Future Lab Mobility Forum #3: Digitalization in urban commercial transport

What opportunities and risks does digitalization hold for urban commercial traffic? Cities in Germany and Europe are mobility hubs – applying digitalization to the huge volume of movement data and information alone could provide “perfect” solutions – but what are the essential requirements, and what are the risks involved? These were the topics discussed by the 150 participants in the third part of the Future Lab Mobility Forum, which was held as a webinar on November 26. The event was organized by Kühne Logistics University (KLU) and the Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung, with the kind support of KPMG and Haspa.

In his keynote speech, Prof. Gernot Liedtke (Head of Department Commercial Transport, Institute of Transport Research, DLR) highlighted the importance of platforms for the development of the logistics sector. “Platforms create dynamics by questioning conventional business models,” he stressed. Mastering and promoting these platforms are strategic tasks for logistics. The opportunities that platforms offer include data sovereignty and data control for participating firms, as well combining new transport and logistics chains using automated goods handling. On the other hand, it remains questionable whether the efficiency gains resulting from platforms also apply to ecological aspects. There is also the danger of monopolization when platforms force companies out of the market.

    Framework conditions for tapping the potential of digitalization

    The third part of the Future Lab Mobility Forum was moderated by Robert Kümmerlen (DVZ) and Prof. Hanno Friedrich (KLU). Gernot Liedtke’s keynote speech was followed by a discussion session with Dr. Julius Menge (Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection), Dr. Moritz Püstow (KPMG), Dr. Tina Wagner (Ministry of Transport and Mobility Transition Hamburg) and Kerstin Wendt-Heinrich (TOP Mehrwert). The discussion focused on the opportunities of digitalization and defined important framework conditions.

    “City-compatible” commercial transport

    Julius Menge spoke in favor of creating the requisite infrastructure frameworks and legal frameworks, and argued that commercial transport must above all be compatible with cities: “We can’t expand cities; the space is limited, and within the space available we have to find solutions that benefit companies, but which also allow residents to have the lifestyle we’ve come to expect today. Digitalization can help.”

    According to Moritz Püstow, this compatibility can only be achieved by limiting access to roads. Possible options include congestion-charge models, which control and if necessary limit traffic, depending on the time of day. Digitalization could optimize additional transport routes and improve delivery vehicle utilization.

    Tapping the potential of urban commercial transport

    In Tina Wagner’s view, electrifying and optimizing the last mile (a topic from the second part of the Future Lab Mobility Forum) are key aspects of the mobility transition in urban commercial transport. She argued that, in this context, digitalization offers “relevant optimization potential for commercial transport.” One example is the pilot project on “smart loading zones” for delivery transport in Hamburg, which can be booked using an app. But: “Loading and delivery in public areas are not the only consideration,” Wagner underscored, adding that there must also be enough suitable areas available for private use.

    “We need an overall concept and coordination of individual projects instead of a patchwork,” insisted Kerstin Wendt-Heinrich, who claimed that digitalization above all offers “the opportunity to make more information available and to utilize shared know-how.”

    Future Lab Mobility Forum IV

    The fourth part of the Future Lab Mobility Forum will be held on March 25, 2021. The five-part series on central issues concerning future urban mobility and logistics is taking place in the lead-up to the ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg.