The Guardian: Helsinki Aims to Make Cars Obsolete in 10 Years

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One key Live.Ride.Share speaker on Feb. 23 is Sonja Heikkila, a Finnish transportation engineer whose masters thesis inspired Helsinki’s government to commit to making cars obsolete in 10 years with an array of options so cheap and well-coordinated they will be competitive with car ownership. This on-demand system will integrate car and bike sharing, taxis, public transportation, driverless cars, shuttles, ferries, etc., with an app. Subscribers specify their origin and destination and the app plans the journey and processes payment. Below is a brief sum-up of an interesting story about this plan and a link to the full story, which appeared in the Guardian last year.

The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into this comprehensive, point-to-point "mobility on demand" system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

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That the city is serious about making good on these intentions is bolstered by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority's rollout last year of a strikingly innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus. Kutsuplus lets riders specify their own desired pick-up points and destinations via smartphone; these requests are aggregated, and the app calculates an optimal route that most closely satisfies all of them.

All of this seems cannily calculated to serve the mobility needs of a generation that is comprehensively networked, acutely aware of motoring's ecological footprint, and – if opinion surveys are to be trusted – not particularly interested in the joys of private car ownership to begin with. Kutsuplus comes very close to delivering the best of both worlds: the convenient point-to-point freedom that a car affords, yet without the onerous environmental and financial costs of ownership (or even a Zipcar membership).

Read more in The Guardian.

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