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Smart city mobility: the reality of today

published on

November 30, 2015

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Effective mobility solutions are not about realizing scientific concepts that might contribute to city traffic flow in two or three decades’ time; they are  focused on keeping cars moving today.

A growing problem

The number of cars produced and sold worldwide is growing annually. No matter which country you look at, passenger cars always account for at least 80% of domestic passenger transport. This is despite visionary statements from policymakers regarding the preference for public transportation over privately owned cars and despite promising developments in the arena of connected vehicles and V2V communication.

The reality is that most of us rely on our privately owned cars to visit the city and to commute to work. Nedap and its partners focus on mobility solutions that deal with the challenges of today. They help cities optimize their traffic flow through the smart application of comprehensive technology. It focuses on those vehicles that transport most passengers: private cars, taxis and buses. The basic idea behind traffic optimization in cities is fairly straightforward. The first step is to make sure that the only vehicles allowed to enter the city (or specific zones within the city) are those that actually need to be there. The second step would be to support the cars that need to be there to do their business and move out of the city zone effectively.

Who, when, where?

The first step really is about defining a zone in your city (or airport, campus, etc) where you can select which cars need to be there, and define in which specific timeframe they can access this zone. More than 40 cities in Western Europe have already taken this first step. They have closed-off their city centers and decided to protect pedestrians.

Only a selection of cars are allowed: residents, taxis, suppliers, police and other emergency service providers are provided with easy access. Other city zones are managed in a less restrictive way. Environmental zones, for example, are just monitored to detect the presence of vehicles that do not comply with pollution restrictions.

The second step is also pretty straightforward: once cars are in a specific city zone, make sure they get to their destination quickly and can conduct their business as required. Most cars will need to be parked temporarily in that zone and the majority of the parking capacity in cities is on-street. ‘Searching traffic’ can be greatly reduced when motorists are able find an empty parking space easily. Nedap and its partners support major cities worldwide to monitor on-street parking usage and enable smart parking infrastructures. In addition, the company and its partners also help manage the flow of taxis and buses to and from passenger pick-up areas, with the help of vehicle and driver identification solutions.

Smart city access control

Most modern cities suffer from increasing amounts of traffic in the center and shopping zones. Congestion and discomfort for pedestrians are often the result of that. Nedap can put city authorities back in control of traffic with its solution for smart city access control. All city entrances can be equipped with various technologies for identifying vehicles and people. These solutions include infrastructure such as barriers, traffic lights, monitoring devices such as cameras, and communication systems such as intercoms. One controller per city entrance manages it all.

While authorized retailers get access via a transponder, suppliers get access only during the morning and evening via their license plates. Police, fire trucks and ambulances always have swift access  with their heavy-duty RFID tags, and city representatives can get access with their normal access badges. Cities simply grant vehicle access rights based on necessity, route, destination and time of day. At the heart of the system is an advanced access controller that is connected over IP to the central administration system. Nedap’s solutions help to create a safe, accessible and attractive city.

Real-time parking detection

Motorists cruising the roads in a time-consuming and often frustrating search for a parking bay is a common phenomenon in any city center, university campus, retail area or airport. Supply and demand of parking bays often do not seem to be aligned. However, the fact is that in most cities there is sufficient parking capacity. Motorists just have difficulties finding the available bays. In fact, 30% of all traffic in the average city center is searching for an available parking spot. Outdoor parking capacity (on and around the street), in particular, is sometimes difficult to locate.

Nedap’s SENSIT system comprises smart parking sensors that detect wirelessly and in real-time (through IR and magnetic sensors) whether or not a single parking bay is occupied and how long it has been occupied. By integrating the information from SENSIT’s centralized administration system with parking guidance signs, mobile apps or in-car services, motorists are efficiently guided to available parking bays. This results in better use of existing parking capacity, less ‘searching traffic’ and therefore less pollution. There is no need to invest capital in increasing parking capacity unnecessarily. The business case for parking sensors is very strong.

Embrace the future

Nedap’s technology has already proven itself in many installations worldwide, but the company makes sure that its systems are capable of meeting future requirements as well. Interoperability between systems is vital to deal with the challenges of modern cities. All of Nedap’s systems are open to connect to other systems. Not just technically, but also as a result of its business model. Also, Nedap ensures that it closely follows technical trends.

A good example of that is the ability in the SENSIT system to use a smartphone as a virtual parking license and integrate that functionality with navigation to empty parking bays. Visitors to the city, retail area, campus or airport can now easily find their way to an empty bay, which they can reserve beforehand. Additionally, the authorized use of the parking bay can be monitored remotely and in real-time with an administrative app. The combination of technical platforms opens up a world of functional possibilities.