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Tomorrow is good.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 07.51.59In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer and Daan Kersten, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors are – in addition to their ‘normal’ groundbreaking work – linked to the SingularityU The Netherlands, the organization that focuses on spreading knowledge about technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it’s Carlo van de Weijer‘s turn.

By Carlo van de Weijer

SU Carlo van de Weijer

Close before the elections, I am, as someone who is extremely interested in mobility, trawling through the election manifestos to find the plans for us, the mobile people. For those who are interested, I have added a list about some of the things I could find in the manifestos concerning mobility (In Dutch, Google translate will show the picture), but I will highlight a few points here.

The first pleasing message: almost all of the parties talk about the promotion of smart mobility. But what they mean by that, they don’t seem to really know. So the ambitions here in the south to offer ourselves as a landing spot for new mobility technologies will be welcomed. Over the coming years, the parties can come to look at Brabant to see how their promises can be fulfilled. Actually, the Netherlands has some catching up to do in the field of smart mobility; because the unintended side effect of encouraging fuel efficient cars is that we are quite behind with the installation of off-the-shelf safety enhancing techniques, a.k.a. ADAS, Advanced Driving Assistance Systems.

“We already have a sort of road pricing system installed – using time as a paying mechanism”

A clear differentiation can be found in the field of road pricing or paying per kilometer. Paying for mobility will create a fairer system, but the complexity, in particular in the area of privacy protection and fraud detection, is often underestimated. What I always miss in the discussion is the fact that we actually have a sort of road pricing system installed using time as a paying mechanism. If you drive in peak hour on a busy road, it costs you more than driving on a quiet road and/or during a quiet time of day. And this differentiation in price is still the most important goal of road pricing. But with the advent of cheap electric mobility it becomes difficult to integrate the necessary taxes into fuel prices, so we will have to accept paying per kilometer sooner or later, I expect.

The SP aims to increase government control. More dynamic traffic management, for example, variable speeds, and a stronger role in driver education. According to my convictions, both of these things have been outdated for some time already, and that will become even more certain with smarter cars. The issue of driver education adds barely anything to road safety: you only learn to drive after long hours of real practice. And dynamic traffic management is based on the costly illusion that traffic is still manageable.

The point of view of the PVV on mobility can be summarized in one line: “Halving the motor vehicle tax; costing 2 billion”. Taxes and social costs of driving are now fairly well balanced (both costing around 13 billion), so this 2 billion will have to be recovered in another way. I fear the scrapping of swimming lessons for Muslim mothers. In either case: #howthen? is also in force here.

What is more outstanding is that the long-outdated dogma “public transport is good, the car is bad” is still floating around most of the manifestos. And if there is anything that exponential technology, in particular in cars, has achieved in recent decades, and will further achieve in the coming years, is that the difference will disappear, or even be reversed, to the disadvantage of traditional public transport. The CPB was recently outspoken about this: More investment in public transport is useless, and it will even turn out to be counter-productive.

“The future of mobility is by bicycle, plane, and car”

No, the future of mobility is by bicycle, plane, and car, but we must and can utilize the latter in a much smarter manner in order to save space. For which innovation will also offer many solutions, by the way. With new mobility services, a much better public transport system can be formed than one that we already know. Fortunately, the public transport carriers already recognize this, and they can also claim their role in it.

But what is seldom mentioned in the manifestos is perhaps a still more important item regarding mobility: should we, as a society, facilitate the almost endless desire to travel ever more and further afield? We can, with current resources and infrastructure, do everything that is necessary to run a strong economy. And also to achieve a more than adequate “Daily Urban System”, the area in which a person is undertaking, more or less, daily and regular activities. The question must surely be asked what the benefit of further and faster is for the economy and quality of life. As a matter of fact, that broadly concerns the use of technology; let’s strive to change from more-further-faster to more appealing – more comfortable – better. It’s good not only for our Gross National Happiness but also just as good for our Gross Domestic Product.

PS, tip: On Wednesday 29 March, Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired, is coming to Eindhoven to give a lecture during the tech and art festival STRP . See also here. It’s a unique chance to see the best speaker on technology live on stage.