According to a new article on Smithsonian.com, Helsinki, Finland is embarking on a bold plan to completely eliminate the necessity to own a car by 2025. Through mass transit, the sharing economy and widespread use of mobile devices, planners there believe they can make car ownership within the city a thing of the past.
Helsinki planners are embarking on a concept known as “mobility on demand, which offers city residents a range of transportation opportunities, including city buses, autonomous automobiles and community-owned bicycles that would blanket the city with a system of options a resident could order via smartphone.
“The passenger would need to enter just an origin and a destination, and the mobile app at the heart of the program would do the rest,” says the article by Randy Rieland, “selecting the most appropriate modes of transportation and mapping the best route based on real-time traffic data.”
Programs like Zipcar and Uber already offer services like this in many major cities, but not in an holistic plan. “If the concept evolves as imagined by its inventor, a traffic engineer named Sonja Heikkilä, the multi-modal transit system wouldn’t be run by the government, but would be built around multiple apps created by different private companies.”
Plans like this are also being discussed in the United States. Audi’s Urban Future Award, for example, has one team focused on a very similar set of transportation options in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, including a garage that autonomously parks cars, not only saving the driver the time in trying to find a space, but offering the ability to park twice as many cars in a similar footprint.
The advocates for such a plan in Helsinki suggest that the attitudes of the world’s young people make it much more feasible than at any time in history. “A car is no longer a status symbol for young people,” Sonja Heikkilä told the Helsinki Times. “On the other hand, they are more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation.”
However, all of the research on young peoples’ attitudes toward cars seems to have coincided with the worldwide recession in 2009, and — in the United States, anyway — Gen Y’s massive debt load. Whether that lack of interest in owning a car continues when Gen Y experiences the greatest transfer of wealth in human history remains to be seen.