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Project example: OPTIMISM

Solutions for tomorrow’s transportation

As part of the EU project OPTIMISM, the ZHAW School of Engineering worked together with eight other research partners to investigate the future development of mobility. The central focus was on how ICT solutions could promote sustainable mobility. During a two-year research period, the Institute of Sustainable Development (INE) analysed future trends and prepared recommendations for policies and planning.

With constant growth in the economy and the population, the demands on mobility are also growing. Traffic volume is increasing, especially in the most-populated regions, resulting in passenger transport shortages, increased environmental pollution and rising costs. New technologies – Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular – should offer a solution to this dilemma. In the context of the European Community project OPTIMISM, the Institute of Sustainable Development (INE) collaborated with representatives from international research and the transport industry over a two-year period to carry out a thorough investigation of the development of mobility in Europe. The entire transport system, the development of demand, mobility needs and behaviour were all analysed for various European countries in order to prepare recommendations for politicians and companies with regard to CO2 reductions. “Our goal was to identify future-oriented solutions for ecologically sustainable, socially viable and economically feasible mobility,” is how Dr Merja Hoppe explains the work of the INE. “The focus was placed in particular on the potential of new ICT applications in passenger transport.”

Many factors and megatrends

OPTIMISM stands for “Optimising Passenger Transport Information to Materialise Insights for Sustainable Mobility". During an initial stage, Dr Merja Hoppe and her team compiled various demand factors such as economic development, income and age structure. In combination with offer-related factors like transport infrastructure, vehicle ownership and mobility costs, the reciprocal effects could be analysed and their influence on passenger transport and mobility patterns for the future determined. Important global megatrends that will fundamentally change the demands placed on transport in the coming years were identified and taken into consideration. These include demographic ageing, increasing urbanisation and the knowledge-based society and economy in Europe.

“With increasing distances, frequencies and speeds in traffic, the burdens also increase. New ICT applications can help to guarantee mobility while at the same time ensuring it has a sustainable struc-ture.”

Dr Merja Hoppe, project head 

Range of services changes mobility behaviour

Against the backdrop of global networks and the ongoing development of transport technologies, the growth process is speeding up and the transport system is transforming itself completely. “With increasing distances, frequencies and speeds in traffic, the burdens of traffic volume, noise and emissions also expand,” Hoppe comments. “New ICT applications can help to guarantee mobility while at the same time ensuring it has a sustainable structure.” ICT provides opportunities to combine modes of transport. “Technologies that deliver a link between modes of transport, for example using real-time information on the entire range of transport services, have great potential,” Hoppe says. “Taking into consideration delays and the combination of bus, rail, taxi, car-sharing and e-bikes, transport users would always be able to choose their own route at a moment’s notice – which is a form of individualised mobility without owning a vehicle.” In the long term, these types of services can change mobility behaviour and patterns of demand – according to the research report, they could even reduce the use of cars by up to 11 per cent. However, as well as technological innovation, political support, more favourable framework conditions and a change in social perceptions are required.

At a glance

Project website:

Participating institutes and centres:

Project partner:

  • Coventry University Enterprises Ltd (CUE), Grossbritannien
  • Signosis Sprl (SIGNOSIS), Belgien
  • Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Deutschland
  • Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL), Belgien
  • Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil (LNEC), Portugal
  • Road and Bridge Research Institute (IBDiM), Polen
  • University College Dublin (UCD), Irland
  • Sapienza Università di Roma - Centre for Transport and Logistics (CTL), Italien
  • Transport & Mobility Leuven (TML), Belgien
  • CE Delft, Niederlande
  • European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS), Spanien

Financing: European Commission

Project status: completed