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The Future of Mobility & Transportation Part One

Present Day Developments

We’re on the verge of one of the biggest changes in society through technology… possibly even bigger than the Internet itself.’

The above quote is from a recent Ted Talk given by CarTrawler CTO Bobby Healy about the potential for autonomous driving to reduce the number of global car related deaths to zero by the year 2050.

Healy envisions a not too distant future in which the risks associated with driving a vehicle are completely eliminated simply by removing the driver from the car.

The autonomous vehicle has long been a mainstay of the brightest science fiction stories, but in recent years we’ve seen automobile manufacturers and technology companies take significant steps towards making this dream a reality.

In this article about the future of mobility and transportation, we’re taking a look at the present day developments fuelling the self-driving revolution.


Miles & Milestones

A global autonomous vehicle forecast published by IHS Markit in June of last year predicts up to 76 million vehicles with some degree of autonomy will be sold by 2035, with a decade of substantial growth occurring between 2025 and 2035[1].

The forecast ‘is influenced by recent research and development by automotive OEMs, supplier and technology companies who are investing in this area,’ and a ‘wave of recent developments and investments in this sector of the market, as well as activity within various regulatory environments.’

So what exactly can this forecast tell us about the state of the autonomous vehicle market, going forward?

  1. United States first to deploy autonomy

IHS Markit expects the United States to lead the way in terms of autonomous vehicle deployment, a sentiment evidently shared by automaker General Motors.

Back in June, the world’s largest automaker announced it had finished work on 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt test vehicles and GM CEO Mary Barra told employees the company was ready to mass-produce self-driving cars[2].

Similarly, Google’s self-driving unit Waymo has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona[3], while autonomous vehicle pioneer Tesla plans to send one of their cars on a fully autonomous trip from Los Angeles to New York.

Waymo also invited residents of Phoenix, AZ, to participate in a public trial of its self-driving vehicles and has accumulated more than 3 million self-driven miles since launching in 2009.

The flurry of activity from the American players does indeed suggest that the US will be the first country to see widespread deployment of autonomous vehicles.

  1. China leads in technology deployment volumes

IHS Market forecasts China to become the single largest market for autonomous technology by 2035, identifying the ‘sheer volume of vehicles expected to be sold there as well as consumer demand for new technologies’ as the drivers of growth.

Chinese web giant Baidu announced its strategic partnership with automaker BAIC at the start of the 2017 with the goal of establishing ‘a smart vehicle ecosystem’[4], and the companies are expected to start testing self-driving cars on public roads in the People’s Republic presently.

BAIC is not the only company Baidu has partnered with to establish its smart vehicle ecosystem, as more than 50 businesses from around the world have joined Baidu’s autonomous vehicle platform Apollo since its launch in April.

The Apollo platform is designed to help partners produce self-driving cars at a faster rate by providing them with the software and hardware needed to develop, manufacture and test autonomous vehicles, and so far includes Continental Automotive, Microsoft Cloud, NVIDIA, Bosch and Horizon Robotics among others as members[5].

While Baidu notes that the Apollo platform ‘is not solely Baidu’s’ as it belongs to all members, the company’s role as the project’s overseer puts it in a unique position, one in which it can establish not only a global smart vehicle ecosystem but also China’s leadership in the autonomous technology market.

  1. Western Europe markets lead EMEA region

The lead up to the proliferation of self-driving vehicles in the EMEA region is already underway, powered by Western European automakers.

BMW, who’s partnered with Israeli vision technology company Mobileye and tech giant Intel, has tested its fleet of self-driving 7 Series sedans in a number of European and U.S. cities throughout the year[6].

Volvo, in partnership with the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg released self-driving Volvos for customers to test on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden[7].

Last but not least, Volkswagen unveiled its autonomous Concept Car Sedric in March of 2017[8]. The self-driving Sedric is Volkswagen’s first autonomous vehicle and will soon be followed by 2nd and 3rd generation models. Although Volkswagen is yet to officially test its vehicle, it understands the future of transport and has already started work on successive models.

Western European automakers are clearly committed to an autonomous future, and we’ll start to see an influx of self-driving vehicles hitting the roads across the EMEA region over the next few years.


The Biggest Year Yet

2017 was undoubtedly the biggest year yet for autonomous vehicles. Automobile manufacturers from around the world partnered with leading technology companies to develop and test self-driving vehicles and a serious effort was made by all players to establish a global smart vehicle ecosystem.

In an upcoming article we will investigate how autonomous vehicles are set to transform the travel industry over the next ten years and what challenges and opportunities airport operators should expect to arise from the burgeoning self-driving car sector.


The second part of the series is available here


[1] Source: http://news.ihsmarkit.com/press-release/automotive/autonomous-vehicle-sales-set-reach-21-million-globally-2035-ihs-says

[2] Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2017/06/13/general-motors-we-can-mass-produce-self-driving-cars-now/102805626/

[3] Source: https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/7/16615290/waymo-self-driving-safety-driver-chandler-autonomous

[4] Source: http://ces.vporoom.com/2017-01-06-Baidu-Announces-Strategic-Partnership-with-BAIC

[5] Source: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/07/05/1038791/0/en/Baidu-Forms-Major-Alliance-to-Accelerate-the-Adoption-of-Autonomous-Driving.html

[6] Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-04/bmw-to-deploy-fleet-of-self-driving-7-series-on-roads-this-year

[7] Source: https://www.media.volvocars.com/global/en-gb/media/pressreleases/158276/volvo-cars-presents-a-unique-system-solution-for-integrating-self-driving-cars-into-real-traffic

[8] Source: https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/news/2017/03/Autonomous_driving.html#


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