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“Road Mobility is going to be safer and more mixed”

Oliver Schmerold, CEO of the Austrian motoring club (ÖAMTC), on the expected decrease of CO2 emissions, a concept for highly automated aircraft for private passenger transport, and possible solutions to the structural issues of public transport in rural areas.

For several decades, many people have been seeing the car as a symbol of personal freedom. What kind of role will the car play in the city of the future?

Mobility is and will remain an essential factor of personal freedom and independence for us humans. The city of the future will offer a wide and varied range of mobility options and the car will continue to be part of it, though not necessarily as a private possession. Especially for urban contexts we need a suitable mobility mix, for which the smooth integration of all transport modes is of growing significance. Fair coexistence and cooperation presupposes the establishment of the right framework conditions and the development of new concepts.

In view of the impending traffic gridlock and rising environmental pollution, how important will or can mobility be in the future?

We think that mobility must not be limited to the issue of car use – mobility is a basic need that everybody should be able to afford. This is exactly what the twelve-month public transport pass, favorably priced at 365 €, provides for many inhabitants of Vienna. However, we must not ignore the needs of rural areas and commuters. Here we can only make headway with more attractive offers, and not with bans and restrictions.

Yet, it is clear of course that the traffic sector needs to contribute its fair share to achieving the climate protection goals. How this can be done without curtailing personal mobility is explained in the expert report “Mobilität & Klimaschutz 2030” presented by the ÖAMTC. The study on mobility and climate protection predicts that technical progress and the changing composition of vehicle fleets will lead to a 28% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030. A decisive additional contribution to climate protection will come from alternative and synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels. Let me repeat: The mobility of the future must be workable as well as affordable.

ÖAMTC Mobility Center: “The technological advances in the field of autonomous and connected driving do have a clear positive impact on traffic safety already today.”

More and more cities are advocating the systematic reclamation and transformation of urban space into a livable green ecosystem. Is our mobile society ready for such strategies yet?

Traffic and urban planning must not turn into a battle for the allocation of resources to different mobility modes. As Austria’s largest motoring club, we promote safe, collaborative use of roads and streets by all users and actively submit solution proposals to the decision makers. The crucial question is how to best represent all the different interests and meet as many needs as possible. One fundamental task is to create incentives that will convince people to switch to alternative forms of mobility. For this we need a wider range of public transport offers, for instance, or the provision of sufficient Park & Ride facilities at the periphery with convenient public transport service.

In how far will innovative technologies such as electric-powered mobility and autonomous and connected driving impact the rethinking process over the coming years?

Thanks to these innovative technologies, the mobility of the future is going to be safer – and more mixed. In the area of drive technology, the near future will see two developments: firstly advanced combustion motors, some of them designed for synthetic fuels; and secondly the introduction of an ever wider range of alternative drives, from pure-electric and various hybrid systems right up to fuel-cell technology.

In parallel, the technological advances in the field of autonomous and connected driving do have a clear positive impact on traffic safety already today, for instance in the form of emergency braking systems and adaptive cruise control. In regard to autonomous driving, the ÖAMTC sees comfort and safety for car users as paramount. This applies also to the extremely complex world of data required for all services, assistants, autonomous systems and connected vehicles to work. In this regard, we actively promote the definition of clear regulations for the capture and transmission of data from vehicles and related sources.

At the same time, innovation generates solutions for the widest range of mobility needs. We want to harness this potential. Among other projects, we are supporting Volare, a start-up company that is developing a highly automated aircraft for private passenger transport. Plans call for the construction of a first, fully functional prototype within the next years. We have also other pioneering projects: The motoring club offers drone flying classes, for instance, and a ‘drone app’ that provides detailed information on how to fly drones safely.

Oliver Schmerold: “The creation of strictly local add-on public transport systems could make an important contribution to enhancing the users’ individual mobility options.”

In which ways could the use of mini-buses – possibly even driverless models – promote the development of an agile transport system?

The creation of strictly local “add-on” public transport systems could make an important contribution to enhancing the users’ individual mobility options – not only in cities, but also and in particular in rural areas. This could help solve certain structural deficiencies of traditional mass transit, such as overcrowding during peak times. In the future, public or private transport providers could deploy a flexible service using small buses or vans, for instance as shared taxis, to serve the specific mobility needs of the area.

What does your ideal scenario for perfect urban mobility look like for the coming 10, 20 and 30 years?

Customized solutions and flexibility will be essential components of mobility over the coming decades. Travelers will benefit from an easy-to-use integrated system of expanded public transport networks and a wide and varied range of mobility services. Driverless vehicles will make the roads safer. Based on this mix of solutions, the ÖAMTC offers its members comprehensive solutions.

In which ways has your personal mobility behavior changed already – and how will it continue to change?

My own mobility behavior is very versatile and adapted to the respective situation. In Vienna, I use mass transit and my bike or, in the case of business trips, occasionally an e-car from the ÖAMTC fleet. For weekend trips, I sometimes choose the car. And since I am keen on innovations and love to move about, I will certainly continue to try new mobility offers. At the moment, however, my favorite means of transport is easy way, the new e-scooter sharing scheme set up by the ÖAMTC in Vienna.

There should always be a wide range of mobility options to serve as many needs as possible.

Oliver Schmerold

Would you consider doing completely without a car of your own in the near future, switching to car sharing and bike sharing or customized public transport for your urban mobility needs?

I think there should always be a wide range of mobility options to serve as many needs as possible. We will certainly see an increase in sharing schemes in urban areas, e.g. cars based on various drive technologies, e-bikes and e-scooters – all in combination with public transport services. This is also the reason why the ÖAMTC has set up easy way, the first-ever mobility service operated by the motoring club itself.

The important thing is to create systems that allow integrated use. The “Mobility as a Service” concept, for example, defines mobility as a service to be provided by an array of different transport means that are integrated into a holistic offer and made available via a dedicated app or similar. In the ideal case, the customer will receive a single bill for the entire trip, no matter which means and services were used.

When taking a look into the future of mobility, is your dominant feeling one of loss or gain in personal freedom?

If we allow new things to happen, promote innovative concepts and create the conditions and incentives for their use, then mobility will bring more freedom, development opportunities and travel options for everybody. We as a ‘mobility club’ have the very exciting task of helping to shape this mobile future.

Peter Rosenberger, a journalist in Bodman-Ludwigshafen
Picture credits: ÖAMTC (Lorenz, Toni Rappersberger, APA-Fotoservice Hörmandinger)