Research news

The future of smart cities

Designed by Damjan Rončević (UL EF)

Publish Date: 24.01.2022

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 11 Sustainable cities and communities, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 17 Partnerships for the goals (Indicators)

Researchers from the University of Ljubljana’s School of Economics and Business (UL SEB) (Anton Manfreda, Klara Ljubi and Aleš Groznik) were interested in how millennials are adopting autonomous vehicles in smart cities. Their research findings were presented in an article that was published in International Journal of Information Management and was selected as one of the most outstanding research achievements in the field of interdisciplinary sciences, with the designation “Excellent in Science 2021”. The selection is made every year by the Slovenian Research Agency.

Today, many places are facing major changes and challenges that arise from global shifts in the environment, rapid urbanisation and the ageing of infrastructure. However, digitalization brings new opportunities for individuals and cities alike, along with the formation of the concept of smart cities. Smart cities focus on searching for solutions to the above challenges and deal with key issues of modern life, including transport, energy, the environment and integration of citizens. Initially, we examined the factors that affect the adoption of the overall concept of a smart city. We focused mainly on the combination of factors such as enthusiasm about technology in conjunction with various sensors used in smart cities (for traffic control, measuring air quality, movement control, etc.), the significance of trust in certain services depending on who offers them, and the attitude towards data sharing. Recently, smart mobility, which includes autonomous vehicles, has been one of the most important elements in the development of smart cities. The development of autonomous vehicles is not only connected with the technical progress, but it also changes people’s habits and companies’ business models.

The purpose of the UL SEB research was to provide insight into millennials’ adoption of autonomous vehicles, as millennials are an important focus group for smart city concepts and new transport modes. The paper focuses on the attitude towards modern technologies, potential personal benefits related to saving time or care for the environment, perception of mobility-related efficiencies, safety and security, and various concerns as key factors in adopting autonomous vehicles.  We verified the impact of these factors empirically using the structural equation modelling method based on data gathered from among more than 400 individuals. The research has confirmed that factors such as fear of technology and lack of clear legal framework have a significant negative impact on the attitude towards autonomous vehicles. On the other hand, the expected safety significantly lowers these fears. At the same time, the expected personal and societal benefits play an important role in this combination of factors.

Pametna mesta  modelFig. 1: Conceptual model of adopting autonomous vehicles. Source

The topic in question is relevant for the general public as it pertains to technology that is only just starting to be implemented and will markedly change existing business models. In order to follow these and any future changes, it is necessary to adopt the new technologies as they become available and to provide a supportive environment both in research and investments to make sure they are used appropriately. The importance and relevance of the topic is underscored by the fact that, following publication, the research was quickly cited in renowned journals such as Information Systems Frontiers, International Journal of Information Management, Transportation Research, Psychology & Marketing, and Technovation, among many others.

The recent rapid development in the field of autonomous vehicles, and especially of smart cities, additionally attests to the fact that the knowledge of factors significantly influencing their adoption is essential for numerous stakeholders. This is not just about technology, but is also about the intertwining of technology and society. Above all, it involves appropriately embedding modern technology into the mechanism of a community, while taking the necessary skills and knowledge into consideration. In short, embedding that prioritises quality of life. Ultimately, this is important not only for service developers, but also for decision-makers and users. And we all fall into the latter category, both as individuals and a community as a whole.

Pametna mesta avtorjiFig. 2: Authors of the articel (from left to right): Asst. Prof. Dr Anton Manfreda, Phd, Assist Klara Ljubi, Prof. Aleš Groznik. Source: UL EF

*The research was financed by the Slovenian Research Agency within the programme group “Technologies of the internet of the future: Concepts, architectures, services and socio-economic aspects” (P2-0037).



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