adopting new modes of transport such as the Hyperloop and autonomous vehicles will serve to “drastically change perceptions of distance and time” and improve efficiency while decreasing congestion.

The report also highlights a number of key factors that could help cities stay on top of technological advances and ensure they don’t get left behind. The first is a growing need for devolution and how it will be increasingly more the responsibility of city mayors to stimulate change and innovation. It’s believed that these “least party political” of elected representatives, will have more freedom with their own budgets to determine who operates in their cities and under what terms.

The second revolves around the need for public and private sectors must work together as the separation between them becomes less clear. It suggests the public sector should create frameworks to work with private mobility companies and data ought to be shared between public and private bodies to create more efficient infrastructures. 

Sam Mullins, director of the London Transport Museum, says the aim of the paper is to encourage more of a debate around transport of the future and to increase the speed of progress.

“There are lessons to be applied from the past, opportunities to be grasped, and questions to be answered to ensure that this revolution is harnessed,” he added. “There are a number of challenges for city leaders, transport, technology and built environment professionals, as well as lawmakers and citizens whose opinions, choices and democratic rights will determine what kind of future is created. Ultimately, our hope is that public and private entities can work together to enable transformational change and create urban mobility systems that enhance the quality of life of city residents.”

Researchers say successful cities of the future will ensure a sustainable range of mobility options that include metro, bus, driverless shuttle and shared cycle schemes. The report adds that “effective transport networks will harness the potential of new market entrants and technologies to develop new revenue streams”. 

Supplementing new transport modes like these is said to support the regeneration of previously neglected areas of the city, with the introduction of autonomous vehicles claimed to increase accessibility. If managed well, this will lead to reduced capital costs for brownfield development, and help to unlock private sector investment, according to the paper.

Commenting on the report, Richard de Cani, head of UKMEA planning at Arup, said: “Disruption is not necessarily negative. Over time it can become positive if we think about what it can do for the city. We will always need to move large numbers of people. Mass transit is still being designed like it’s the 1990s, but technology, data and expectations have changed. There is a disconnect between how we plan and manage transport, and the new availability of data.”

To view the report in full, click here.

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email