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“Hello Sadiq, what’s the plan?” asks our man Rudy de Waele

Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete

“Hello Sadiq, what’s the plan?” asks our man Rudy de Waele

Having lived there for 10 years, Barcelona has always been one of my favourite city living experiences. I always admired how the city deals with urban planning, especially the way the city reorganises transport constantly, encourages to disengage cars in the city, promotes public transport, created a bicycle friendly city and integrated green family area’s everywhere in the city.


After all, the city is where we live and breath and where we build our future with other citizens.


Despite all the great changes, Barcelona and the 35 municipalities in its surrounding area have persistently failed to meet EU-established air quality targets. So, in 2014 it developed an Urban Mobility Plan, designed to give the city back to people (and reduce pollution).


As part of this plan, the city currently implements a new more efficient bus network, based on data analysis of the most common traffic flows in the city, utilising primarily vertical, horizontal and diagonal routes with a number of interchanges. The implementation of smart traffic lights prioritises buses run on routes designed to optimise the number of green lights.


Barcelona’s new mobility plan consists of creating big ‘superblocks’ through a series of gradual interventions that will repurpose existing infrastructure, starting with traffic management through to changing road signs and bus routes. Superblocks will be smaller than neighbourhoods, but bigger than actual blocks.


The idea is pretty simple. Take nine square blocks of city. Rather than all traffic being permitted on all the streets between and among those blocks, cordon off a perimeter and keep through traffic, freight, and city buses on that. In the interior, allow only local vehicles, traveling at very low speeds, under 10 mph. And make all the interior streets one-way, so none of them serve through streets.


With this new plan, Barcelona will have cut 355 km of roads dedicated to motorised traffic (a 61 per cent reduction), and pedestrians will enjoy 94 per cent of the space on the inner streets of the Superblocks. Pollution will be reduced dramatically; ensuring that 94 per cent of the population will not be exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter, and 73.5 per cent will not experience noise levels over 65dB.


Smart traffic lights will be added to the new system as well for emergency services: whenever an emergency is reported, the approximate route of the emergency vehicle is entered into the traffic light system, setting all the lights to green as the vehicle approaches through a mix of GPS and traffic management software, allowing emergency services to reach the incident without delay.


Making car ownership obsolete

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete. Such ambitious plans could make its disruption of the taxi industry look quaint in comparison.


A study by Columbia University calculates that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxicab in New York City (currently 124.000) with a passenger wait time of 36 seconds and a cost of $.50 per mile.


Uber is not alone in making car ownership obsolete in the near future. There are currently 30 corporations working on autonomous vehicles. In the quest to get there, there will be winners and losers. Whoever wins this battle for market share, the end result will be better for all: fewer cars in the city and on the roads and a more sustainable future for all.


What about London?

London is a dynamic city, experiencing extensive socio-economic pressures with high levels of national and international in-migration and related processes of inner-city gentrification.


London has a forward-thinking city government that has implemented progressive land-use and transport planning policies through investing heavily in public transport, walking, cycling and the public realm. Furthermore, London has a thriving tech industry and is using this economic specialisation to foster innovation in electric vehicles, car sharing schemes, smart cards and mobile travel apps.


A number of smart transport projects have been initiated or are still being developed. However, we haven’t seen any concrete mobility plan yet from the new London Mayor.


Hello Sadiq, what’s the plan?



Rudy de Waele is a futurist, innovation strategist, keynote speaker, content curator and author. He assists global brands and startups with cutting edge open innovation strategy using new methodologies to re-invent and transform business. He is also strategic advisor and ambassador here at SmartCitiesWorld.


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