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  • Writer's pictureCristina Ferrero Castaño

Essential data for sustainable mobility

Logistics is already making savings in emissions and costs thanks to big data. Cities are using this information to improve public transport and traffic.

Eduardo Lobillo

El País

July 25, 2021

"Measure to know what is there and then improve it to prevent it from degrading". In recent years, logistics and transport companies, consultancies and city councils all over Spain have applied this updated maxim of Lord Kelvin. The combination of digitalisation and big data has made it possible to make a leap in quality. By combining the millions of data that are now being handled, and the quality of these data, magic can be done to make mobility sustainable.

These are not gimmicks. They are realities that are already being managed by distribution companies and that translate into lower carbon dioxide emissions, cost savings and increased productivity. It is information that city councils are using to improve public transport and traffic in cities.

And there is one more element. As Eva García San Luis, partner in charge of Lighthouse at KPMG in Spain, says: "Data will be the heart of the interconnected mobility system, unlocking business opportunities that do not exist at the moment.

"The advantages are many. With this massive, variable data, in many formats, in real time and uploaded to the cloud, very useful tools can be created for companies involved in logistics and distribution," says David Escuín, professor on the Master's Degree in Logistics Management at UNIR (International University of La Rioja).

Such as the one created by the Sesé logistics group with the collaboration of the Aragon Technology Institute ITAINNOVA. It is called Smart driving and has been in operation since 2019. With the historical data of the more than 1,000 trucks of this company, itineraries, consumption, stops, etc., "an approved route has been created in which the driver is indicated, among other things, the speed at which he should go and the places where to refuel or rest", explains Jorge Carcas, head of transport systems.

It is now in its last phase, Smart planning, in which a dynamic planner will be able to inform "which is the best next journey or change the existing one according to the new data". The benefits can be measured: "Productivity increase of 7%, fuel savings, 1.3 cents per kilometre and 600,000 euros per year", summarises Carcas.

CHEP is another example. This logistics company created AirShared in our country in 2019, "a collaborative transport programme that reduces empty kilometres and, consequently, CO₂ emissions", says Vicente Mollá, general manager in Spain. "More than 220 customers in Europe benefit from an idea with which we have managed to save more than 6 million empty kilometres, 4,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 8.7 million euros," he says.

Data technology has made the leap from asphalt roads to cities. Cities are the laboratory ground for numerous initiatives.

Ongoing projects

Some are driven by consultancy firms, such as Nommon, with the Momemtum project, big data to study the characteristics of users and the use of bicycle and motorbike sharing services in Madrid. "We have developed models with artificial intelligence to predict the demand for these services according to types and periods of the day, areas of the city, etc., and help to better manage these systems and maximise their complementarity with public transport," explains Ricardo Herranz, CEO of the company.

Others are promoted by the university, such as those developed by the Cabify-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid sustainable mobility chair. Two have focused on analysing the public bus service and Bicimad, the bicycle loan service, both in Madrid. "With intelligent data management, public transport and the use of these bikes could be better planned, encouraging shared mobility and combining the use of public transport," says Pedro José Zufiría, co-director of the chair.

Cabify, for its part, tested its new system for assigning trips in 2019 and found that it saved "120,000 hours of driving per month and some two and a half million kilometres empty every month, that is, 3,300 fewer tonnes of carbon emitted", says Carlos Herrera, the company's director of technology. It is now being used "with local adaptations" in the cities where it operates.

According to Xavier Ferré, partner in charge of automotive and transport at EY, big data should help cities to "understand their entire mobility ecosystem, improve urban transport and design a mobility network that minimises emissions", while allowing them to "develop smart mobility policies and make strategic and operational decisions based on verifiable facts".

The consultancy Opus RSE monitors car emissions with its sensors and converts this data into useful information. They have discovered facts like this, as Javier Bohigas, head of operations, tells us: "Between 3% and 5% of the vehicles circulating in the city are extremely polluting and are responsible for between 25% and 40% of all pollution". Or with the data, "of a traffic jam at a specific point you can act in real time" by diverting traffic or informing with mobile apps or panels to reduce speed", he adds.

Legal barries

Javier Bohigas, head of operations at the consultancy Opus RSE, says that "there are capacities and technology to make mobility more sustainable", although more is not being done "due to the legal barriers faced by administrations"

At present, the only way to regulate the entry of the most polluting vehicles into cities is with the DGT labels.

The 1979 traffic law stipulates that you cannot drive a car that emits emissions, but it does not specify a figure. This is one of the issues on the table when the law is updated. The aim is to include the possibility of regulating the circulation of vehicles according to their real emissions obtained with homologated devices.

With this change, coupled with municipal by-laws and the Climate Change Act, which will make it mandatory to establish low emission zones in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants by 2023, it will be easier to aggregate data and standards and achieve sustainable mobility.

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