Unlocking the Potential of Smart Mobility

The sweeping changes anticipated by disruptive mobility have inspired visions of a very different future, as well as a good deal of hype. To distinguish between the hype and reality, this article presents findings from actual “use cases” that exist today which have used Intelligent Transport Systems to deliver substantial benefits to taxpayers around the world.

The ability of governments to effectively manage their infrastructure is increasingly being challenged by limited budgets and is further undermined by insufficient, inadequate or ageing assets. It is estimated that between now and 2030, the world will need to spend around $57 trillion to build baseline infrastructure to support the global economy needs. Transport infrastructure investment, including road and rail, accounts for roughly $20 trillion or about 35% of the total required infrastructure investment.

Given widespread fiscal constraints, even assembling the minimum investment required to meet these growth predictions is going to be a challenge. Taxpayers around the world, as users and beneficiaries of transport infrastructure construction, will ultimately have to pay something towards the cost of these projects, probably through some sort of user charging.

An obvious, but often forgotten alternative to building costly infrastructure is to boost asset utilisation through smart infrastructure technologies. This approach not only reduces reliance on building new assets, but also lowers investment costs to taxpayers and promotes infrastructure sustainability.

The opportunities to enhance the travel experience

The convergence of physical and digital worlds is creating unprecedented opportunities to enhance the travel experience for millions of people every day. Disruptive technologies are increasingly providing consumers with new mobility solutions and more choices to meet their transport needs.

Although some of these disruptive technologies are still a few years away (for example, driverless vehicles), they have already started to shape a vision for a mobility transformation driven by a number of converging forces including vehicle electrification, automated self-driving, mobile computing, on-demand shared mobility services, and predictive analytics.

The coming together of these powerful trends and the ability to monitor and control things in the physical world electronically, have inspired a surge of innovation and enthusiasm about the future of urban mobility.

The business value of the intelligent mobility approach

Adoptions of technology-based customer-centric approaches have the potential to introduce substantial improvements in customer satisfaction, and create a shift in attitude to cost and value.

Key to the success of these systems is a good understanding of the role of smart technology in improving the efficiency of existing infrastructure and sweating of assets through better utilisation of available infrastructure. These systems can significantly improve operations, reliability, safety, and meet consumer demand for better services with relatively small levels of investment.

The literature on smart transport technologies is abundant with case studies which demonstrate the benefits of existing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). A best practice case study from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) sheds some light on these benefits.

Each year, the FDOT issues annual reports providing snapshots of the Department’s programs on ITS in each of its districts. The reports show that the key financial benefit to customers is reduction in incident duration and traffic delays. Comparison of the estimated benefits to annual operating expenses and capital investments showed the ITS Program yielded around $36 in economic benefits for every dollar spent (Benefit-Cost Ratio of 36:1).

In addition to reducing reliance on building additional capacity, smart transport technologies also offer a much lower capital and investment cost. For example, the cost of the transport technology solution on the UK’s M42 motorway was $150 million and took two years to implement; widening the road to produce the same outcome would have taken 10 years and cost $800 million.

Similarly, the Managed Motorway transport technology solution on the M1 Freeway in Melbourne has been reported to result in 42 percent reduction in travel times, 11 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and more than $2 million savings per day in reduced travel times and delays. Other studies have also suggested that using smart transport technologies for roads, rail, airports and ports can double or triple asset utilisation.

Benefits compared with value derived from traditional investment in physical expansion of roads

Based on a large number of studies in the literature, the diagram below presents the average benefit-cost ratios that have been obtained from different types of transport infrastructure investment. The diagram shows that investment in different aspects of ITS generate much better value for tax payers than the traditional road capacity expansion.


Over the next few years, people will undoubtedly start to see more work on projected benefits of disruptive mobility. For example, in a modeling study recently released by the International Transport Forum, it was estimated that a hypothetical fleet of shared autonomous vehicles would provide nearly the same mobility as today, in a medium-sized European city, by using 65 percent fewer cars during peak hours and 90 percent fewer cars when considering a 24 hour scenario.

Future of using smart mobility technologies in cities

Cities around the world are anticipated to benefit from the use of smart mobility technologies, but they must first overcome a number of challenges to improve infrastructure resilience and reliability.

The deployment of these technologies, complemented by appropriate governance and regulatory changes, will deliver substantial benefits through improved city management systems, better informed consumers and enhanced connectivity between vital infrastructure systems.

The benefits of investing in smart systems are compelling, particularly given the improvements that could be made in terms of providing innovative solutions to lift our economic efficiency and living standards.

To spur change programs and capture potential savings, one must move beyond a project-by-project view and upgrade systems for planning, operating, and delivering smart infrastructure. This sort of investment will give our cities an opportunity to modernise their infrastructure and help drive economic growth and create jobs for the 21st century.

How do think smart mobility technologies will enhance your day-to-day travel? Share your opinion in our comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.