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NEW TECHNOLOGIES, SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

NEW TECHNOLOGIES, SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY
By Federico Parolotto -

Since the end of World War II, the demand for mobility has grown inexorably, remaining constant despite the exponential development of online connectivity in the last decade. Until the end of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, this increased demand for ever more mobility was following by a progressive expansion in the infrastructure dedicated to private transport. Unsurprisingly, the private automobile became the preferred means of transport, becoming known as “the Superstar of the 20th Century”. At the close of the last century, the negative impact on our cities of urban transport based on the private car led to a new kind of urban planning based on the functional redistribution of space and the existing infrastructure, which in turn led to a better, more balanced use of resources. At the same time, reprioritization among the various users of roads and public space put collective non-motorized transport systems at the top of the list. Spatial redistribution has been flanked by other measures, three of which linked to innovative technologies: electric mobility, sharing systems, and driverless vehicles. Together they are opening up new mobility options and also blurring the lines between public and private transit systems, until recently two distinct transportation categories. What does the arrival of these new technologies signify for our cities? Will they bring about radical change? To quote public transit consultant Jarrett Walker, changes in urban density are unlikely to have a significant impact on vehicle transit efficiency, simply because of a question of space: using a vehicle to transit two rather than one person still takes up too much space. Indeed, as ZipCar founder Robin Chase points out, new technologies could paradoxically lead to a series of unexpected criticalities, such as “zero driving”: the risk of empty driverless vehicles moving around the city and causing even more traffic congestion. If, however, in...

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