BMW Sees Shift to ‘Cities Based Around People Rather Than Cars’

The company that once emphasized the Ultimate Driving Machines says it’s no longer only about cars in growing cities, it’s about quality of life, and facilitating urban landscapes conducive to getting around.

On that note, BMW today opened its Centre of Urban Mobility Competence in Berlin and took opportunity to highlight its vision for electrification and urban mobility.

The plan is to be on the ground floor of a de-emphasis on personal car ownership, shift toward carsharing, land re-allocated for uses other than parking, plenty of charging infrastructure, and everything complementary to public transit and even rental bicycles.

This BMW outlined while also noting 100 new i3s are rolling the streets of Berlin, Hamburg and Munich in its DriveNow carsharing program, which in turn is complemented by ChargeNow and ParkNow initiatives.

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To date, DriveNow has added over 470,000 customers the last four years, mainly clustered in Germany, and this is just the start, says the carmaker.

To sum things BMW politely outlined, cities around the world are growing to densely packed, polluted centers where it’s tough to find parking and get around, and BMW wants to be at the heart of a change.

Its initiatives and the new Competence Centre opened today aim over the coming years to tackle problems that if nothing is done about them will only get worse.

Our long-term vision is for cities to offer an enhanced quality of life, in which more efficient organization of mobility solutions helps to create a new environment in which to live. The top priority of the Competence Centre is to safeguard mobility for all users at its current level at the very least. Deprivation or coercion are not an option. Instead, the types of mobility available will be improved and coordinated so effectively that people will adopt them as a logical consequence.

Today’s official start of operations at the BMW Competence Centre marks an earnest attempt toward that paradigm shift. BMW says it brings together a team of experts under one roof to work with cities and stakeholders to develop sustainable concepts for future mobility in urban areas.

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The 100 i3s in Germany and DriveNow are a first leg of the program of a plan mapped out through to 2020. These complement another fleet launched in May in London, and more planned in Europe.

As for parking and charging initiatives, BMW speaks in terms that would get a sociologist’s attention of changing trends, synergy, and a virtual snowball effect as the lightbulb goes on that electrification and other ways are better.

Just car chargers for the carsharing i3s, says BMW, stands to create this synergy.

“This rapidly makes electric mobility visible and more easily accessible to local people, turning it from a niche activity into an everyday reality,” says the company in a statement. “It breaks down barriers and eases the pathway into electric mobility.”

Another big concern is parking, which can be the worst part of traveling to a city, observes BMW. Clogged cities with exorbitant parking spaces and tickets for offenders is a problem as are the emissions associated with all those vehicles competing for the same space.

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BMW’s vision is car sharing of non-emitting electric cars complementing existing public transportation, and elimination of as much need for real estate designated for parking.

“The quality of life in our increasingly densely populated cities can be improved significantly by putting public spaces to different use,” says BMW. “One way we can achieve this is by freeing up a large portion of the parking areas currently required. To make this possible, mobility concepts and frameworks need to be in place which can spark people’s enthusiasm for urban mobility beyond their own car.

The vision that includes potential rental bicycles, fewer privately owned vehicles, and ultimately a happier environment conducive to productivity and enjoyment is not a new one.

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BMW says however it is completely on board with it, and is working on solutions merging connectivity, rethinking everything, and being there to sell its products and services beyond bahn-storming Ultimate Driving Machines.

“The company’s strategic roadmap runs up to 2020 and is clearly defined: the BMW Group aims to be the leading supplier of premium products and premium services for personal mobility worldwide,” says the automaker.