City Car Summit 2017
23.03.2017 | Victor Hildebrandt
The second edition of the City Car Summit took place in Berlin on the 14th and 15th of March. Mobility experts from 27 countries came together to discuss the role of the automobile in urban life in a series of panels and presentations. Naturally, our team from Berlin TXL also joined the summit, which mostly centred around the two topics of autonomous vehicles and carsharing platforms.
The disruptions caused by the strike action at both Tegel and Schönefeld airport meant that many of the participants had to make an extra effort to get to Berlin on time. And those who really did not manage not make it in person joined via Skype.
Florian Lennert, hailing from the Innovation Centre for Mobility and Societal Change (InnoZ), opened the conference with an inspiring keynote. First, the trained historian looked back at some of the major mobility developments of the past. He emphasised that in the 20th century rather than building cities for people, they were built for cars - for “shiny metal boxes”. Today, this type of planning has been discredited and largely abandoned, but it did of course leave behind a legacy that poses significant challenges for today’s world, Lennert highlighted.
In the following sessions, the participants of this year’s City Car Summit discussed how we should address these challenges. One hotly debated issue was the development of autonomous vehicles. Driverless cars are no longer science fiction - but what opportunities do they really offer for urban mobility, and what needs to be done to turn potential into actual societal benefit? While most of the participants seemed to be optimistic about the future with self-driving vehicles, some critical points were made, too. Prof Wolfgang Gruel from the Stuttgart-based Modi Institute highlighted for example that fully automated vehicles are going to make cars once more attractive for many city dwellers: He argued that we must be very careful, otherwise we are likely to simply replace the traffic jams of the 20th century with driverless traffic jams in the 21st century.
Only by gathering different stakeholders sitting around one table we will be able to create long term solutions
The second big topic of the summit were carsharing platforms. Sandra Philipps from movmi pointed out that such new platforms were popping up all over- almost on a daily basis. Basically, they all offer the same service, but each platform brings a new nuance to the table, which of course makes it hard to keep track of what is really going on in this young, rapidly growing market. Some of the leading developers of carsharing services pitched their concepts. While these were already very interesting, the discussion rounds had even more to offer, at least from our perspective. It was brought to the participants’ attention time and again how important it is, to bring different stakeholders - not only the developers of new mobility solutions but also users, urban planners, civil society groups and of course municipal governments - together. Only by gathering all of them sitting around one table we will be able to create long term solutions which are not only viable for businesses but also for the cities and the environment.
We thank the organisers, partners and sponsors of this year’s City Car Summit for a very interesting event indeed!