Imagine a city where instead of driving, residents can log on to a network of shared cars, buses, taxis and even bikes, all bookable and billable in real time on smartphones.
In one country this is not some fanciful vision, but a goal that could be realised within years. Planners in the Finnish capital Helsinki want to offer people an array of options so cheap and flexible that it becomes competitive with driving private cars. "The city is on the cusp of a transportation revolution," says Tommi Rimpiläinen, a senior business advisor at Helsinki’s regional development agency. The plan is to transform the city’s transport system into a "mobility on demand" service that could ease congestion, lower carbon emissions and pave the way to faster and more efficient journeys.
At its heart are connected cars, which use smartphone technology to generate data displayed on the dashboards and windscreens of new vehicles. As Helsinki’s plan suggests, it could change the way journeys are made, sparking "a new age of urban development," according to Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at the US-based think tank the New Cities Foundation.