We are about six months away from the opening of the gates of NME- Next Mobility Exhibition (8-10 May 2024) and the organisation team has been at work for some time preparing a high-profile programme. We met with Professor Pierluigi Coppola, who chairs the NME Technical and Scientific Committee, who outlined the platform on which to build the 2024 edition's programme schedule.
Professor, the NME 2022 edition opened with a study by you and your staff on a particularly challenging topic “How to reactivate the demand for TPL?”. In this respect, IT systems and in particular MAAS can also help. What is Italy position in this context? Has any progress been made in the past year?
«Information and communication technologies (ICT) can play a fundamental role in improving public transport services. Through the implementation of innovative solutions, in fact, the public transport offer can become more efficient, accessible and convenient for citizens by favouring the modal shift, reducing dependency on cars and pollution in cities».
What are these platforms?
«A very topical example is the Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms, which are digital platforms that can be accessed with the use of smart phones and enable people to receive information on the best travel solutions (trip planners) from origin to destination, but also to book and pay for travel tickets for the various parts of the journey, e.g. bike-sharing and the underground, or taxi and train in one transaction, using a single operator, the so-called Maas Operator».
Let's talk about the National Sustainable Mobility Centre. An entity made up of 49 participants including 25 universities and research centres and 24 private entities. Can you give us an update on this?
«The National Sustainable Mobility Centre (MOST editor's note) is one of the 5 national research centres funded by the Ministry of Universities and Research (MIUR) under the NRP according to a model involving collaboration between academia and private and public companies. MOST involves 25 universities/research institutes and 24 transport companies collaborating on the development of advanced infrastructure and vehicles, the promotion of technologies and mobility practices that reduce environmental impact and improve the quality of life in communities. A state investment of 378 million euro involving 700 structured professors and researchers and a further 570 to be recruited over 4 years, from 2022 to 2026, will develop projects and mobility solutions that are readily available and highly applicable to the entire social context of the country».
Let's look to the future: will Urban Air Mobility (UAM) really become a transport system available to everyone in the medium term?
Studies conducted by various research institutes, including the Milan University of Technology in collaboration with the SEA airports, show that electric vertical take-off aircraft (eVTOLs editor's note) are ready to enter the urban mobility market, and that there is a demand ready to welcome them. Although the flight authorisation process is still being finalised, there is no doubt that in the medium term UAMs will be able to transport people as well as goods; initially along controlled corridors and mainly for access to airports, subsequently also for urban travel where there is a “vertiport”.
Do you think this technology will be available to all citizens?
«This will depend on market conditions: the number of vertiports that will be built, the number of connections, and the prices of UAM services, which will have to be competitive with those of other modes of transport. In short, it is not just a matter of safety, low-flying perception, and speed of travel. We must bear in mind that the cost of a UAM service will be two or even three times more than the cost of a taxi ride and may also require a shift in access to the vertiport. I would say that we can hardly expect a sky crowded with drones in the medium term».