Physics and Collective Dynamics of Future Mobility

Workshop Report

The Focus workshop PhyMo22 took place at the MPIPKS from March 9-11, 2022. We aimed at consolidating the interdisciplinary quantitative research on the collective dynamics and future challenges of sustainable human transport, both taking the perspective of Nonlinear Dynamics, Network Dynamics and Statistical Physics and respecting socio-economic and user boundary conditions. The workshop brought together more than 50 researchers working on different quantitative analyses and modeling aspects of human mobility with an emphasis on integrating theory and conceptualization, computational modeling and various approaches to data analysis.

New mobility services such as ride-sharing and ride-pooling constituted one major theme discussed. Theoretical and modeling analyses about optimal performance and suitable efficiencies of pooled or bi-modal services were contributed by Knut Heidemann, Charlotte Lotze and Steffen Mühle. David-Maximilian Storch discussed the potential of financial and other incentives for inducing a high fraction of ride-sharing adoption. Practical insights into the efficiency of on-demand ride-pooling systems were provided by Debsankha Manik of the Hamburg company MOIA, a dedicated branch of Volkswagen Group and the largest commercial ride-pooling service in Europe.   

A second main topic was the overall characterization of traffic dynamics, with contributions, among others, by Thomas Guhr, Kay Axhausen and Marta C. Gonzalez. Several aspects of their conclusions were supported by large-scale data analysis. The planning of efficient transport networks such as bike paths and public transport networks was touched upon in the talks by Christoph Steinacker and Matthias Dahlmanns. Research towards the fundamental understanding of individual mobility behaviour was presented by Paolo Santi and Laura Alessandretti.
Several other researchers, including Hugo Barbosa, David Levinson and Gourab Ghoshal, Michael Schreckenberg and Michael Szell, added their views in additional talks on topics like city transport infrastructure development or gender aspects of mobility. The workshop connected many established researchers with junior scientists. Participants actively engaged with each other's research and several repeatedly brainstormed, debated, or worked on open challenges after talks.

The scientific event concluded with a discussion about future physics research on mobility. Integrating micro- with macro-scale analysis was identified as one of the major research frontiers. Moreover, although machine learning often achieves excellent modeling results under given circumstances, it can hardly reveal causal mechanism underlying emergent phenomena, resulting in challenges in explaining policy decisions to transport users. Thus, complex systems research has been identified as becoming increasingly important for understanding intricacies, tipping points, phase transitions and new collective states, beyond what can be directly deduced from data.

Despite the ongoing COVID-restrictions and the event taking place in a hybrid format, the workshop succeeded in giving an impulse for collaborative research about understanding collective phenomena in transportation and contributing towards identifying a path towards sustainable mobility. We would like to thank the MPIPKS for offering the opportunity for the timely cross-disciplinary exchange, Katrin Lantsch for providing dedicated and outstanding organizational support and Ronny Börner for performing miracles on all IT tasks during the hybrid workshop. Thank You!