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Thursday, 30.05.2024
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  • With robust backing by the Hong Kong Government, the city is set to transform its transportation system and promote overall sustainability by adopting innovative technologies.
  • Hong Kong’s emerging tech-driven smart mobility ecosystem presents numerous opportunities for collaborations between local and international corporations.

Transportation, a daily necessity, is central to Hong Kong’s smart city development, as detailed in the “Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0” published by the Government in 2020.

In the Smart City Index 2023, released last April by the Swiss business school Institute for Management Development, Hong Kong ranked 19th, a significant leap from its 33rd position in 2021.

At the “Smart Mobility Forum”, keynote speaker, The Hon Lam Sai-hung, Secretary for Transport and Logistics of the HKSAR Government, highlighted the benefits of smart mobility. He said, “It enables effective traffic management, facilitates public journeys, optimises public transport use, alleviates road congestion, reduces carbon emissions, protects the environment, and promotes sustainable development in Hong Kong.”

The forum was organised by InvestHK and supported by the South China Morning Post.

Considering Hong Kong’s unique characteristics – a small, densely populated city with growing transport and traffic demands – the Government and stakeholders are exploring innovative technologies and learning from Mainland and overseas cities to transform Hong Kong’s transportation system.

The aim is to cater to Hong Kong’s future needs as the city grows through further integration with the Greater Bay Area (GBA). “Since the release of the Smart Mobility Roadmap for Hong Kong in 2019, the Government has been tirelessly implementing various smart mobility initiatives,” he noted, citing the HKeToll implementation as an example.

Under the vision of “Transforming Travel into People-centric, Efficient, and Green Journeys Connecting Daily Lives,” the Government proposed nine transport strategy recommendations at the end of 2023. These fall under three main strategies: “Enjoyable Journeys,” “Well-connected City,” and “Healthy Mobility.”

The recommendations include constructing a new generation of transport interchange hubs at strategic locations for one-stop access to various transport facilities and amenities. They also suggest developing smart motorways equipped with traffic detectors and lane control signals. These would allow the conversion of hard shoulders to regular lanes based on traffic flow or their use in emergencies. The promotion of autonomous vehicles is another recommendation, given their potential to eliminate human error, prevent driving misbehaviour, and resolve operational issues arising from differing driving rules in Hong Kong and the Mainland, according to Lam.

He added, “We are working with the Environment and Ecology Bureau to promote electric and new energy vehicles. We are also preparing for the smart and green mass transit systems in East Kowloon, Kai Tak, and Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen New Development Area. These systems, recommended under the ‘Hong Kong Major Transport Infrastructure Development Blueprint,’ will serve as light and green feeder services to nearby railway stations and major public transport interchanges in areas with limited space or lower transport demand. This aims to effectively utilise public resources to meet the transport demand from local developments.”

Lam also underscored new initiatives forming part of Hong Kong’s smart mobility system. For example, big data is crucial to our smart mobility initiatives. To improve traffic management and transport efficiency, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the Transport Department, with support from the Hong Kong Observatory, developed the Traffic Data Analytics System. This model uses a comprehensive range of historical and real-time data, including rainfall amounts, traffic incidents, and journey times across different road sections in Hong Kong.

The model can forecast journey times for the upcoming 90-minute period, considering traffic and weather conditions. This information helps road users stay informed about road traffic and weather conditions, aiding them in planning their routes. If traffic congestion occurs on a certain road section, users receive early alerts and can prepare alternative route plans. The big data collected and analysed by the Traffic Data Analytics System also bolsters the Transport Department’s traffic management and contingency measures.

The Government is also facilitating technological advancement and industry development of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and autonomous vehicles (AVs), with a vision to enable wider trials and use of AVs on public roads in Hong Kong.

On March 1, 2024, a flexible regulatory framework for AVs was implemented, according to Lam. This framework allows for wider and more flexible trials and usage of AVs in Hong Kong while ensuring public safety, thus paving the way for the long-term development of AVs in Hong Kong.

