Urbanization, greater motorization and increasing mobility in rapidly growing national economies, along with expanding flows of goods, are all posing new challenges for existing traffic systems

The world we know is changing rapidly

Mobility is a prerequisite for economic activity. It brings goods and service providers from A to B, takes people to work, and delivers products to their homes. Increasing traffic and economic growth go hand in hand. They form the basis for rising prosperity all over the world. In many cases mobility is what makes it possible to participate in society and culture in the first place. It connects people, enriches their daily lives, and expands their horizons.

Against the background of finite resources and climate change, it becomes an ever more complex task to satisfy everyone’s basic needs. This task can be addressed by applying intelligent linking and use of information from all areas of our lives. World-wide connectivity as enabled by the digital revolution demonstrates solutions in the traffic sector which combine mobility, growth, participation, resource conservation and greater road safety. These solutions are being developed by the German automotive industry with the aim of providing innovative, powerful systems suitable for everyday application.

Networks are expanding – and not only electronic ones

Around the globe, goods are being produced and delivered in a more decentralized manner and with greater division of labor. Time-sensitive, coordinated production processes at different locations are supplied with pinpoint accuracy with the goods needed for processing. Freight transport is becoming more important all the time.

As a transit country in the heart of Europe, Germany is confronted with sharp growth in the volume of traffic. Freight transport alone is forecast to rise 40 percent by 2025. This has to be carried by an infrastructure – the rail network, roads and waterways – that is working to capacity, whose expansion is not always popular and whose maintenance is chronically underfunded.

In the emerging economies this trend is taking on a completely new dimension. An increase in freight traffic of up to 80 percent is forecast in the BRIC states by the year 2025.

But individual mobility is also pushing up the volume of traffic. In China, for example, today there are only 29 million automobiles among 1.3 billion inhabitants – yet the level of car ownership is rising fast: in 2015 there will be twice as many vehicles. Expansion of the infrastructure at the same speed is going to be virtually impossible in these countries. Even today, unsafe trunk roads and congested arterial routes in the megacities can hardly cope with the existing volume of traffic.

In Germany, the average adult covers a total distance of around 39 kilometers every day. Despite the increasing use of bicycles and public transport, 79 percent of all journeys are made in private motor vehicles. In 2010 the number of motor vehicles exceeded the 50 million mark for the first time in German history, and in 2012 there were already 58 million registered vehicles.

In every country around the world growth and prosperity depend on traffic flowing smoothly, reliably and safely. The traffic of the future must therefore be connected intelligently to prevent a standstill and encourage progress. The new possibilities offered by the digital revolution will make vehicles more intelligent so they will be better able to satisfy the new requirements. Interaction between different types of transport and the infrastructure is a logical consequence of the changes in mobility. Connectivity also makes it possible to control freight transport accurately over long stretches and with various means of transport.

The precise way in which traffic will be networked has yet to be determined. But it is certain that information exchange and communication will be major aspects.