Technology has brought us an exciting new era of transportation. Electric cars seem to be the hot new trend. But, are we really going electric anytime soon?
Innovative technologies are bringing an exciting new era in transportation: the era of smart mobility. Electric and self-driving cars seem to be replacing the standard means of transportation. But is it really happening anytime soon?
The era of electric cars is coming?
Experts in the field have long predicted that we will soon leave traditional fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and go electric. Big European cities like Amsterdam, Athens, and Madrid are planning to dump fossil-fuel-powered cars up till 2025-2030, as discussed at the recent Smart City Conference in Bulgaria.
Electrification is clearly a hit in the automotive industry at the moment, with software and hardware solutions emerging to make mobility smarter.
For example, the tremendously successful US-based start-up Tesla has taken the lead in building all-electric vehicles, as well as clean energy generation and storage products. Other automotive giants like Ford, BMW, and Mercedes are also offering cars that are powered by rechargeable batteries. In September, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz`s parent company, reportedly announced a $1 billion investment in electric cars and battery production in the US.
However, after years of hype, promotion, and government incentives in some countries, electric vehicles (EVs) represent only 1% of the market, both globally and in the US, according to a research exploring the subject that was published recently by consultancy company Deloitte.
Despite these daunting figures, many governments have started to incentivize EV purchases. For example, Norway, the UK, France, China, and India, among others, have recently announced even more ambitious goals of ending or severely decreasing sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles within the next decade or two, as Deloitte`s study explained.
Moreover, electric cars are easier for computers to drive – most EVs are built with drive-by-wire systems that replace traditional mechanical control systems with electric controls, and these systems create a more compatible and flexible platform for autonomous driving technologies, as Deloitte`s research paper pointed out.
In addition, it is claimed that EV battery packs contain higher voltages than typical ICE vehicle batteries, which enable them to host more self-driving features.
Self-driving and interconnected cars
Business and technology companies have already focused on offering their customers self-driving vehicles. For instance, the company Waymo, the Google self-driving project, builds cars with sensors and software that are designed to detect pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road work and more from a distance of up to two football fields away in all directions.
“Our fully self-driving technology will handle all the driving so you can go from door to door without taking the wheel. This will deliver the biggest impact on improving road safety and mobility for everyone.”, as the company wrote on their website.
In October this year, Cruise Automation, the self-driving unit of General Motors, announced that it will test its autonomous Chevy Bolts in New York City. Other American cities like San Francisco have also been known to welcome autonomous vehicle testing.
Apart from this, the automotive and the technology industries have started activating connected cars or vehicles that have access to the Internet Of Things and various sensors that are able to send and receive signals.
Industry experts claim that automating vehicle functions and allowing them to communicate with each other could possibly improve safety and reduce traffic. Nevertheless, it is admitted that there is always a possibility of something going wrong. In turn, this is raising questions about road safety, in case of a hacker attack, for example.
“As soon as you’ve made online updates available, you’ve opened vehicles up for invasion by hackers.”, according to Jon Geater, the chief technical officer of Thales Security, a company providing data security solutions and services, who spoke to the Guardian.
“Time and time again, it’s been proven that once you create a system that’s intended to make cars safer, you can always trick it if you know how it works.”, as he added.
The discussion regarding the benefits and challenges standing in the way of self-driving and interconnected cars is still open. Yet, it should be noted that the smart mobility innovations are already a reality. It is to be seen how the industry will handle all the problems and opportunities that the future holds.