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Smart City Seminars

Smart Cities are built on cooperation and the sharing if ideas

How do we create smart and sustainable cities? That was the common theme for the entire day's seminars and discussions when Business Region Gothenburg arranged the Smart City Seminars at the Volvo Ocean Race Village. The answer was provided: cooperation and the sharing of ideas.

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Morning seminars


The Smart City Seminars were held in Gothenburg on 20 June, gathering representatives and stakeholders from several countries, industries and organisations. The day was split into two main subjects – in the morning the automotive industry's impact on sustainability, and in the afternoon the sharing economy as a way forward. The seminars were opened by the Mayor of Gothenburg, Ann-Sofie Hermansson, who pointed out the fact that revolution is in the air as governments, companies and people are now more pragmatic than visionary when it comes to sustainability. A breakthrough is under way with the help of disruptive technologies such as electromobility, connectivity and autonomous vehicles, she said.

She was followed by keynote speaker Wang Zhixiong, Chairman of Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce, who stressed the importance of cooperation in efforts to promote a circular economy and to solve environmental issues together on a global level, to benefit the next generation.

The first panel discussion of the day concerned collaboration on test beds and innovation in the field of electromobility. Robert Missen, EU Director General for Mobility and Transport, noted that funds, grants and financial support are available from the EU, and that all initiatives are of interest.

"We must reach our goals of lower emissions of greenhouse gases, and everybody within the transport sector needs to clean up," he said, pointing out that electromobility is only one of the solutions that the EU promotes.

"Other solutions for the transport industry are hyperloops, drones, cable cars and so on. We will not exclude anything, but instead maximise the number of ideas. I'm here to listen and to find out what we should focus on to become cleaner, greener, safer and more efficient."

Sture Portvik represented the Electromobility City of Oslo and explained how Oslo became a city where every other car that is sold is electric.

"Electric vehicles have to be cheap to purchase, as well as cheap and convenient to use. We had everything in place, like free parking, no tolls, and extensive charging facilities – but things didn't start to happen until quality EVs came along," he said.

Also taking part in the panel was Niklas Gustafsson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Volvo Group. His view was that there has to be a business model in sustainability – a topic that was of great interest to most of the audience.

"Our vehicles need to function in our customers' everyday lives. That's why we need standards so that we don't have to develop unique solutions every time."

Eilert Johansson from RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden, told the audience about trends within mobility, such as vehicle and road electrification, automation and connectivity, but also about focusing on user behaviour and life cycle sustainability.

"Gothenburg has a number of test beds – simulated environments and reality labs where we can develop ideas and learn more about people's behaviour, as well as work on how to adapt policies, laws and regulations."

New York Times journalist Jack Ewing moderated the panel and steered the discussion towards cooperation – something that, according to Robert Missen, can be a bit of a challenge within the EU as 28 states need to agree. Sture Portvik pointed out that collaboration between government and industry is key to reaching consensus, and Niklas Gustafsson added that collaboration is also needed between customers and producers to discover their challenges and needs.

Despite their different perspectives on the electromobility issue, the panel could agree that successful business models, common technology solutions and EU standards are needed – but that none of this is possible without cooperation.

The next topic for discussion was how autonomous vehicles will impact cities. Stefan Eglinger, Director of Urban Transport Administration, City of Gothenburg, talked about life between buildings. As Gothenburg grows, there's a risk of more travel and more vehicles. This calls for densification, which may cause more pollution and more noise.

"We need silence and clean air. Electric and autonomous vehicles are a way to take care of the city we're about to build."

Håkan Agnevall, President of Volvo Bus Corporation, which built the ElectriCity bus, said that a part of his job is to travel around the world to talk to mayors about just that, as two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities by the year 2060. Electric, connected and autonomous transport will eventually eliminate problems with air pollution, congestion and noise, he envisioned.

"It will take time before we have autonomous buses. We're taking the first step now. We have the components, and the next step is driver-assistance systems. Then driving in confined areas, and finally in regular traffic."

Hamburg is often cited as one of the most progressive regions in Europe. It's also one of the most transport intensive places to be, according to Frank Horch, Senator of the Federal State of Hamburg.

"The mobility of the future is multimodal, connected, shared, very consumer-oriented and autonomous," he said, and showed examples of Switchh (, Hamburg's mobility stations with bikes, cargo bikes, scooters, car share parking and on-demand shuttles. The city's goal also includes preparing the infrastructure for a large share of autonomous vehicles already by 2030.

Jan Hellåker from the organisation Drive Sweden pointed out that autonomous cars aren't the only solution and promoted combined mobility and mobility as a service.

"Urban Mobility 3.0 can be autonomous, but the important thing is that we share, which demands a digital infrastructure and open data. We need new business models and policy development concerning the ownership of cars. Moreover, we can't fall in love with technical solutions. What about walking, or riding a bike? The technology should be there to help us choose the right mode of transport."

The panel highlighted cities to be inspired by: Hamburg, Singapore, Shanghai, Los Angeles and Bogota. Stefan Eglinger added:

"But the time for singular development has passed. Ideas and initiatives pop up everywhere, for example in Gothenburg, and are shared with others. This is a good place to be when it comes to development and cooperation projects."

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