7:00 PM | April 4 2017

City of tomorrow

Exploring the smart cities of the future.

By the year 2050, experts predict almost 70 percent of the world’s population will inhabit urban areas. To cope with the demands of such large-scale urbanisation, our cities will not only have to become bigger – they will have to become smarter. Effective, long-term solutions to the challenges of tomorrow, such as traffic congestion and air pollution, need to be found today.

While discovering new ways of making the best use of energy and the space around us is more important than ever, work on tackling tomorrow’s problems using technology has already begun – one sensor at a time. Smart streetlights now allow local authorities to monitor and control streetlights remotely.

This is not only an effective energy saver, as it means lights can be dimmed at certain times, it also enables engineers to locate and repair faults quickly and efficiently. Before long, there will be a sensor in place designed to deal with almost every situation. Whether it’s locating and dealing with large-scale problems, such as monitoring water leaks and then shutting off pipes automatically, or simply letting local authorities know when a rubbish bin needs to be emptied. It’s only a matter of time before a smart solution is in place.

But where do our cars fit into this intelligent new environment? In the past, cities were either designed around our cars, or our cars were designed around our cities. Today, however, as the age of the smart city approaches, the best way of getting the most out of our cars is by connecting with our surroundings and collaborating with the people around us.

Volvo Cars is currently working on a wide range of innovative solutions based on connectivity, autonomous driving technology and electrification, with the aim of increasing traffic flow, reducing air pollution and improving the general quality of life in the smart cities of the future.

Currently in development are numerous connected car services, which could use available in-car data and the Volvo Cloud. These services are uniquely designed to work together with smart city technology and can be used to improve traffic flow management by optimising traffic lights and speed limits, as well as offering re-routing suggestions based on real-time traffic updates. Other important information could also be shared, such as real-time warnings regarding hazardous weather, dangerous road conditions or reckless driving by other road users.

Connected cars could even detect and notify other drivers about slippery sections of road before sharing the information with connected street lighting, which would then illuminate the dangerous sections of road using a different colour to warn other drivers of potential danger ahead.

Self-driving cars also have a key role to play.

Volvo Cars is currently collaborating with the City of Gothenburg on a new project designed to explore the ways in which self-driving cars can help make our cities better places to live. According to the project, self-driving cars will be able to drop you off at your destination before heading off to park themselves in a specially designated area. This will remove the need for car parks next to every office, business or retail area, allowing the space to be developed in a new way that benefits everyone. Not only do self-driving cars require less space, they reduce the level of pollution in busy city centre areas and contribute to improved road safety without the need for major changes to a city’s infrastructure.

Another major development, which will help improve urban driving in the future, is the rise of electrification. Electric cars, which offer high performance, reduced emissions and reduced noise are ideal for smart city driving. A shift towards fully electric cars is already underway, and the demand will only increase when a globally standardised charging system with regular and fast-charging capabilities is finally put in place. Volvo Cars plans to release the first fully electric Volvo car in 2019.

Smart mobility, smart technology, smart building and smart citizens. These are just a few of the criteria a city must have in place before it is officially considered to be a ‘smart city’. Looking at the list, however, we could quite easily be describing the latest range of Volvo cars. One thing you can be sure of: as technology gets more advanced, and the world’s cities get smarter, our cars are more than capable of keeping up. In fact, sometimes we must wait for the world to catch up with us.

View the rest of our our April I Roll Stories.

I Roll

Volvo is Latin for 'I roll' and was originally trademarked in 1915 with ball bearing production in mind. But 18 million cars later, Volvo has come to mean much more. 

Volvo started making cars in 1927 because we believed nobody else was making them strong enough or safe enough for Swedish roads. Along the way we’ve come up with dozens of innovations, some of which have changed the world. And it’s this proud history that continues our drive forward to the next great Volvo Cars idea.