Instead of relying on cars and trucks for every journey, smart mobility focuses on smarter and safer ways for moving people and goods from A to B.

Australia has traditionally been a car-centric culture, reinforced by urban sprawl and the tendency of consecutive governments to favour building freeways over expanding other transport infrastructure.

Yet the push to be more environmentally conscious and reduce carbon emissions has inspired Australians to be more open to other methods of transport – not just for their own travel, but also when it comes to moving freight around the city or across the country.


What is meant by smart mobility?

Smart mobility refers to rethinking transportation, to embrace modes of transport which are safe, efficient, flexible, integrated, and environmentally friendly. This includes reducing the transport sector’s reliance on private vehicles and fossil fuels. Smart mobility solutions make use of technology developments and innovations including new business models and agile policies.

Why is smart mobility important?

While the push for smart mobility has been accelerated by the drive to meet net-zero targets, it is also focused on reducing traffic volumes and easing traffic and parking congestion in order to improve road safety, improve air quality and help cities run more smoothly. Smart mobility also promotes alternative modes of travel including public transport, car sharing and ride sharing, and active modes of travel including micromobility alternatives such as cycling and scooters.

Transport’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels has made it Australia’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Transport was responsible for 19% of the country’s total emissions in 2020, according to the government’s Climate Change Authority, and this is predicted to rise to 25% by 2030.

When it comes to traffic congestion, commuters driving from Melbourne and Sydney’s outer suburbs to the CBD and back each workday spend around 41% of their commute stuck in traffic. That’s around 77 hours each year, the equivalent of almost two working weeks, according to Infrastructure Partnership Australia.

When considering the value of people’s time, road congestion cost the Australian economy $19 billion in 2016, according to Infrastructure Australia. Without continued investment in appropriate types of transport infrastructure such as public and active transport, the cost of congestion will likely continue to rise in the future.

From a safety perspective, Australia’s road toll has remained relatively steady around 1100 to 1200 deaths over the last decade. Vulnerable road users such as motorcycle riders, pedestrians and cyclists accounted for a third of Australia’s road toll in 2020, according to the National Road Safety Strategy. When it comes to serious injuries, vulnerable road users account for almost half of all incidents. Smart mobility solutions which reduce reliance on private vehicle travel and enhance the safety features of smart infrastructure and road vehicles will likely contribute to reducing the road toll in the future .

As an illustration of this is data from a European Commission report, Study on the Deployment of C-ITS in Europe: Final Report. It reported that the largest cumulative socioeconomic benefits of smart mobility include reduced travel times and increased efficiency (66%), reduced accident rates (22%), and fuel consumption savings (11%). Furthermore, it can help to smooth mobility demand at peak hours and provide a way to optimise freight transport through better capacity management.

What are the elements of smart mobility?

Smart mobility initiatives are divided into two main categories: those designed to make more efficient use of existing transport options and those designed to encourage people to take advantage of alternative transport options.

Shared mobility (SM) is an example of more efficient use of existing transport options. It reduces the need for people to rely on their own private vehicle by optimising the usage of shared vehicles – either shared with other people concurrently or shared in turn.

A range of ITS technologies such as adaptive traffic signal control and managed motorways are examples of established smart technology solutions that also improve the efficiency of existing infrastructure without the need for additional investment in expensive expansions of road capacity.

Examples of shared mobility include ride, car, e-scooter, and bicycle-sharing services, as well as public transport, taxis and shuttle services. Autonomous vehicles are also set to play an increasing role in Shared Mobility.

Building on this, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) focuses on shifting transportation to an on-demand service and reducing the need for people to own and operate their own vehicles.

Mobility on Demand (MoD) brings together public, shared, and private transit options, with a focus on supporting multimodal trips, so people can determine the optimal way to travel without relying on their own private vehicle for the entire journey.

When it comes to alternative transport options, Smart mobility projects can include initiatives which encourage more people to catch public transport, cycle and walk.

What is smart mobility in a smart city?

A smart city is one that promotes citizen-centric engagement and connects the social, physical, economic, and information infrastructures to create a vibrant urban environment that enhances access to services and economic opportunities and improves the quality of life for its citizens.

Rather than operating in isolation, smart mobility initiatives can integrate with a smart city’s services and infrastructure in order to further improve outcomes for the city and its residents. Smart cities can also make planning and regulatory decisions to support smart mobility and offer residents more practical alternatives to getting behind the wheel of their own car.

From a technology perspective, smart mobility can take advantage of city-wide sensor networks in order to optimise the flow of people and traffic, as well as offer more seamless connections during multimodal journeys. These sensor networks can also provide greater insights into transport usage habits, to better inform smart mobility policies.

City-wide networks have the potential to support advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) which can provide real-time information and optimise traffic flows, as well as lay the groundwork for supporting autonomous vehicles which communicate with their environment.

