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Smart Cities: Improving Mobility in Berlin Through Decentralisation

The Paris Agreement set CO2 emission targets that many cities are struggling to reach. How can decentralisation help urban mobility achieve these goals?

Nick

Dijkstra

May 19, 2020

Download our latest report, Smart Cities: Improving Mobility in Berlin Through Decentralisation to read our full review on how climate change and the 2015 Paris Agreement is changing cities, and what blockchain technology can contribute to mobility.

When we talk about how technology will change the world around us, we don’t often mean this in a very literal sense. We might allude to changing habits, services, or what new devices will replace the old ones. But when discussing big topics like mobility, it’s easier to imagine how these developments could shape our environment.

Changing our Environment

About a century ago when cars started to become the preferred method of private transportation, our cities developed to accommodate them. More cars meant more streets, and, in turn, more streets connecting cities and towns meant more reasons to buy a car. This vicious cycle continued to influence urban planning as more people joined the automobile revolution in post-war Europe, adding streets, lanes, highways, and parking lots to our environment. Across the continent, people were able to visit their relatives and friends, travel further for work or vacation, and depart whenever they wanted.

The unfortunate byproduct of that newly acquired freedom was twofold, and quite literally unseen: climate change and noxious gasses. As cars filled our streets, nitrogen and carbon dioxide filled our lungs and atmosphere. One solution seemed to be the introduction of ‘clean diesel’ cars that promised lower emission levels; a promise that wasn’t just empty, but a deliberate deception that came to light during ‘Dieselgate’.

Aside from the obviously nefarious impacts, we seem to have constructed a world around us where cars come first. Pay attention the next time you go outside, and you’ll notice the amount of space dedicated to cars; especially when you consider that the average car is parked 96% of the time.

Open Transit

So how can we move to cleaner alternatives and cities that run around people, not their cars? The German government briefly considered making public transportation free, but swiftly withdrew its proposal when the public got wind of it. Others have pointed out that existing infrastructure couldn’t handle a larger demand, are too expensive or inconvenient compared to cars. Technology or decentralisation is not going to solve any of these problems, but could it have the potential to make certain improvements?

One of our proposals is to operate public transport on an open source protocol as a decentralised network. This would allow any party, commercial or not, to add their service to the collective offering of public transportation. Today that could be a new e-bike startup, tomorrow it could be my self-driving electric-car picking up passengers. Some other parties might choose to contribute by improving the source code and integrate a powerful AI to offer the fastest, lowest impact or most economic option to get from A to B. Wouldn’t that be truly ‘public’ transportation?

By considering our mobility a collective responsibility, we can collaborate to make it better. With more effective use of vehicles and better alternatives to polluting modes of transport, we have the potential to shape the world around us. Literally.

One of the founders of dGen and with a rich background in tech, Nick is a former Product Manager and Director of Customer Success. He shipped software to a user base over 15% of the US population and has organised 200+ events in Berlin. At hype.partners he is currently helping top-tier blockchain firms strategise their market approach and is one of the founding partners of Beyond.