There is a widespread consensus about the need for a traffic transition, but it breaks down when it comes to the question of how to achieve it. In the following guest article, Baden-Württemberg's Minister for Scientific Affairs, Theresia Bauer, reflects on ways to wean ourselves off the car, future-oriented mobility visions and the role of science.
The current reality of our lives is still dominated by mobility concepts from the past. Our current economic success and living comfort would certainly not have been conceivable without the visions of that period. We have become far more mobile and much greater social progress has been made possible. Think of the recognition that engineering has enjoyed based on the car as an export product, how car owners have been filled with pride, the feeling of freedom and independence associated with owning one's own car, and how the automotive industry and engineering science at universities have cross-pollinated one another in a spiral of innovation. The relevant innovations were and continue to be a product of the mobility concept of that era.
It is now high time to develop and implement new mobility concepts, because we want to build on past successes. The current social consensus about the fact that a change in transport policy is necessary to protect the climate is all but ubiquitous. However, when it comes to the question of how the entire transition is to be managed in such a way that it will have a concrete effect on our lives and ensure our prosperity, we are still have a long way to go. Change does not simply happen "top-down” in a democracy; it takes a social tour de force and requires the conviction and creativity of many.
I view the universities and colleges as places capable of making an outstanding contribution towards shaping this change. They have the freedom to get to grips with mobility concepts and feasibility in a very fundamental manner and unfettered by any particular business model. Visible scenarios are needed to open up the range of possibilities for social discourse, and experts are required who can provide citizens with well-founded analyses. And, last but not least, enthusiasm for and openness to new approaches are essential if old ways are to be abandoned. The real labs format is going in precisely this direction.
We in Baden-Württemberg wish to continue being a driving force in mobility technologies.Theresia Bauer
The campus as a laboratory of the future should make such experiential spaces possible. The University of Stuttgart, for example, has sought the active involvement of urban society with its "Real Laboratory for Sustainable Mobility Culture" [de] and has provided material for discussion through actions. This exemplifies a science community that seeks dialog in shaping the future, which creates opportunities for discussion and moderates informed opinion-forming among the public. It keeps filling me with enthusiasm again and again. It inspired us in the Ministry of Science to go one step further: in our ideas competition for mobility concepts for the zero-emission campus, we gave eleven universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg the opportunity to develop a locally adapted, climate-compatible mobility concept in collaboration with their respective stakeholders.
Universities can be appropriate drivers of change
Until now, professional success, for scientists in particular, has been linked to above-average active mobility. If, in this context, it proves possible to develop transport-compatible alternatives, this could become a template for the lifestyles of others, so the needs of transport users were central in the competition. This is not a question of restricting mobility, but rather of ensuring that means of transport are climate-compatible whilst being user-centered and attractive at the same time. Both the researchers and students are part of the experiment. What the dynamics of the competition at the end of last year showed me was that universities can be appropriate drivers of change. It is possible to create new technologically and ecologically ambitious mobility behaviors with committed stakeholders, enthusiasm and energy.
As the winner of the competition, the University of Stuttgart can now take the next steps towards implementing its mobility concept. Given the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2035, an infrastructure-supported incentivization system and innovative modules that clearly demonstrate the university's research achievements, MobiLab serves as our beacon for a sustainable mobility concept. The objective is to make tomorrow’s mobility tangible on campus.
Mobility Living Lab
The pioneering "MobiLab" project at the University of Stuttgart implements an innovative mobility concept for the zero-emission campus Stuttgart-Vaihingen.
Music: Corporate Upbeat Uplifting Pop by RomanSenykMusic.
Optimal research conditions
At the same time, we are investing in methodological and technological developments that are driving the transformation of Baden-Württemberg's core industries. The University of Stuttgart and KIT are pooling their know-how in the fields of mobility and production in the "Mobility of the Future” innovation campus. We want to use this to provide young researchers with optimal research conditions for launching technologies which will have an impact on the transport system.
The Ministry of Science is shaping the research and innovation environment in the strategic dialog with the Baden-Württemberg automotive industry with two experimental fields: the Innovation Campus and mobility concepts. After all, we in Baden-Württemberg wish to continue being a driving force in mobility technologies in the future, which we will succeed in doing if the relevant technologies are embedded in practical concepts that meet the climate goals, and which simply generate enthusiasm thus keeping graduates and jobs in our state. Enthusiasm for the cause will advance and promote new technologies, awaken the entrepreneurial spirit and will also consolidate the state’s international reputation as a mobility hub.