From a planning perspective, smart cities can improve the reach, frequency, and reliability of public transport, as well as optimise opportunities for multimodal travel. On the streets, they can make cities more walkable and pedestrian friendly, as well as extend cycling networks and cater to scooter and bike-sharing services.

While making alternative transport methods more practical and attractive, smart cities can also make the use of private vehicles less attractive through pricing signals such as congestion charges, fuel taxes, and parking fees.

What are the effects of smart mobility?

Smart mobility can reduce traffic volume to help cities meet their transport and environmental targets, plus it can ensure that a city’s transport infrastructure better supports the mobility needs of the community.

It can also reduce reliance on private vehicles and increase the patronage of other transport options. This can reduce traffic volume, in order to ease traffic congestion and reduce commute times. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and the time they spend stuck in traffic, also reduces carbon emissions and other pollution.

By offering more efficient transport options and optimising opportunities for multimodal travel, smart mobility also makes it easier for people to move around a city. This can underpin a range of social and economic benefits, from providing equality of transport access to different sections of the community to supporting city retailers through improved foot traffic.

What is the future of smart mobility?

Smart mobility is set to become more important as cities tackle urban sprawl by encouraging higher density housing to allow more people to live closer to the city centre.

Increasing housing density will limit access to both on and off-street parking, but enabling people to live closer to the city will offer them improved access to public transport and other mobility options to use as an alternative to private vehicles. Smart mobility will be critical to meeting their needs.

Shared autonomous vehicles, such as cars and shuttles, are also set to have a significant impact on the future of smart mobility – providing door-to-door travel as well as individual legs of a multimodal journey.

From a smart mobility perspective, one of the key benefits of shared autonomous vehicles is that they do not need to remain idle after dropping off passengers. They can either pick up other passengers or drive empty to where they are needed.

This reduces the need for parking in the city and at major transport hubs making multimodal journeys more attractive. Reducing the need for parking frees up space for other uses, while eliminating the need to pay for parking gives people another incentive to leave their own car at home.

The driverless ZOE2 and Queensland’s Cooperative & Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI)

This video shows ZOE2 in action, in a public demonstration on the public streets of Bundaberg, Queensland. ZOE2 is a Renault Zoe electric vehicle, a prototype Level 4 vehicle which allows the automated system to be given control within predefined geographical areas. It’s being used in several iMOVE projects, with partners the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Queensland Motor Accident Insurance Commission, and the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (QUT). Find out more about ZOE2, and Queensland’s Cooperative & Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI).

Our decisions about transportation determine much more than where roads or bridges or tunnels or rail lines will be built. They determine the connections and barriers that people will encounter in their daily lives – and thus how hard or easy it will be for people to get where they need and want to go.

Elijah Cummings

Smart mobility careers

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in smart mobility, our interview series Meet Smart Mobility Experts could help guide you.

In this series we interview a number of researchers, practitioners, department of transport executives and more. Amongst other things we cover their academic background, research activity, career progression, and more.

Professor Hussein Dia

No one can predict the future with any degree of accuracy, but we can identify sustained trends which if they continue can become a disruptive form of mobility. For example, models of tech-enabled shared transport are proving to be very successful for improving mobility in our cities.

Professor Hussein Dia – Chair, Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, Program Leader, Future Urban Mobility Research Program, Swinburne University of Technology

Smart Mobility resources

Here’s a selection of Australian strategy and project documents on the topic of smart mobility.

Smart mobility: Facts and figures

Working from Home

During the COVID pandemic in Australia:

  • the weighted average of car and public transport monetary costs declined from $2,105 to $461, or by 78%
  • the weighted average of car and public transport time costs declined from $5,841 to $2,686, or by 54%
  • taken together, total generalised costs declined from $7,946 to $3,147 or by 60%.

Connected vehicles

  • The eight C-ITS use cases implemented in the Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot could have prevented up to 101 fatalities and 4,198 serious injuries from crashes. This equates to an average of 20 fatalities and 840 serious injuries prevented each year in South-East Queensland.
  • Advanced Red Light Warning (ARLW) and Turning Warning Vulnerable Road user (TWVR) improved participants’ driving behaviour by alerting participants as they approached traffic signals.
  • Advanced Red Light Warning warnings could reduce the likelihood of running red traffic signals and thus reduce a potential intersection crash by 22%
  • A comprehensive analysis of Victorian Road Safety data, covering a 15-year period with approximately 190,000 recorded crashes indicated that the following eight major connected safety use cases have the capability to address approximately 80% of crashes on Victorian roads. Specifically, 78% of fatal crashes, 82% of serious injury crashes, and 84% of other crashes causing injury.


  • It has been estimated that even a medium level of drone uptake can boost the Australia’s productivity to a significant extent in the next few decades and that successful uptake will create 5,500 new jobs every year and boost real gross domestic product (GDP) by A$14.5 billion with a cost saving of A$9.3 billion across all sectors between 2020 and 2040.

