Mobility is the movement of persons or goods from one destination to another, and while the starting point and finish point are not too relevant, it is the journey that is taken into account. With rapid growth in urbanisation around the globe, the world is witnessing a movement of a much larger number of people and goods from one place to another. This movement needs to be monitored in most cases, so as to ensure that the commodities and humans being transported reach their destination in good shape.
The future of mobility is seen to offer people the safety of getting from one place to another without experiencing any untoward incidents, while also catering to their needs of being connected to their mobile devices and other sources of entertainment. The world is also witnessing the inroads of automated driving and alternate fuels are making across various global markets. This requires the future of mobility to be connected, autonomous, shared and electric. The future of mobility lies in the way in which technologies are utilised to empower it, so as to offer convenient movement of people or goods.
Mobility can be divided into multiple types. In terms of ownership model, there is personal, shared or multi-modal form of transportation. Personal ownership model is the one that has had, and continues to have the highest level of adoption in the automotive industry. This model typically has a family owning one or more vehicles, which are used only for that family’s personal use. This type of ownership sees the vehicle being under-utilised for most part, since the vehicle is not used continuously throughout the day.
Meanwhile, the shared mobility model is witnessing increased adoption in markets that have been typically personal ownership in nature. Under such a scenario, customers either utilise the public transport system available, use cabs and other chauffeured vehicle services or travel using self-drive vehicles that are available for hire. The multi-model form of transportation is one where a person uses more than one mode of mobility to reach their destination, as it may be the quickest mode of travel or it is the only means of connectivity to certain locations. India has been known for shared and multi-modal mobility; since it has largely been an economy that has relied on various forms of mass public transport where shared and multi-modal are parts of it.
In addition, personal mobility can also be sectioned according to the type of vehicle being used for the process of transportation. This includes two-wheelers, three-wheelers, passenger vehicles such as cars and SUVs, as well as commercial vehicles for passenger movement, like buses. It should also be noted that mobility can also be segregated in terms of the vehicle powertrain. While petrol and diesel are the dominant powertrains in the automotive industry, we are seeing electrification growing steadily, along with some other alternative fuels like CNG, biofuels and hydrogen.
While there are so many manners in which mobility can be divided, it should be noted that a common necessity for all forms is the ability to connect the entire ecosystem for seamless travel. The infusion of safety technologies along with input of intelligence to the systems will enable any type of mobility solution to be connected to a common network, which can then communicate for better working of the whole system. Let’s look at how the two major factors of safety and intelligence enable the empowerment of future mobility.
As mentioned earlier, the primary goal of mobility is to ensure people and goods are moved from one location to another securely. In terms of human safety, there is a requirement for passengers of the vehicle, as well as other people on the road to remain safe at all times. People on the roads constitute pedestrians, cyclists, two-wheeler riders and other motorists in their respective vehicles.
It should be noted that while technologies for active and passive safety and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have been showcased strongly over the past few years, the automotive industry has offered various safety levels for over half a century. In the initial days, safety features were more of optional commodities that were reserved for premium vehicles or as optional features. The safety systems of yesteryears have been more passive and reactive in nature, which did not really assist in stopping an incident from taking place.
Newer safety technologies rely heavily on electronic assistance, in terms of infrared, radar, cameras or other systems. It should also be noted that safety systems are more active in the sense that these systems proactively work with the driver in preventing collisions from taking place. The various electric technologies within a vehicle communicate with each other, think of possible methods to be adopted to avert an accident, and finally implement systems like brakes to maintain occupant safety.
In certain scenarios, communication with infrastructure, as well as with other vehicles on the road also provides added safety while driving; for example, a highway grappling with traffic snarls or is experiencing slippery conditions. Vehicles connected to the infrastructure can provide the same information about a road’s condition and relay this information back to other drivers, and advising them to take alternate routes. These factors show that connectivity of vehicular infrastructure is of prime importance for safer travels.
The above safety factors along with connectivity bring in the requirement for vehicle systems and modules to become smart or intelligent. Many electronic tools and systems in a car have their own share of work assigned to them, in terms of viewing surroundings, measuring distances, observing signs, or providing navigational updates. There is a strong need for all these systems to speak to each other in order to provide real-time, seamless updates to the driver and passengers.
In addition to safety features, there is a constant requirement from the automotive industry for the provision on connectivity for the purpose of information and entertainment. The average speed of vehicles, especially four-wheelers, is decreasing drastically in city driving conditions. This results in occupants desiring entertainment in the form of music or other multi-media sources to remain occupied. Multi-media requirements are also changing the way instrument clusters and dashboards on vehicles are designed, so as to offer occupants with enhanced visual experiences of their media.
Further, the various levels of autonomous driving seeping into vehicles across the world also require strong, uninterrupted connectivity. The connectivity factor for autonomous driving becomes critical, since loss or interruption in connection could lead to a lot of damage, and even loss of lives. Technologies like Ethernet and Android, exclusively for automotive are gaining more prominence in the industry, and such forms of connectivity will be required to enhance the adoption of safety and autonomous functions in vehicles going forward.
It is clear that the future of mobility will have lesser pressure, as far as the driver is concerned, with a host of assistance systems coming into the vehicle powered by technologies mainly focussed on safety and intelligence. The penetration levels of safety technologies will be high across the globe; however, local legislations will have a strong role in dictating the same. In terms of vehicle intelligence, this is only going to grow further, so as to make vehicles smarter as they go ahead. The following cover story articles showcase some of the technologies coming to the fore in powering future mobility, so as to make it safe, connected and incident-free.
TEXT: Naveen Arul