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Wife, bottle of wine, and an electric car

I was just finishing my work day on an early summer day, when my wife called.

‘I’m in Punavuori visiting some friends. Come over, we’re ordering food’, she said.

‘Sounds good, I’ll get the wine’, I replied.

I left work at the Forum Virium office, grabbing a city bike as I often do, at the Esplanadi bicycle stand. I’ve given up using my own car and even my own bike, because a city bike can be changed at any time for another means of transport. I ride a bike, use public transport and taxis through Whim, and also use the DriveNow, Ekorent, and CityCarClub services. I use almost all of the smart mobility services available in Helsinki.

I locked the bike in front of the store and bought a couple of bottles of wine. When I came back out, the sky was darkening. It’d soon be pouring. I had also bought a bit too much to carry on a bike.

Lucky as I was, a DriveNow BMW electric car was parked right in front of my nose; just the model I’d been looking for to try out. I opened the doors using the mobile app, and set my shopping on the front seat. I took the city bike to a stand nearby, and after heading back to the car, I drove off. As the electric car started, making almost no sound at all, the first drops of rain fell on the windscreen. At that moment it was clear to me that some smart mobility utopias are already part of everyday life in Helsinki.

When I reached our friends’ house in Punavuori, I found a parking spot right in front of their house. I left the car there, spending a carefree evening with friends. In the evening, we walked home. The next user picked up the BMW for their use.

My ride from work to the store and to my friends’ place was easy using the new smart mobility services. I can move seamlessly from place to place using means of transport provided by the mobile apps. Changing plans as I go is not a problem, unlike if I were tied to my own car or bike. There’s obviously still room for improvement: I had to juggle several apps, where the DriveNow car, for example, could have been available through Whim. Making the services compatible with each other is essential for designing a truly seamless experience.

My entire family uses smart mobility apps these days. Our child goes to his hobbies, and the whole family to our summer place and work using them. It is cheaper for us than owning a car, but what’s more essential is the flexibility of use. No more worries about servicing the car, finding parking spaces, and clearing snow from the car in the winter. Smart transport has made my life cheaper and more flexible and carefree than it previously was, when I still owned a car.

My workplace, Forum Virium Helsinki, is the City’s innovation unit, which aims to make Helsinki the world’s most functional smart city, in cooperation with companies, research institutes, and residents. At the moment, the team I lead is focusing on smart mobility development projects. My seamless early summer smart mobility experience was a demonstration of the fact that Helsinki is heading in the right direction, and that the work carried out at Forum Virium really is fruitful.

Now I’m eagerly waiting for the day when I can step out of my office and into a self-driving car. That day seems a lot closer now than I myself would have believed a couple of years ago. The Sohjoa project by Forum Virium and Metropolia made self-driving robot buses available to residents back in summer 2016. New tests are being carried out all the time, and the FABULOS project, which is far more extensive, is starting at the start of next year, challenging companies to develop autonomous vehicle solutions for the area between Pasila and Kalasatama. Helsinki is well on its way.

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