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Urban Mobility: Traffic in tomorrow’s world

How does Urban Mobility look like in the cities of tomorrow? Why does Beijing need a different traffic concept than San Francisco? The Futures of Mobility project developed scenarios for 2030+

Vehicles that take you direct to the 30th floor. Automated deliveries direct to your doorstep - whenever suits you best. Passenger drones that fly round traffic jams. That could be the future shape of mobility in metropolitan cities. Everyday life for people living in a megacity is very different from daily life in a sparsely populated rural area. That is why demands on mobility also vary so much. The Volkswagen Group has developed several scenarios for the year of 2030+. “With Futures of Mobility, we offer a tangible vision of the lives that our customer will lead in various regions of the world in the future,” says Dr. Daniel Kauer, head of Product and Platform Strategy at the Volkswagen Group. San Francisco, Beijing, Mumbai and eastern Saxony serve as representative examples for many other regions on the planet.

“With Futures of Mobility, we offer a tangible vision of the lives that our customer will lead in various regions of the world in the future.”

Dr. Daniel Kauer

No blanket solution

Numerous trends and factors were examined under the project led by Dr. Michael Müller and Bita Daryan. One such factor is urbanization. In 2050, around 80 percent of the world’s population will live in metropolitan areas – double the present figure. The impact of urbanization on traffic will be felt in both urban areas and rural regions. The economic and political framework, cultural trends, environmental aspects and innovative strength also play a role. “That means each type of city needs its own mobility solution,” explains 
Dr. Axel Heinrich, Head of Group Research at Volkswagen. Beijing, for example, will produce 
significant amounts of vertical growth, which is why vertical transportation is more important there. In contrast, San Francisco could give priority to adaptive vehicles – in other words, vehicles that modify themselves to a user’s needs and can become mobile offices or living rooms. In rural areas like eastern Saxony, shared mobility concepts could feature more prominently.

In 2050, around 80 percent of the world’s population will live in metropolitan areas – double the present figure.

Out of the lab and onto the road

Group Future Heads, a network of some 200 experts from different fields and regions, bundles the expertise and knowledge in the project. The company is expanding its portfolio based on -Futures of Mobility. Describing the approach, Kauer says, “Product, service and business models will no longer be segregated from one another. Instead they will be developed into a holistic mobility solution for our customers.” And the future is already defining the work of the Volkswagen Group. “We are already experiencing and shaping the change in many areas,” says Heinrich. “I’m talking about things like new drive technologies, new mobility services, or autonomous driving.”

For example Beijing: Efficient hypercity

It’s a megacity between traditional and modern: society is shaped by the political framework, but prosperity and education lay the foundation for a growing middle class, and individuality and sustainability are gaining in importance. As a result, demands on infrastructure, mobility, and safety are increasing. Moreover, the Beijing metropolitan region is to become the urban development model for the China of the future.

How Beijing is developing 2030+

Beijing is an ever-growing, attractive industrial location. China plans to strengthen its technology industry and industrial production over the coming ten years. Some 70 percent of industrial robots, for example, are to be manufactured domestically.

By 2030, some 130 million people will be living in the Beijing metropolitan area – about 30 million more than today. That means an immense increase in traffic flows. Highspeed trains will enable efficient transport. Today, China’s bullet train rail network is already longer than the European network. A further 7,000 kilometers are to be added by 2020. In addition, the government is planning to build 23 new subway lines by 2030.

Beijingers are known to have a high affinity for new technologies. Not only that, but the region is also the most important player in the gigantic market for data collection and analysis. Furthermore, the government encourages forward-looking technologies and innovations to locate in the region.

Smog is a big problem in Beijing. Decisive action is being taken against air pollution in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Political restrictions such as e-mobility incentives and banning certain car models have already significantly improved air quality and the quality of life. 

On Beijing’s streets of the future you might meet the following urban mobility concepts:

  1. High-speed lines

    Given the high population density, efficient mobility is particularly difficult. One solution is dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles, where they can travel faster and more safely than on roads with mixed traffic.

  2. Vertical mobility concepts

    Anyone who likes to travel in comfort can enjoy “first-class mobility” in luxuriously equipped vehicles, where business professionals, for example, can relax or work during the journey. In the future, these vehicles will dock onto skyscrapers and deliver their passengers to the right floor.

  3. Passenger drones

    Despite smart traffic concepts, there will still be congestion on Beijing’s streets. The fastest way to travel will be by air. The first passenger drones will take Beijingers to their destinations. Quadcopters will be fitted with cabins that can comfortably transport one or two passengers.