Sensors securing sustainable digital urban logistics

The transport of goods, equipment, and waste to, from, in, and through urban areas (city or urban logistics) is essential for the economic vitality of the city but, at the same time, makes urban environmental and social targets more difficult to achieve The European Green Deal and the UN Sustainability Goals also challenge the ways of addressing planning and management. At the same time, Covid 19 has led to new challenges for urban logistics and changes in consumer purchasing and travel patterns.

Digitalization offers new ways of collecting data and providing input to the planning and modeling urban logistics that might alleviate these challenges. A new article by Knapskog and Browne addresses how digitalization, especially sensors, can contribute to new forms of data for analysis and play a role in developing sustainable digital urban logistics measures and plans through data collection and sharing. The research contains empirical insights from a survey and workshop in Norway.

The article combines knowledge of practitioners’ needs for data gathering through sensors with the current situation for integrated land use and transport planning of urban freight and freight partnerships in network governance with private and public stakeholders. The research question is: What could be the role of sensors in planning for sustainable digital urban logistics?

The results from the survey show that sensors are the digital solution practitioners see as most useful for urban transport. This is supported by results from the workshop supporting a sensor scenario. When it comes to the digitalization process, the practitioners expect that the different levels of government will facilitate the digitalization of urban logistics. Most practitioners think that all levels of government should do more to facilitate new solutions. Testing should take place as a collaboration between private and public actors. Due to Covid 19, the government level is seen to have an important role in the exchange of information and advice and in giving economic incentives and support rather than providing law and regulatory changes or reorganizing public services. The local level is considered to have an especially important role in digitalization, including data for modeling, planning, or public procurement procedures.

The article addresses these questions by referencing the Partnerships for Freight Transport in London and Gothenburg. The article adds insights for planning practitioners into how sensors will challenge and provide new possibilities to suggest new paths for planning and modeling urban logistics and an amplified role for freight partnerships.

Knapskog and Browne suggest that the freight partnership could share more data for better integration of urban logistics into planning practice and that the freight partnerships could provide an environment for data-driven network governance. Sensors could be shared between public and private actors within a framework that considers data use, storage, and privacy issues. For instance, if the data should be shared only within the network or with the wider public. It should, however, be discussed where the government’s responsibility end and when the data collection and sharing is a private responsibility. Still, the sharing and use of sensors and big data will require that the public sector, and especially municipalities at the local level, take the lead, which has implications for planning.

Source: Knapskog, M., & Browne, M. (2022). Sensors securing sustainable digital urban logistics—A practitioner’s perspective. Frontiers in Future Transportation.

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