As new modes of transport appear, getting from one place to another will become dramatically more efficient and less burdensome. Here is a look ahead.
Mobility as a Service
Mobility as a Service
By Dexter Snyder, Transportation Editor
Global transportation is evolving, driven by the growing challenges of population growth, urbanization, dependence on fossil fuels, and pollution. At the same time technologies are converging to create cleaner, more effective mobility. Our purpose here is to examine the forces now changing the traditional model of road transportation and consider where this transition will lead. The result will be a rapid change from individual car ownership to something I think of as Mobility as a Service (MaaS.)
Here are just some of the problems our current transportation model faces: Global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with two-thirds in urban areas. (1) The world’s traffic in terms of miles driven could triple by 2030, further increasing congestion. (2) One measure of global congestion is reduced productivity from sitting in traffic, inflated transport costs, and cost of pollution. The US alone incurs a loss of over US$300 billion annually, and the global total exceeds US$1 trillion. (3) More than 1.2 million people die, and up to 50 million are injured from vehicle accidents each year on the world’s roads. (4) Each personally owned vehicle needs up to 5 equivalent parking places in reserve, consuming real estate that could otherwise be productive. (2)
New entrants such as Uber, Lyft, and Didi have applied technology to ease many of these issues. They integrate artificial intelligence, GPS, and mobile connectivity to deliver transportation on demand with phone tracking, cost monitoring, and automatic payment. Benefits include higher utilization of vehicles, less consumer need to own a personal vehicle, reduced parking space need, and lower congestion with better use of available road capacity. Ride hailing/car sharing is only the first generation of MaaS.
Vehicles used for ride hailing and car sharing could be purpose-built and operated for a much larger fraction of their useful lives than today’s personally owned cars. They could have tailored design, powertrains adapted for urban use, large functional interiors, easy cleaning, and simpler assembly. (5) The global ride hailing/car sharing market is estimated to reach US$285 billion by 2030, with much larger potential as autonomous driving takes hold. (6)
Ride-hailing/car-sharing is moving toward driverless operation as it converges with three technology trends—vehicle electrification, autonomous driving, and connectivity. Autonomous connected vehicles can reduce cost dramatically and provide almost unlimited last-mile mobility. Vehicles will be provided by fleets and by individual owners who lease their personalicars and trucks to mobility companies. As ground-based MaaS matures for personal travel, freight, and delivery, it will be integrated with all forms of global transport.
Electric drive—with its simpler powertrain, declining battery cost, and potential for clean energy sources—is in the early stage of supplanting the internal combustion engine (ICE.) Electrification is built on advanced electric powertrains and high-energy-density batteries. Both technologies are advancing quickly, making electric cars and trucks ever more practical.
A major rationale for electric vehicles is the potential to operate without need for fossil fuel and thus to avoid polluting emissions. The world’s electricity is generated predominantly from nonrenewable coal (40 percent), natural gas (14 percent), and nuclear (10 percent.) Today, some 23 percent of electricity is generated from renewable sources; this is projected to reach 32 percent by 2040. (7) As it does, the case for electric vehicles will grow ever stronger.
Electric vehicles promise other benefits as well.
With considerably fewer parts than an ICE vehicle, the EV is more durable and costs half as much to operate and maintain. (8)
Electric motors double as generators to recapture energy from braking. Most current motor designs are permanent magnet versions, which can be lighter and more compact. Innovation focuses on reducing size, mass, and cost and on developing non-rare-earth magnets. With design and materials improvements, motor speeds are increasing toward 30,000 RPM, which will lead to smaller, lighter motors. (9) This growing efficiency will be an important factor in making EVs more appealing than ICE vehicles to both consumers and fleet operators.
Lithium batteries are the standard for electric vehicles, and their cost is decreasing steadily. At pack level, batteries cost US$162 per kWh in 2017. This is projected to reach US$100 per kWh by 2025, bringing the average EV initial cost to parity with the average cost of an ICE vehicle. At that point, the battery pack will represent one-quarter of total EV manufacturing cost. (10)
Battery makers and academic scientists also are working to develop models that avoid the use of lithium, which is in limited supply. This should further reduce the cost of EV power systems and protect the industry from potential shortages. (11, 12)
Commercially successful hybrids fund cost and performance improvement for electric powertrains, as all-battery EVs and charging infrastructure evolve. In 2017, hybrids account for 4 percent of global production, all-battery EVs 1 percent. By 2030, the combined electric-drive segment is expected to reach 48 percent of global production, of which 14 percent will be all-battery EVs. (10)
Transformation to electric drive sets the stage for easy integration of sensors, computing, and the systems that will enable autonomous driving.
Self-driving vehicles are being adapted for passenger, freight, and delivery markets. Driverless trucks are in testing for both local delivery and long-haul transport. (13) The increasing capabilities of sensors, computing, mapping, artificial intelligence, and high-speed mobile connectivity has opened the door for partial or complete vehicle autonomy, which is unfolding as a spectrum of capabilities. (14) Levels 1 and 2 include driver assists such as lane keeping and automatic braking. Level 3 allows self-driving in low-speed situations. Level 4 enables the vehicle to operate autonomously in all situations, with a human driver available to take over when the AI is out of its depth. Level 5 is complete autonomy without need for human intervention.
