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Amsterdam is Smartening Up

How yet another sustainable and intelligent concept is adding to Amsterdam’s smart and innovative character.

Car2Go Amsterdam. ©Car2Go

Today, I registered for Car2Go, which is an incredibly smart car use program that started off in Amsterdam about six months ago. Amsterdam is the fifth city worldwide and the first in Europe to have a Car2Go program. It is now expanding to another 8 cities worldwide.

It is actually a corporate initiative. Daimler, the German automobile multinational that initiated the project, deployed 300 electric-powered Smart cars. The cars are easy to park, because they have parking permits for all inner-ringroad districts, and of course because of their compact size.

To register, you need to pay €9,99. There’s an app and a website to find the cars that are parked nearby. You can even reserve one, up to 15 minutes before driving off. After getting into one of the cars you pay per minute, 29 cents to be exact (9 cents whilst parking). Because of the parking permits, you can drop them of wherever you like within the ringroad (and some districts further away). When you park them at a charging point, you get free kilometers for your next drive (the navigation panel in the car shows where the nearest charging point is).

This is really what urban car use should look like, I believe. Not only is the sustainable side of it something that makes me feel happy. The flexibility of it is great and the costs are relatively low. The cars are easy to find and to use, and it seems to me that the concept is in line with all kinds of societal and economic developments that are going on.

The ideal of car ownership in cities seems to be fading, which of course is a good thing for jsut about anyone who is is not a SUV manufacturer. It actually only makes sense, because why would every urban househould need their own car? I think that’s more and more something of the past. And yes, there have been car-sharing initiatives before that are comparable to Car2Go, but not in such a sustainable, efficient and affordable way.

Landing page of the Amsterdam Smart City website.

Amsterdam Smart City
Daimler specificly chose Amsterdam to be the first European city to deploy the concept. This is partially because of the existence of ‘Amsterdam Electric’ (a Daimler representative states in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant today), which is a network of public charging points. The number of charging points will be around 1000 by the end of 2012, which is quite a lot for a city the size of Amsterdam. The existing ‘electric infrastrucure’ made Daimler choose Amsterdam as the first European city to have Car2Go.

These municipal investments are what made the program work. But it’s also the physical fabric of the city that I think is a good match with Car2Go. The small cars are perfect for the fine grained streets in the central districts, and the small parking spaces. Also, Amsterdam is not as congested as other cities, making inner city car rides doable and not extremely time-consuming. Also, more and more people living and working in Amsterdam most of the time don’t need a car, but for the moments they do, Car2Go offers the right flexibility.

Amsterdam has been hailed for their ‘smart city’ initiatives - both in media and academia - particularly because of the numerous small scale initiatives that use new technologies in a coordinated way that are almost seamlessly integrated with the city’s existing social, economic, infrastructure networks and cultural and historical layers. 
This is something Saskia Sassen addressed at the PICNIC conference, last September, saying that we shouldn’t want to create ‘smart cities’ from scratch because the technologies are not ‘sufficiently urbanized’ yet. Rather, we should organically deploy technology to enhance our existing urban environments. 

I’m excited to see where Amsterdam is going in this smart (or wise, or sustainable, or organically technological) development, looking at the work Amsterdam Innovation Motor and Amsterdam Smart City are currently doing, from large developments to almost surgical interventions. 

Previously on City Breaths:
Should we not reconsider the term “Smart Cities”? 
Smart Cities Should be Open-Source
Employ Technology to Create Ownership, Rather than Smart Cities

Filed under smartercities smart cities Amsterdam technology networks urbanism

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    Not the first. Check out the main car2go page. Berlin, Ulm, Düsseldorf, Hamburg Vienna Birmingham Lyon.
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