Lam also announced that residents could expect to experience the first tested AVs on open roads by the end of 2024.

Business opportunities

Hong Kong’s push for smart mobility is opening up numerous business opportunities, with significant support from the government. “The government has established various funding supports and incentives, such as the ‘Green Tech Fund’, the ‘New Energy Transport Fund’, and the ‘Smart Traffic Fund’ to subsidise research, development, and the adoption of green and smart transportation technologies,” said Alpha Lau, Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK.

Lau noted, “As Hong Kong further integrates with neighbouring cities in the GBA, the demand for smarter, more efficient cross-boundary transport services and facilities is increasing. The forthcoming Northern Metropolis and New Development Areas will also offer excellent opportunities for the application of smart mobility solutions.”

According to Andy Wong, Head of Innovation and Technology at InvestHK, the city has built a robust foundation with a well-established infrastructure and talent pool to support its smart mobility development. In the Urban Mobility Readiness Index report by Oliver Wyman Forum, published in March 2023, Hong Kong claimed the top spot among 60 global cities in the Best Public Transport category.

Wong said, “Road usage by public transport is highly efficient. Around 40 percent of commuters use the public train system. There are franchised and non-franchised buses. Approximately 4,000 public light buses and 18,160 taxis are on the road.”

Furthermore, recent technological advancements, such as the Internet of Things, 5G communication network, sensing technologies, and autonomous vehicles, have laid a solid foundation for the further development of smart mobility solutions.

With transport-focused funds, the government is promoting green solutions. “By 2027, Hong Kong aims to have 700 electric public light buses, 3,000 e-taxis, and the smart and green mass transit system (sky shuttle) in Kai Tak and Hung Shui Kiu,” added Wong.

E-power and future of smart mobility

In the forum discussion titled “The Electric Leap: Accelerating Hong Kong’s Urban Transport and Modern Logistics,” panellists examined the integration of artificial intelligence into the AV system at Hong Kong International Airport. They also discussed the expansion of green energy generation and consumption for EVs in Hong Kong, including the development of a charging network in residential buildings.

Alec Curley, Director of Future Mobility at Jacobs, an international consultancy firm, underscored the challenges of constructing an efficient EV charging system. He emphasised the need for a deep understanding of user needs in high-density urban environments and ensuring these needs are met at all stages. “Partners who can deliver integrated networks with the right number of chargers, in the right places, at the right time, need to be brought together,” said Curley. “The charging networks should be commercially sustainable, scalable, reliable, innovative, and future proof, anticipating tomorrow’s needs and technology.”

As new technologies begin to address challenges such as constrained urban environments and power network limitations, maturing markets necessitate a data-led approach, bolstered by local knowledge, Curley pointed out. “E-mobility is reshaping the global automotive industry. Ad-hoc solutions will give way to EV-specific designs, optimised for location and use case. The practicalities of infrastructure implementation will always be key.”

Yang Weijia, a panellist and Director of Business Planning at AZAPA Co Ltd in Japan, shared insights into Japan’s smart mobility solutions that could be applicable to Hong Kong. “Our company supports new energy vehicle manufacturers in Japan through research and development, and we also conduct small-batch validation,” said Yang.

Yang also elaborated that AZAPA’s expertise spans system design, including ADAS/autonomous driving technology; software, such as model-based technology and measurement platforms; and hardware, including AI TieSet and VISION/FUSION.

He expressed interest in partnering with Hong Kong entities to advance new energy vehicles and autonomous electric vehicles. “We aim to apply Japanese technology and cost control strategies,” he added.

At the “Envisioning a Smart City: The Future of Transportation in Hong Kong” discussion, panellists expressed optimism about the smart mobility transformation of Hong Kong’s transportation system. They highlighted positive developments such as the use of hydrogen-fueled public buses, a feasibility study of the eco-friendly sky shuttle in Kai Tak and other newly developed areas, and the potential adoption of AVs on city roads.

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Quelle/Source: South China Morning Post, 12.03.2024

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