At Continental Corporation’s biennial TechShow in Hanover, earlier this year, the company had an interesting showcase called the Continental Urban mobility Experience (CUbE). A demo vehicle currently, Continental is using it to test and research driverless passenger transportation at its location in Frankfurt. Then, there was the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle), a two-seat urban electric concept car jointly developed by Segway and General Motors, which can be driven normally or operated autonomously.
As per a 2014 UN study, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, and by that time, individual mobility in cities will be severely restricted. In its report on urban mobility in September 2015, McKinsey too had stated that by 2030, more than two billion people are likely to enter the middle class, with the majority of them living in cities in emerging markets, particularly China. The number of megacities with more than 10 mn people will continue to grow as well.
Clearly, as most mobility experts globally predict, the future of individual mobility in cities is autonomous and electric, and it will become part of the shared economy. Innovators world over are working on providing urban dwellers mobility options that are more convenient, flexible and budget-friendly than those currently offered and available. Ride hailing networks, vehicle sharing systems, apps that will aid in planning trips or finding a parking space in congested areas are likely to become a norm in the foreseeable future.
Congestion clearly is one of the foremost concerns for mobility and urban planners. And so is the concern of vehicular emissions. Global agencies working in the area of climate control have often pointed out that the promotion of efficient urban mobility options will play a central role in global GHG emission reduction strategies.
The Indian Government’s Smart City project offers the country a tremendous opportunity to develop and implement an exemplary urban transportation model, which can then be implemented nationally, and potentially even be adopted by other developing or developed countries. Ford Motor is one automaker that is looking to tap opportunities in India for its smart mobility services. Through its subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, the company is looking at launching a pilot project of its smart shuttle services involving its employees in Chennai by this year-end.
More mobility players joining the bandwagon is not just desirable, but necessary from a global as well as an Indian context.
Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
New Delhi, December 2017