For us to succeed in making cities smarter for transport and everything else, central and local government must rise to the challenge togetherby Iain Stewart / May 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
What is a “Smart City”? It’s an idea that means different things to different people.
For the energy sector it will mean the wider use of smart meters and grids to help smooth the peaks and troughs of electricity usage. It will also allow residents greater control over their energy use and costs.
For someone like me, however, whose primary interest is in transport, it will mean something quite different. The evolution of connected, autonomous and electric vehicles, plus new rail and air technology, will profoundly alter our transport system.
And so the very breadth of smart technology itself poses a challenge—the range of public policy and business activity it covers is so broad that we lack a comprehensive definition. When making plans for cities, progress must be both holistic and logical. There is a tension there, which will require subtle thinking and carefully-crafted policy.
After the last general election, I took over the chairmanship of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for smart cities to help confront the fundamental question of definition. We are operating like a select committee: taking written and oral evidence with the view to publishing recommendations. The smart city concept is broad, but the issue of transport illustrates the scale of the challenge—take for example the issues of connected and autonomous electric vehicles, that is, self-driving cars. These will pose huge new challenges for how our roads operate.