Self-driving control relies on a sensor array of cameras, radar, lidar, and GPS. The critical lidar is expensive, but cost is decreasing with design and the promise of cheap solid-state versions. (15) Early commercial self-driving applications will be restricted to areas where 3D mapping is complete and is refreshed regularly. This reduces computation by allowing easier identification of fixed objects such as trees, buildings, and artifacts in the road. Accurate 3D mapping and affordable parallel processors for sensor fusion—the combination of data from different sensors into a unified “picture” of the road—are available. (2, 14) Autonomy hardware and software presently runs in the US$10,000s range. With improvements and high production, the cost is projected to approach the US$1000s range. (2)
Global car sales today are about 90 million units per year with a value of US$2 trillion. When autonomous vehicles reach a tipping point, car sales will likely level off and may even decrease as fleet operations—MaaS—replace many individually owned vehicles. Most autonomous vehicles will be on the road more than today’s personally owned vehicles, which are idle 95 percent of the time.
A conservative estimate suggests that autonomous vehicles will be widely adopted by about 2030. The rapid-acceptance scenario suggests global sales of autonomous vehicles (L3–L5) could reach 33 million by 2025 and 51 million by 2030. (2)
As the tipping point approaches, self-driving robo-taxi fleets will appear, provided by ride-hailing companies, OEMs, and suppliers. The robo-taxi will excel in last-mile service and will cost an estimated US$0.35 per mile vs. US$0.70 for a vehicle with a human driver. (2)
CONNECTIVITY AND COMPUTING
Next-generation 5G wireless, with speeds reaching 20 GB/s and response times below one millisecond, will enable the spread of autonomous driving. It will appear by 2025 in urban areas where there is a business case for the high investment. Elements of the relatively expensive 5G will be blended with elements of 4G, which is still being rolled out. (17)
With fast, robust, connectivity, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications will match demand for safety and passenger service applications. An autonomous vehicle will generate up to 4000 GB of data per day, with cameras accounting for 20–40 MB/s and lidar 10–70 MB/s. (18) Sensor fusion will be done largely by edge computing in the vehicle and adjacent communication nodes, with key data and summaries transmitted to the cloud. Artificial intelligence algorithms will be a key for fast computing and efficient decision making. (19)
INTEGRATED MOBILITY AS A SERVICE
Over the next decade, thanks to the combination of V2V and V2I, the growing business of ride-sharing and car-hailing combined with 5G will connect cars and trucks into an Internet of Vehicles.
As self-driving becomes commercial over the next couple of decades, an Internet of autonomous vehicles will emerge. The world’s vehicles are driven approximately 14 trillion miles per year. By 2030, this number could reach as much as 40 trillion, with 10 trillion being non-autonomous personally-driven miles and 30 trillion being driven by autonomous vehicles themselves. (2) At that point, a comprehensive new mobility system can emerge that integrates MaaS with other ground, air, and water transportation. This will appear first in high-income dense urban areas. (20)
Mobility as a Service will grow based on its huge potential societal and economic benefits. Traffic deaths and injuries can be reduced conservatively by 80 percent, and resources presently used for insurance, medical care, and vehicles can be put to more productive use. Vast amounts of parking space can be repurposed since shared autonomous vehicles require fewer spaces in reserve than the three to five needed for each personally-owned vehicle. In a rapid-adoption scenario, revenue for global ground mobility as a service could reach US$10 trillion in the early 2030s. Sales of autonomous vehicles at that time will be an additional US$1 trillion market. (2) A more conservative timeline forecasts a MaaS market reaching US$7 trillion by 2050. (21)
The rise of a new ground transportation paradigm will revolutionize urban design and the overall global transportation system. New entries such as Didi, Lyft, and Uber base their business models on AI, GPS, and connectivity to personalize transportation with low cost, maximum flexibility and minimal congestion. Existing stakeholders, such OEM manufacturers and suppliers, are investing in ventures and forming partnerships to serve this new market and remain viable. New technologies such as VTOL passenger drones are emerging to provide place-to-place transport in urban settings without airfields. (22)
In developed countries, regulatory decisions will limit the speed with which MaaS is accepted. In more centralized countries such as China or Singapore, regulation may be decided earlier and acceptance could be accelerated. Experience in early adopter regions will influence decisions by late adopters.
Three technology trends underpinning full realization of MaaS are approaching their tipping points. All-battery electric vehicles are expected to reach 30 percent adoption by the late 2020s, with electric hybrids holding a significant market fraction that transfers to BEVs toward 2040. (See the TechCast forecast: Electric Vehicles) Vehicles with autonomous driving capability will account for 15 percent of global sales by the early 2020s. (See the TechCast forecast: Intelligent Vehicles) Fast 5G connectivity will be installed in selected urban areas by the mid-2020s and widely deployed by 2030. (See the TechCast forecast: Internet of Things)
It is easy to recognize where these developments will lead. Once autonomous vehicles are networked with each other and the infrastructure, they can be integrated seamless with rail, air, and water transportation. Trips can be delivered by optimum combinations of transport modes automatically. Delivery of goods will become extremely rapid and efficient. Businesses gain a stronger option to take goods and services to the consumer on mobile. We humans will be freed from now-routine transportation tasks, enabling us to take on new challenges that are likely to be more useful and satisfying than driving is today.
1. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2017
2. ARK, Oct 2017
3. INRIX, Feb 2018
4. World Health Organization, Jan 2018
5. McKinsey, Apr 2017
6. Goldman Sachs, May 23 2017
7. International Energy Outlook, 2017
8. Forbes, Jan 2018
9. The Drive, 2018
10. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Jul 5 2017
11. Guardian, Mar 8, 2018
12. PC Magazine, Nov 14, 2017
13. Trucks, Feb 28 2018
14. The Drive, Nov 3 2017
15. MIT Technology Review, Jul 27 2017
16. Nvidia, Feb 2018
17. Economist, Feb 2018
18. Intel, Jan 2017
19. KNect365, Jul 31, 2017
20. McKinsey, Oct 2016
21. Intel and Strategy Analytics, Jun 2017
22. Economist, Mar 10, 2018
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