"We want more liveable cities," agrees Sonja Heikkilä, a 25-year-old hired by the city’s administrators after working on the idea at Finland’s Aalto University. Her thesis, which had the backing of the City of Helsinki, outlined a plan for future mobility services in response to concerns that the city’s population could increase by 45% by the middle of the century. Heikkilä no longer works with Helsinki officials, but is pleased that mobility on demand is now central to Finnish transport policy.
Cards in cars
But is this actually a revolution or more the inevitable march of technological change? If you have ever used a mobile phone’s Bluetooth function to play music through car speakers, you have experienced the technology in its infancy.
"People now have computers in their pockets that are more powerful than the technology which first landed man on the moon," says Nick Mueller, chief creative officer at Mobgen, a mobile technology agency whose clients include Peugeot, Vodafone and Shell. "Manufacturers have traditionally thought about the hardware of their cars, but software – such as driver data and notifications – is of increasing importance."
BMW has fitted 3G SIM cards to cars produced since April 2014, giving mobile capabilities such as on-board GPS and internet services. Other car manufacturers are expected to follow suit. By 2018, 36 million new cars - almost a third of those sold - will carry a card on board, according to UK-based research firm SBD.
Apple and Google are among the firms leading the charge, bringing services including voice-activation and geolocation onto specially-designed dashboards. Apple’s CarPlay could be available in 37 million cars by 2020, the UK-based automotive consultancy IHS Automotive predicts. Google’s Android Auto could be fitted on 40 million cars during the same period.