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What is iMOVE doing in the area of smart mobility?

Given iMOVE’s mission is to advance the development and adoption of technologies to improve Australia’s transport systems, through high impact R&D collaborations there’s a strong case to be made that all of our project work is within the broad umbrella of smart mobility.

To give you an idea of the scope of our work in smart mobility, here’s some highlights.

Autonomous vehicles

Driverless vehicles, autonomous vehicles, call them what you will, is a strong area of iMOVE focus, and an area of great interest for the Australian public. In Autonomous vehicles and Australian roads: Are they ready for each other? we’re investigating the infrastructure needs of automated vehicles now and in the future. Safety and traffic congestion are two of the key challenges on our networks and there is strong potential for connectivity and Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) to improve these vital problems. Two key pieces of work in this are Accelerating the uptake of C-ITS technologies in Australia and What C-ITS technologies for national deployment in Australia? And just how ready might Australians be for all of this, and how can we help them on this technology journey? See Promoting community readiness and uptake of CAVs.

Public transport

Away from driverless cars we’re looking at what will be a big change to public transport, autonomous shuttles. There’s strong, ongoing pieces of work here, on this, in South Australia with FLEXible use case – enhancing the Tonsley shuttle trial and in Victoria with 5G aid in automated mobility for elderly and people with disability.

Air and sea

In the air, in such a big country as ours drones are likely to be an important addition to the transport ecosystem. Two of our projects in flight on this are Integrating drones into NT Health and Validating the benefits of increased drone uptake for Australia. Being an island autonomous is a likely change coming to Australian shipping, and in this we have a project, Seafarer training for autonomous shipping: Needs & challenges.

Road safety

Smart mobility can bring about great benefits in terms of road safety, and in this AiRAP automation for Australian road safety and Motorcyclist safety: Connected motorcycle pilot are groundbreaking pieces of work.

As we outlined in The rise and rise of the kerb, there’s changes ahead in how we allocate, share, and use the public spaces that are roads and footpaths. In this area, see Movement & Place and the design of safe & successful places, Desire lines user behaviour: Initial research, and Parking management in the smart mobility age.

Freight and logistics

Our systems for moving goods into and across Australia are under great stress. Our growing population and the booming popularity of on-line shopping is driving a rapid increase in the national freight task. And yet the systems we use have barely changed in decades, and suffer ongoing problems of uncertain or delayed deliveries and lost goods. It’s an area we covered in depth in Where’s my box? The case for improved supply chain visibility. Now! In looking to help improve the way freight moves in and around Australia, we have Mapping Australian freight: SWOT analysis and the Freight consignment data aggregation pilot.

Further on the topic of freight, we’re looking at alternative fuels for heavy transport, in Freight vehicles: An evaluation of renewable energy fuels and Investigating the viability of hydrogen fuel for heavy vehicle use. As part of a broader project in this area is FACTS: A Framework for an Australian Clean Transport Strategy, the result of an assembly of a large group of Australian scientific experts, providing evidence-based guidance to local, state/territory and federal governments on how they can support transport decarbonisation in a timeframe congruent with global climate targets.

What impact iMOVE is having in the area of smart mobility?

The R&D work of iMOVE and its partners is taking place across Australia. Some work is specifically State- or city-based, other work has a national focus. It’s investigating issues and opportunities on Australian roads, rail, sea, and air. Additionally, we’re readying Australia’s next generations of smart mobility experts and practitioners via our Undergraduate Student Industry and Industry PhD programs.

One area in which we conducted several major pieces of work in the area of smart mobility was in the transport reaction to the COVID pandemic, and the big shift that happened in the move to Working from Home. Particular note should be taken of our overarching report that gathered our findings on this shift, in Prospects for Working from Home: Assessing the evidence.

Our four main pillars of work in smart mobility are:

Contact iMOVE

There’s still a lot of work to be done to make Australian transport systems smarter. If you’d like to talk to us about any R&D work in this area, please get in touch with us to start a discussion.

iMOVE smart mobility projects

iMOVE, along with its partners, is active in carrying out R&D to make Australian transport and mobility smarter.

Please find below the three latest smart mobility projects. Or click to view all iMOVE’s smart mobility projects.


iMOVE smart mobility PhD projects

In addition to iMOVE and its partners’ smart mobility-related projects listed above, as part of our Industry PhD Program businesses, universities and PhD students work on an agreed topic over a three-year period.

These are the three most recent PhD projects that have been undertaken on the topic of smart mobility. Click to view all iMOVE’s smart mobility PhD projects.


iMOVE smart mobility articles

In addition to projects, iMOVE also publishes articles, thoughtpieces, case studies, etc. that cover the many issues and solutions around smart mobility.

Below are the three most recent articles. Or click to view all iMOVE’s smart mobility articles.