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What does mobility mean in the digital age?

Florian Marcus of e-Estonia

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While governments worldwide have been relatively slow to embrace digitalisation overall – yes, even with a global pandemic in full swing – there are some subsets of this area that politicians discovered for themselves. One of the most prominent is the intersection of Smart Cities and e-Mobility.

There are plenty of good reasons for this:

  1. Cities are an integral part of the public sector machine, and they usually have healthy competition with one another. Many of the most successful and dynamic cities have understood that they compete for global talent and any advantage is welcome.
  2. Cities are physical, tangible things. Bear with me here. Politicians love posing next to projects that they helped create. This is really difficult with more intangible digital solutions such as “I helped make the online tax declaration 50% faster”, but Smart City projects ranging from smart zebra crossings to self-driving buses lend themselves to those photo ops.
  3. Many countries have big automotive manufacturers, not just global powerhouses like Germany and Japan but also medium-sized economies such as Sweden and Czechia. Supporting your own industries is rarely perceived as a bad thing, and if you can help your companies on their path to more environmentally friendly solutions, it’s a win-win.

What can e-Mobility mean?

Okay, so I hope I successfully convinced you that investing in e-Mobility is a good idea. This brings us to the following question: how do we define e-Mobility? There appear to be about as many definitions of e-Mobility as there are people living on earth, so here are some ideas for what e-Mobility can look like:

  • Especially in countries with big car or truck manufacturers, the first pivot within the area of e-Mobility is towards electric cars. That’s all perfectly understandable because those countries have a broad manufacturing base already. The main challenge is to future-proof that base per changing expectations from their global customers.
  • As an extension of the first point, self-driving cars and buses (https://auve.tech/) have become big topics. I would argue that 30% of the fascination revolve around actual economic and societal advantages (fewer accidents, fewer traffic jams), and 70% are currently based on “OoOoOoh, look! The car is driving without my hands on the steering wheel! 😲“. While this area will certainly become invaluable over the coming years, the use cases right now are still comparably niched such as business parks or airports. These modes of transportation for humans can then be paired with parcel robots that have been seen on the streets of Tallinn for quite some time now (https://www.starship.xyz/)
  • Now, we are slowly moving away from the physical, tangible things that politicians love so much. What about digital public transport ticketing systems that allow you to swipe your credit card for a daily ticket? What if you had a network of public transport providers that run on an interoperable ticketing platform? That’s already happening across national borders between Estonia and Finland. Another option in this category would be smart bike racks that enable micro-mobility for everyone (https://bikeep.com/)
  • Last but not least, let’s take a look at the invisible services in the e-Mobility field that make our lives easier without us even noticing. Already today, digital tools cut down truckers’ waiting time at the border by orders of magnitude (https://www.estonianborder.eu/yphis/index.action), enable drivers and specialists at the Estonian Transport Authority to check the surface quality of local roads, and allow us to plan public transport routes as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI-based solutions also feature in this list to help regulate traffic and analyse how to best use available parking spaces for commuters (https://www.fyma.ai/).

Innovators are spoilt for choice

I hope I was able to illustrate the incredible wealth of solutions that are already available today for any local, regional, or national government representative who wants to help put his or her home on the map. We live in a beautiful time where tried-and-tested solutions can be implemented around the world in a matter of months.

That’s also the reason why our next Digital Discussion is entirely dedicated to the topic of Mobility. Make sure to register for the live event on April 22nd – participation is free, you will have the chance to ask questions during the discussion panel and each company representative will also lead a breakout room where they will talk in greater detail about the case studies. If I weren’t on stage for the event, I’d tune in, and I hope that you will, too.

Written by
Florian Marcus

digital transformation adviser at the e-estonia briefing centre

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