In November I attended the Future of Mobility Conference in Abu Dhabi, organized by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and the Department of Transport Abu Dhabi (DoT). Many federal and local government agencies as well as leading car manufacturers were attending and supporting the event.
When we talk about the future of mobility, four areas seem to reappear frequently. These can be simplified to CASE - Connectivity, Automization, Shared mobility and Electrification. As expected, all these areas were discussed during the conference, but most attention was given to electrification and automization.
ELECTRIFICATION & FUEL CELLS
Electrification is high on the agenda also in this part of the world, despite the access to relatively low-cost oil. Dubai has 4100 electric vehicles (EV) registered to date and the target is to be on 2% ‘green mobility’ by 2020.
Christoph Venburgh from Daimler-Mercedes said that most brands will release a number of EV models within the coming years, but the infrastructure needs to support the rollout. In countries where incentives have been considerate, electrification is much more successful. In Norway for example, 40% of new car sales arenow electric vehicles. Local authorities confirmed that they are working on several incentives.
As an alternative to battery powered EVs, Huyndai and Toyota presented their respective fuel cell (FC) vehicles NEXO and Mirai.
Fuel cell vehicles can be charged in 5 minutes with current technology and go up to 600 km in one charge. These vehicles can power houses and work as air purifiers. Reality is that for the consumer, the choice is still very limited. Infrastructure remains expensive and there are only limited models on the market. This may very well be the future though, especially considering the overall footprint.
AUTONOMOUS DRIVING & THE HUMAN FACTOR
When it comes to automization, most major car manufacturers already have the technology in place to launch fully autonomous vehicles (stage 5). The infrastructure and the legal system are however not ready. The human error will always play a role as long as autonomous and non autonomous vehicles are mixed on the same roads. Ethical aspects also need to be considered when teaching the machines how to react. Therefore we are much more likely to see the driverless vehicles in defined areas, at least in the very near future.
Dubai has a target of 25% automized public transport by 2030, and the challenge the coming years will be the mixture of connected and automized vehicles with traditional vehicles on the roads.
The conference showcased that although we are likely to see many changes in the near future, the future of mobility is complex. Consumer behaviour is changing. Access models and shared mobility are replacing traditional ownership, especially in urban areas. We can find everything from subscriptions to electric, connected, autonomous vehicles to old fashioned driver-driven unconnected petrol cars. While technology and consumers may be ready, a lot still has to be figured out.
Collaboration between authorities, OEMs and legal systems is crucial for a sustainable future mobility.