01 Futurium MOB Lab Davidvon Becker 4314 w

Credits: David von Becker

Learning from the future

Future Mobility Simulator

There are endless possibilities for how mobility could look in the future - but some create almost as many problems as they solve. That’s why scientists and urban planners use simulations to test their ideas before implementing them for real. In the Futurium Lab, you can play with all kinds of different visions of the future with the Future Mobility Simulator. The interactive city simulation is based on models that are also used in real city planning.

01 Futurium MOB Lab Davidvon Becker 4314 w

Credits: David von Becker

Exploring different futures with simulations

In Germany, transport is responsible for 20 per cent of annual CO2 emissions. Most of this is caused by road traffic. One way to reduce emissions is to create car-free zones in cities, but in some places, this would require a huge amount of reconstruction to achieve. This issue is complex, expensive and irreversible. That's why scientists use simulations to better assess the possible consequences of major changes.

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CC BY-SA 4.0, Oabanse, Wikimedia Commons

Simulations are models that can answer what-if questions. For example, a computer is fed with data on the current level of traffic in a city and it creates a highly simplified copy of the city and its traffic. With just a few clicks, city planners and scientists can turn individual streets into cycle paths and see what effects this has. How long will it take people to get to work? Will they switch to bicycles? Will the air become cleaner? Or will there be more traffic jams? A simulation is hardly a crystal ball - it doesn’t offer perfect predictions. Too many factors, especially human behaviour, are too difficult to calculate. But a simulation can help to get a better picture of how important decisions, like totally restructuring an urban transport system, might impact the city and its people.

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Credits: David von Becker

SimCity in the Futurium

You can experience how a city simulation works in the Futurium Lab with the Future Mobility Simulator. IMAGINARY’s interactive installation combines a scientific mobility simulation with elements from computer games. Visitors can build residential and commercial areas, parks and roads with real building blocks. What at first looks like Minecraft with real building blocks is brought to life: you can see how roads connect, how traffic flows and how CO2 emissions change.

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CC BY-NC 4.0, Ariel Noyman, MIT Media Lab

The Future Mobility Simulator is based on the CityScope simulation programme developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is freely available and is used by urban planners worldwide. The programme was used, for example, to develop new mobility concepts for the Champs Élysées in Paris. Just like the computer game SimCity, the Future Mobility Simulator shows what you can achieve by making specific changes to the city. A better connection between residential and commercial areas, for example, reduces CO2 emissions. Together, Futurium visitors like you can build a city of the future.

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CC BY-NC 4.0, Ariel Noyman, MIT Media Lab

Avoid-Shift-Improve.

The Future Mobility Simulator allows you to playfully simulate how urban planning decisions, new laws and technological advances change mobility in a city. All the options available to you follow the three principles of prevention, relocation or improvement. This strategy for modifying mobility was first developed by the German government in 1994 (as Vermeiden, verlagern, verbessern) and has since become internationally known as the Avoid-Shift-Improve method. “Avoid” refers to features that prevent us from having to travel in the first place: for example, by building offices, homes and parks close enough to each other that residents can walk wherever they need to go. “Shift” may mean changes like expanding bike lanes so that more people cycle instead of driving. And “Improve” would include new and better measures like a CO2-neutral fuel for the cars we already drive. By combining different Avoid-Shift-Improve measures in small and significant ways, we can make mobility truly climate-friendly one day. And all while remembering that people still want to get where they need to go comfortably - and that can get complicated! That’s why simulations are so important to planning the future of mobility.