Add to Noticing List
Download as PDF

Games and competitions for more sustainable mobility

If more people were to abstain more often from using their car, large amounts of energy could be saved, and this in turn would lead to lower CO2 emissions. An app by the name of GoEco! aims to change the behaviour of its users and to encourage them to travel in a more climate-friendly and sustainable way.

Summary of the research project “Virtual competition for energy-efficient mobility”.
Endless brake lights: an everyday sight on Swiss roads
Endless brake lights: an everyday sight on Swiss roads Shutterstock
At a glance

At a glance

  • Mobility accounts for a large proportion of Switzerland's energy consumption. Accordingly, there is great potential for savings in this area, for example by doing without a car more often.
  • To motivate Swiss people to travel more frequently by public transport, on foot or by bicycle, researchers have developed the GoEco! app.
  • The app records users' habits, gives them tips on how to travel their daily routes more sustainably and offers a competition between participants.
  • After one year, the number of kilometres the participants from Ticino had travelled by car had decreased, and alternative means of transport had been chosen more frequently.

Every day, thousands of cars congest Swiss city centres and motorways – a tedious situation for motorists and a huge problem for our climate. Mobility accounts for approximately one third of Switzerland's energy consumption and is therefore also the source of a large proportion of CO2 emissions. The potential for savings in this area is significant, but in general individuals are not willing to change their mobility behaviour. Researchers at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and the ETH Zurich therefore aimed to determine how Swiss people can be persuaded to leave their vehicles in the car park more often and to switch to other, more sustainable means of transport. For this purpose, they developed the GoEco! app, which records users' mobility habits, suggests ways to improve their behaviour and offers them the opportunity to compete with other users. The aim of the app is to induce a long-term change in users' behaviour, leading to more sustainable and climate-friendlier travel.

More sustainable alternatives for systematic routes

List of individual trips in the app.
List of individual trips in the app. SUPSI

In order to put GoEco! to the test, the researchers conducted a field trial over a period of one year. For this purpose, they recruited volunteers from two regions of Switzerland: firstly, from the city of Zurich, which is densely populated, has a well-developed public transport network and also offers cyclists and pedestrians adequate infrastructure such as cycle paths and sidewalks. Secondly, from the canton of Ticino, which is much less densely populated and a highly car-dependent area. All test persons were asked to use the app to record their routes. GoEco! was coupled with an existing fitness app called Moves, thus relieving the researchers of the task of developing their own mobility tracker. This app records the distances covered and can also determine speed. Since Moves cannot tell whether a person is travelling by bus, tram, train or car, the researchers developed a method that uses the speed of the movement, the acceleration and the stops to determine which means of transport the test person has chosen.

For each route travelled, users received feedback regarding the distance travelled, duration, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. They were also sent a weekly summary of their mobility pattern. For the routes the test persons covered regularly, the app suggested alternatives, such as walking distances of less than one kilometre or cycling stretches less than three kilometres long. The researchers mainly focussed their proposals for more sustainable mobility on everyday routes such as those covered to commute to work or to go shopping. Changing these routes is easier to plan and has a greater impact, as in this context the choice of more sustainable means of transport makes it possible to save energy on a daily basis.

Competition between participants

Weekly summary of mobility behaviour, as displayed by the app.
Weekly summary of mobility behaviour, as displayed by the app. SUPSI

In order to further motivate the test subjects, the app offered them the possibility to set personal goals and the opportunity to participate in challenges such as abstaining from using a car for an entire weekend or covering all short routes on foot or by bike during a given week. By achieving their personal goals and successfully completing a certain number of challenges, the users were then able to compete with other participants.

Although only 52 of the approximately 600 volunteers who had initially signed up for the trial were still using the app after one year, the researchers were able to gain a certain number of significant results. It turned out that by the end of the year the participants from the canton of Ticino covered fewer kilometres by car than at the beginning of the experiment. Accordingly, the number of kilometres covered by public transport, on foot or by bicycle increased. This also had a positive effect on CO2 emissions: on average, the participants saved 33.1 grams of CO2 per kilometre of their daily routes.

For the test subjects from the city of Zurich, on the other hand, no significant changes were observed. According to the researchers, this is probably due to the fact that public transport had already played an important role in their daily lives prior to the experiment.

For the time being, the GoEco! project has come to an end. However, the researchers were able to gain important insights and to formulate recommendations from which follow-up projects such as the SBB's Green Class project have benefited.

Contact and Team

Roman Rudel

Istituto sostenibilità applicata all'ambiente costruito
Campus Trevano, Via Trevano
6952 Canobbio

+41 (0)58 666 63 51

Roman Rudel


Massimo Botta

Dominik Bucher

Francesca Cellina

Vanessa De Luca

Luca Morici

Martin Raubal

Andrea Emilio Rizzoli

Paul Weiser

All information provided on these pages corresponds to the status of knowledge as of 13.06.2019.