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A New Lifestyle on Wheels

February 22, 2021

Alicia Asín

In the 80s, Michael Knight, the character of the mythical television series “Knight Rider,” came out of many dangerous trances thanks to his smart Pontiac. The most imaginative dreamers of that decade already imagined that, in the near future, their car would include the most advanced features that the scriptwriters had foreseen, such as autonomous driving. But it was unthinkable that today’s cars would end up as computers on wheels.


My bet for the immediate future is for smart parking systems that allow users to identify free spaces to park everywhere (indoor and outdoor).


In fact, the connected vehicle has as many or more electronic components as a smartphone, which is a paradigm shift that is going to revolutionize our consumption habits. The importance of this is reflected in the number of marketing campaigns that focus on connectivity and associated applications offered by vehicles, rather than on motorization, consumption or performance. 


Connected vehicles provide roadside assistance in the event of potential accidents, and plan the most appropriate routes for each journey based on traffic and weather conditions, but they can also collect data on our location, preferences and even driving habits. With all this data they can suggest gas stations, hotels and restaurants along our route in a personalized way, or even partner with our insurance company to reduce our annual rate. Automobile manufacturers can move from being mere transporters of people and goods to being prescribers of products and services, opening up a universe of new business models.


With all this, our quality of life has improved greatly. And this improvement includes advances related to sustainability and environmental care. Vehicles consume less fuel, emit fewer polluting gases and evolve towards models, such as the electric car, with zero environmental impact. In addition, cities have evolved and city councils, liable to stricter environmental regulations, have designed sustainable mobility plans to improve the fluidity of traffic and the quality of the air we breathe.


Among these last applications, my bet for the immediate future is for smart parking systems, such as the one designed by Libelium, that allow users to identify free spaces to park everywhere (indoor and outdoor). Bearing in mind that in some cities it takes an average of 10 minutes to find a parking space, and some drivers perform this operation up to four times a day, we can conclude that within a year, we waste ten days looking for a place to leave the car. Not to mention the stress, fuel consumption and the impact that this has on urban pollution. In a society where health care and the enjoyment of time are rising values, investments in smart parking technology are the best return for citizens.


With the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of private ways of transport arises again to avoid contagion risks. Moreover, the last mile delivery services are also increasing their activity demanding mobility policies in cities for quicker access to their destinations and improved parking privileges.


However, some public managers are determined to banish private vehicles from city centers in a very short-term and unrealistic view of citizens’ needs. Public transport and the use of bicycles and e-skates as the only means of sustainable mobility in cities is insufficient to meet the daily needs of citizens because timetables, routes and work-life balance make it increasingly difficult for mass movements to be homogeneous. And that is where the evolution of more sustainable and smart technologies emerges.


In addition to this debate on mobility, we must address trends in the use of real estate resources. In the same way that car sharing services have grown, people are increasingly opening their homes and garages to other users to obtain extra income.


Everything contributes to improve mobility. Hotels are opening their parking spaces, through mobile applications, to any user, not only to tourists lodged in their facilities. The same can be done from other public and private communities. However, the awareness that these initiatives require and the legislation needed to promote them do not always go at the same pace as user demand.


There is much to be done in public administration to support the planning of more livable, humanized, and automation-based cities.


Alicia Asín is CEO of Libelium. She can be reached through libelium.com.



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