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In India, rapidly growing urban population (590 mn by 2030) and zooming motorisation rate (400 % increase in 15 years) is making city commute unfriendly. Globally, commuters waste 1 bn+ hr every year, waiting in traffic. Road accidents claim over 4,000 lives every day around the world, and over 20-50 mn are disabled or injured every year. Every year 0.3 mn people die of air pollution caused by automobiles in India.

A few major cities in India boast of 100 cars per 1,000 people – claiming public spaces, congesting roads, and reducing pedestrian safety, while in over 70% of the major cities, the disparity in the demand and supply of public transportation is expanding. At present, we have 230 buses for a population of one million, whereas the requirement is for 600 buses per million people. Clearly, we need to find a better answer to these problems.

We Have Technology Coming to the Rescue

We saw an increase in the adoption of hybrid vehicles and various attempts at promoting electric vehicles (EVs), promising a cleaner and greener planet. Close to one million EVs were built worldwide in 2016. Cities are building energy storage infrastructure that will enable larger adoption of EVs. Smartphone ownership in India is expected to cross 500 mn in 2018, which will equip people with several mobility use cases. The 5G rollout is expected in a couple of years, which will usher new ways of computing and cloud applications. Vision systems and safety features such as driver assistance systems that avert accidents have seen large adoption in the last three to five years. We are expected to have autonomous vehicles in the next three to five years.

Technology will be a catalyst to drive solutions that will make lives of citizens, commuters, and administration easier.

A Place and Life We All Should Aspire for

In the next 15 years, we all should envision and aspire to build towns and cities where every mobile device connects to the infrastructure, peers and administration to make the commute from point A to B seamless; where people get transported by autonomous pods that are 100 % safe; where every vehicle is clean without any harmful emissions; where pedestrians get to access spacious corridors owing to fewer vehicles on road from carpooling, regulations in car sale and congestion management; where people breathe clean air and live in a noise-free environment; where people driving cars start adopting carpooling on a large scale and seamlessly switch to multiple modes of transportation; and where technology companies offer various mobility service models and shared services at affordable prices to citizens.

To make this a reality, we would need to invest our time and energy in strengthening the following key pillars – (a) clean transportation; (b) shared mobility; (c) autonomous vehicles; and (d) infrastructure that enables multi-modal transport.

Clean Transportation

Electric mobility in India is still at an early phase. There are many attempts being made by automotive OEMs and technology companies to bring various types of EV technology. The Indian government has set an ambitious vision to achieve electric mobility by 2030 and is working on building an environment that is conducive to its growth. The move towards electric mobility with Battery Electrified Vehicles (BEV) is emerging as a key enabler.

Public transportation is central to the urban planning of the big cities and adoption of cleaner transport. For a city like Mumbai, public transportation buses occupy less than 10 % of roads but ferry over 40 % of commuters. Cost-effective and non-polluting public transportation systems that support the ‘Smart Cities’ initiative and public health objectives are a necessity. Increased use of electric buses could address the dual objective of expanding access to public transportation, while mitigating rising vehicular pollution and congestion.

Shared Transportation

Sharing economy is taking a big stride in moving people from ownership to utilisation. This sharing can occur among peers, such as community drivers, peer-to-peer car sharing, bike sharing. Mobile app-based services have turned the corner in many applications – taxis, car sharing, ride sharing, carpooling, bike pooling, shuttles, etc.

A study from MIT has showed startling results. It suggested a car-pooling algorithm could effectively cater to all the taxi needs in the New York city by just using 3,000 vehicles instead of the 13,000 fleet today, without increasing the wait time or access distance. The same study suggests that using carpooling options from companies like Uber could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by a factor of three, without significantly impacting travel time.

In the next 10 years, it is expected that over 10 % of cars sold will be used for shared mobility applications. This will drive the industry to custom-build vehicles that are best suited for shared mobility.

McKinsey predicts that various business models will emerge in the automotive and transportation ecosystem that will expand the revenue base to over $ 6 tn, with shared mobility overtaking vehicle sales.

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

The need of the hour is to reduce and eliminate human errors that are leading to several deaths and injuries caused by road crashes. OEMs around the world are working on various autonomous vehicle technologies that can drastically increase safety. It would require us to sort out the following:

  • Solve the catch-22 situation regarding AV technologies and the infrastructure requirements;
  • Protect and prevent cybersecurity breaches;
  • Build and demonstrate trust to increase customer acceptance of AVs; and
  • Legal, and regulatory frameworks that could otherwise stall AV adoption.

Infrastructure to Enable Multi-Modal Transportation

Every city around the world will become the most logical segment to determine the best type of multi-modal transportation network. They will determine the commuter behaviour and acceptance.

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a mechanism that allows utilisation of all the modes, keeping the commuter in focus. With technology innovation and ecosystem support, MaaS seamlessly integrates the first and last mile connectivity to supplement existing fragmented transportation systems. It is more flexible than the existing transportation network, where supply is aligned with actual demand and where more choices are provided to enable commuters with easier, faster, cheaper, cleaner, and safer choices. With significant contribution from technology companies, it is possible to work on real-time information, optimise route planning, make the modes of transport interoperable, and track public transportation network, which are basic building blocks of the MaaS.

Advancing Partnerships Between OEMs, Technology Companies and the Government

The four pillars mentioned above can be built and strengthened if all the stakeholders, including the OEMs, tech companies and government bring about a mutual, collaborative and incentivising means that will eventually help the commuters. Making transformational change calls for the collaboration of many companies across many industries.

Such collaboration can bring about incentives for commuters to use public and clean transport, enable data analytics based congestion taxing to systematically curb congestion and increase carpooling. At the same time, leaner vehicles at attractive cost points and business models will be imperative in increasing their adoption.

Let us all work together to change the world of transportation. 2030 is not very far away.
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