‘Travelling with the Monarchs – as a part of a trade mission, opens many doors’
How does the rest of the world handle with mobility and innovation? Is our country actually a leader on self-driving cars and connected cars? Are we innovative? I’ve send a couple of books to several countries in the European Union, but also to the USA, Qatar, Dubai, Australia and New Zealand. My book; “mobility in the future 2030, finally the Dutch have their say”, I gave the Dutch the opportunity to give their opinion about this topics. In particular, the Scandinavian countries, Spain, Germany, USA, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Australia and New Zealand approached me because of their interest in my knowledge and expertise on future mobility, self-driving cars, cooperative systems and connected cars. These countries are struggling how to involve citizens and other stakeholders into developments on these issues. How can we get these developments integrated into the target audience, so they can develop products and services ad create mass? I made three trips in just a couple of weeks: I visited Columbus (Ohio), I travelled on a trade mission with the Monarchs to Australia, New Zealand and went to Barcelona and Spain.
United States of America
My first destination was Columbus. Representatives of Helmond, Brainport Development and Automotive NL were a few of my travelling companions. Why Columbus and why Ohio, you might wonder? Well, that’s quite easy: Columbus has won the ‘Smart City Grant’: a reward of 40 billion dollar was included. For this competition, The United States asked every city to introduce a plan about smart mobility and smart city. Many cities and states took part, but Columbus had the best plan. They had developed a multi-annual plan, with very different parts and solutions. But before that, a Columbus delegation came to Helmond to learn about the Dutch way of working and the technological developments on smart mobility and smart city. I presented the results of the first nationwide survey (knowledge, attitude and behaviour) with as topic the self-driving cars, cooperative systems and connected cars. I presented my book to them, the future of mobility 2030. It was a very interactive session – my marketing ideas caught the imagination of the Americans.
After their visit, it was my turn to go to Columbus. Ohio has a few problems and bottlenecks that have to be solved. It’s has a huge amount of students, one of the biggest in America. Also, a stable traffic flow and parking at events are issues. Looking to traffic flow, I’ve noticed that, at 7 pm, it’s very quiet in the centre streets. I was really the only one outside when I went for a short walk at 8 pm. Most of the people work in the city centre, but live in the suburbs. So many (ten thousands) people have to travel by car to their work. Problems are guaranteed with that amount of traffic movements. In the Netherlands a certain amount of people are still living in the city centre, but nobody in Columbus. It’s their biggest problem. America asked the cities in particular how they are going to change this kind of people behaviour or how they offer alternative travelling options. That’s why the question about involving citizens and other stakeholders into these developments grabbed my attention.
Trade mission Australia
After a short stay at home I took a flight to Australia, followed by New Zealand. I joined the Monarchs on their trade mission and their official state visit. 150 people travelled with them, categorized on areas like sports, agriculture and smart city. I was classified in the last group with about 25 other people from government authorities or business companies. Traveling with the Monarchs opens many, many doors, I noticed. Nobody told that me they didn’t have time for me. We visited Sidney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Canberra. Traffic jam is Australia’s main problem. Sydney and Melbourne are huge cities – it’s incomparable to our cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Billions of people live in these conglomerates. They all need mobility. It struck me that everyone just drove into the big traffic jam on the main streets. The side streets were completely empty. Alternative mobility options have a very bad usage, but the cities don’t offer them very much. Although, Sidney introduced a self-driving cars plan. It’s very important that this behaviour gets influenced, knowing that Sidney has 1.3 billion more inhabitants in 2025 than now. That means a big expanding of the city, including new challenges in spatial planning, traffic and life habitat.
Sunshine Coast has very different issues. Because of tourists and people visiting their summerhouses, it’s especially crowded at weekends. Everyone Australian wants to live in the city, I noticed. That’s why these cities have traffic flow issues. The population of Australians is almost equal to The Netherlands, but their surface is a hundred times larger than ours. That explains why their problems only apply to the cities. Also, the enormous influx from people moving to the cities give the Australians headaches, so participation of these citizens is very important. Monitoring their choices of transport can be useful in the attempt to change their mobility behaviour, which can lead to faster travel.
New Zealand – Auckland and Christchurch
New Zealand could not be skipped after my visit to Australia. I visited Oakland and the earthquake-prone city Christchurch. The city was hit by an earthquake again when I just left. Right now, the city gets a rebuild – they want to build it earthquake-proof. It may sound ironically, but they have they chance to build a city like it’s a brand new city. That’s why they have a very progressive technological integration in their streetscape. They have interactive crossings and traffic lights. But, also Christchurch cannot get rid of parking problems and traffic flow difficulties. They get help from the original population – the Maori’s. And also the Maori’s are looking positive to self-driving cars. New Zealand looks a bit like The Netherlands. But another part of the country has high mountains with snow on it. There are huge differences in climate at one island. That’s difficult for mobility solutions: will a self-driving car be able to get on top of that mountains by themself?
Catalan chain mobility
Spain’s’ Dutch embassy asked me to give a presentation and lecture about future mobility. Also, I visited Barcelona’s World Congress. That city is very progressive. They’ve developed a plan with twenty-five points. They want to keep the city reachable with busses, metros and cars. They’re very open to chain mobility, because they highly involve the Catalan population and the local entrepreneurs in their plans. The inhabitants get involved at every little subproject. That’s why they adapted well on my investigation and vice versa. It’s good to get known by the experiences of target audiences and to share that gathered knowledge and information. My idea of future mobility fits very well to this country and city.
The same issues
I got back home with a lot of new experiences, knowledge and information. I’ve figured out that the mobility problems are from universal nature. Every city has problems with flow and (chain) mobility. They’re struggling with these problems on their own way, depending on its type of population. Evert city struggles with parking at events and concerts but there’re also different problems. Australia has many deserted areas – you’ll need a dawn good GPS-system for that. And self-driving cars must be good enough to drive to the mountainous part of New Zealand. On short-term, I want to start up a consortium and a second business company in Australia, like a franchise agency. I’m also heading back in May for another World Congress, in Adelaide and Sidney. I’ve given my book to every minister, prime minister or Mayor in every country, because sharing knowledge is what’s the most important. We can support each other with a new perspective and mind-set. Isn’t that what life is a – even a little bit – about?