Helsinki is thinking about ditching cars altogether – can it work?

News is doing the rounds on social media that transport planners in the Finnish capital are looking at a concept to build the next generation of urban mass transit systems – one that might just make ownership of a car redundant. Space is a tight constraint in the city, but the demand for more roads and easy access continues to grow.

The concept is called ‘mobility on demand,’ and it involves a mobile app that enables you to choose from a wide range of public transport options. The app is part of a larger ecosystem, which selects the most appropriate modes of transportation based on your journey and maps the best route based on real-time traffic data.

Conceptually, the mass transit system merges a cocktail of multiple transport options like bikes, buses and cabs, which commuters can then pay for using the app, using either a payment plan or a pay-as-you-go method.

It also incorporates door-to-door service and each trip can be customised. If you don’t need an empty car to get to the bank, you can choose a bike. Much like Liftshare, there can also be a sharing program arranged between users.

If you are returning from a grocery shop, the system will also be able to assist with a driverless car – assuming they become a road worthy reality by then, to get you and all your food home. If the weather takes a bad turn, you will receive alerts alerts and can change your option to suit you.

The concept, imagined by a traffic engineer named Sonja Heikkilä, already has a working prototype in place. Last year, an on-demand minibus service called Kutsuplus – Finnish for ‘call plus,’ was rolled out, and more than 13,000 users have signed up.

You can order a ride on your smartphone, typically shared in a nine-seater van or a private ride for a higher fee. The system then calculates the nearest van and best pick-up location for you. It doesn’t stop there, as the system then calculates the best routes with real-time adjustments that make it quicker for you to get to your destination.

Planners in Helsinki are confident about the integrity and plausibility of the concept. Sharing has really picked up as a behavioural trend in Scandinavian countries and this concept takes it further.

While this concept might require time for everyone to get comfortable with, Sonja Heikkilä places her bet on today’s youth. “A car is no longer a status symbol for young people,” she told the Helsinki Times. “On the other hand, they are more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation.”

The younger generation, she believes, seeks to find their identity in the extent to which they exploit tech – particularly mobile. A vehicle for them, she says, has become more a means to an end. It isn’t difficult to think that the concept of ‘mobility on demand,’ amid the changing role of car ownership, makes this achievable within a few years.

If all goes to plan, we may have the world’s first shared mobility system by 2025. Keep your eyes peeled until then.

Author liftshare


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