Digitisation, new mobile services, and growth of the sharing economy are transforming urban transport, delivering a wide variety of environmental and consumer benefits. McKinsey has estimated that in 50 metropolitan areas around the world, home to 500 million people, integrated mobility systems could produce benefits, such as improved safety and reduced pollution, worth up to $600 billion by 2030.

Connectivity is also helping to reshape the way we travel around our cities. For example, using our Internet of Things platform, Vodafone works with partners to enable ‘free floating' sharing schemes (i.e. with no fixed drop off stations or parking stations) in a number of European cities. In Berlin, Drivenow vehicles can be located within the neighbourhood of the immediate location, and can be reserved for periods of 15 minutes. In London, the Mobike bike sharing scheme has just been launched. And from March 2018, Zehus, the hybrid electric bike sharing service, will be the first such service to launch in Milan.

How can policy be set in a way that enables both these services and other innovative urban mobility applications to evolve in the interests of consumers?

First, in setting policy, it is important that the broader benefits associated with digitising urban mobility and sharing economy services are not considered in isolation. They are part of a continuum of services, all of which can be supported by mobile connectivity. This means that transport and electronic communications policy must work in tandem if cities and towns are to get the most out of digitisation.

An early example of policy making in this area was eCall, the European Commission regulation to enable new cars to call out to the emergency services via mobile networks in the event of an accident. eCall will cut emergency services response time by 60% in built-up areas. All of Vodafone's EU networks are eCall ready in advance of eCall roll-out in new cars in March 2018.

The European Commission consultation underway in relation to Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems is another significant moment for urban transport policy. Any regulation following this consultation will set the basis for future deployment of a variety of vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-person applications in the EU. These include hazardous vehicle location, intersection signal warnings and vulnerable road user protection. We are at a crossroads, and policymakers should not mandate that these services have to be based on a Wi-Fi standard that would prevent us gaining the broader socio-economic benefits of mobile technology for both short and long-range applications, and hinder a transition towards 5G. 

European electronic communications policy and regulation should also be set cognizant of the increasing digitisation of our transport infrastructure. National communications regulators must ensure that fixed incumbents in Member States provide access to passive infrastructure, including poles and ducts, to ensure seamless fibre transfer ('backhaul') of data traffic from roadside radio to core.

Finally, companies active in the supply chain should be encouraged to share machine generated, non-personal data (anonymised and aggregated as required) that will be relevant to a variety of new digitised urban mobility services. European Data Economy policy should help to promote this through sharing of best practice.

Taken together, these initiatives can help ensure that Europe sets a forward looking policy that helps to realise the benefits of digital urban mobility services and applications for both businesses and consumers alike.