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Transformation through mobility
“What are we waiting for, mum!?”
A few weeks ago, I was driving my seven-year-old daughter to the swimming pool. She was sitting in the passenger seat next to me selecting music from her Spotify playlist when she suddenly asked me, “What’s your job, mum?”
I had to think a little bit before I answered, because I didn’t know how much she would understand about Intelligent Transport Systems and connected vehicles. “My work involves making cars and infrastructure ‘connected’ so that they can ‘talk’ to each other. You know, if they could talk to each other, it would be much safer for us to sit in our car.”
I wasn’t sure she understood, but she smiled and listened intently, so I continued. “When our car is connected, those traffic signals over there could warn our car to slow down, because the light will turn red in three seconds. The street lights will only be on when there are people or vehicles on the street.
“And if our car would feel that the road is slippery,” I continued, “all the cars around us would get an alert, no matter if you have a Volvo, Tesla, Ford or other brand. If the cars were able to communicate with each other, it would be much safer for all of us.
“When the car is able to drive itself, instead of me sitting here driving, we could watch Netflix together. Then, the car itself will be in charge of adapting to the road and watching out for other vehicles.”
I had only spoken briefly about my job, but I could already see the imagination in my daughter’s eyes as she continued to fill in: “Instead of you driving mum, we will tell the car that we would like to go to the swimming pool, just like I tell Siri on my iPad what I want to watch on YouTube.
“And when we arrive at the swimming pool, someone else can use our car to go to the grocery store!” She was quiet for some seconds and I could see that she was thinking. Then she smiled again and continued: “Then, we would need less cars! If we could share with other families, there will be no queues, right?”
Finally, she asked, “What are we waiting for, mum!?”
It isn’t just my daughter who wonders what we are waiting for, people around the world are asking for these same solutions. Within the automotive industry, things are moving fast. We already see the rise of ride-sharing companies and Car as a Service models. Volvo CEO Martin Lundstedt has predicted car subscriptions will account for 25-30 percent of Volvo’s revenues within 5 years or less.
BMW are expanding their DriveNow concept into a collaboration with Daimler, increasing the number and kinds of vehicles available for spontaneous rentals. Zipcar uses a rental model as well, utilizing two business models – pay for a fixed rental period or pay by the hour – offering the customers a dynamic, needs-based service.
Self-driving vehicles are also being widely tested. I told my daughter about Volvo’s Drive Me project in Gothenburg, in which 100 people were selected to test driverless cars. She asked if I could call Volvo to see if we could also be part of this program!
Outside Stockholm, there is a free, driverless shuttle bus service running between the Ericsson campus and the nearest metro station. The public seems happy to tryout these sneak previews of tomorrow’s mobility.
I was amazed by the opportunities my daughter immediately perceived, without anyone ever telling her about these topics and technologies. What I didn’t tell my daughter was the complexity around why these fantastic opportunities (which could have been just around the corner) will not be fully realized before she turns 18.
The ambitious Volvo Drive Me program which my daughter was so excited about has hit some speed bumps. For example, regulatory and technical challenges have now put the project on hold.
But it isn’t just Volvo experiencing these type of hold-ups. Unfortunately, our dreams of autonomous vehicles and Mobility as a Service are separated from the wider issues of urban transport strategy and economic and social sustainability. Cities contain a complex, and constantly expanding ecosystem consisting of citizens, traffic, road infrastructure, vehicles, bikes, fleet owners, public transport, logistics providers and neighboring municipalities – and more.
There is a lot of fragmentation, both in terms of technology (a mix of legacy and modern systems) and market (many niche players that have no relation to each other). Even if connected, self-driving cars were ready today, they wouldn’t be able to work in our cities.
To solve these challenges, existing infrastructure must be connected, unified and optimized. There is a need for horizontal platforms that reduce complexity, creating an interoperable “system of systems”.
The Netherlands is using Ericsson’s Connected Urban Transport to unify the Dutch transport system
Mayors, supported by their officials and planners, should start leading a debate now on how self-driving vehicles can best serve the needs of citizens and visitors, and help meet wider goals for their cities. These leaders must develop the policies needed to deliver these benefits – well before self-driving vehicles arrive on the streets.
As we continued our trip to the pool, my daughter shared more of her reflections. “On Saturday mornings, a driverless car will pick me up and drive me to the candy shop! And when I just THINK about Liseberg (the big amusement park in Gothenburg), a bus will pick me up – a bus that is already filled up with other happy people that have also thought about going to Liseberg the same day.”
The citizens of tomorrow understand intelligent transport perfectly. For them, there are no obstacles. Really, the end-goal is not about “self-driving”, it is about “together driving” in a dynamic and efficient transport ecosystem.
As I continue to work with politicians, officials and vehicle manufacturers, I hope to help remove barriers and open up the intelligence that is currently locked in siloed systems. With a horizontal platform, we can get started now with the connected transportation in selected environments, speeding up the sharing process that is needed for connected vehicles, transportation systems and cities to become fully automated and truly smart.
Like this post? Check out what else Ericsson is doing within Connected Urban Transport.
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