Mobility Technology: A Diary of Global Deployment
Smart mobility experiences are all about technology. If once we used paper maps to navigate unfamiliar places, now we use apps to find the best routes, cheapest rides, closest taxi, or cheapest on-demand rental cars. Not only has the ‘what’ of transportation evolved, but so has the ‘how,’ with shared transportation models and new technologies making transportation more accessible and user-friendly.
The introduction of autonomous vehicles into the mobility ecosystem and the increase in services-oriented business models will support economic growth worldwide, especially in the transportation industry. According to market research, the global logistics market is expected to reach $15.5 trillion by 2023, with on-demand transportation models increasing to $304.97 billion by 2025. The increase in revenue doesn’t stop with logistics and on-demand mobility models. The entire transportation industry—and any field supported by transportation—is expected to benefit from the economic growth led by transportation technology. By making mobility more accessible, efficient, and cost-effective, transportation technology is creating a global ripple effect that disrupts all integral sub-fields, supported labor forces, and many other industries. This article reviews the effects of transportation technology on the global economy and explains how disruptive technology companies are helping cities become smarter, greener, and more efficient.
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Transportation Technology in Numbers
- Revenue of the extended auto industry: $2 trillion per annum.
- Revenue of the commercial trucking industry: $700 billion per annum.
- Employees in the US auto industry in 2015: almost 7 million.
- Commercial motor vehicle operators: 3.8 million.
The transport industry supports warehouses, public works, and delivery service employees. The future of mobility influences supply chains, and any company reliant on mobility. The transport industry is made up of many categories, including delivery, logistics, trucking, auto, railways, and roads, all of which stand to benefit from economic growth.
The transport industry doesn’t stand on its own. It comes in contact with numerous fields, such as the energy industry, media, health care, insurance, tourism, and the entire eCommerce sector. Any sector that comes into contact with the transport industry will be impacted by economic growth and could potentially see an increase in revenue.
How Can Mobility Technology Improve Cities?
Smart cities use mobility technology to create an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure that manages the city transport ecosystem.
- Reduce CO2 emissions through improved transport: As populations increase in urban areas, the management of energy becomes vital for quality of life. Vehicles with fuel engines discharge high levels of CO2, whereas electric vehicles or vehicles with hybrid engines have low to zero CO2 emission. This is why research focuses on reusable energy and non-toxic and non-corrosive batteries.
- Increase safety by preventing road accidents: Heads-up displays eliminate the need to look anywhere but at the road, projecting information about traffic and routes on a screen above the dashboard or as holograms inside the windshield. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication technologies creates a communication network between vehicles. The vehicles use the network to collect data, predict and warn about upcoming dangers.
- Reduce costs and improve performance: The transport industry is a complex system with continuous demand for cost reduction. Technology helps solve many current problems. Semi-autonomous features such as lane departure and forward-collision warnings reduce the number of accidents caused by human error. Road sensors count vehicles, communicate with traffic signals that moderate traffic flow, and reduce congestion.
- Connectivity, communication, and Internet of Things in the vehicle: Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communication, which shares data about traffic, and V2V communication systems enable real-time updates that help re-route traffic according to the flow of vehicles, road conditions, and speed limit. A smart traffic system can help automate highway tolls, GPS maps can help locate vehicle and load, and inform drivers of road incidents.
- Improving delivery logistics: Empowered by technology, the supply chain is now more productive and customer-oriented. Online shipment tracking systems have made international transportation (ocean and air) more efficient, electrical and autonomous trucks have reduced fuel costs, and autonomous vehicles and Internet of Things (IoT) devices improve delivery time.
How Mobility Technology Solves Global Issues
Companies around the world are making headway by solving the problems afflicting the transport industry. The following are key examples of how smart transportation technologies help solve pressing matters around the globe.
Autonomous Flying Taxis
Flying autonomous vehicles have the potential to make transportation convenient, fast, and efficient. Flying taxis, once cleared for commercial deployment, are expected to reduce congestion. Before this can happen, social, political, and regulatory changes are needed, as well as the allocation of safe yet accessible landing areas.
The German-built Volocopter is an autonomous quadcopter passenger drone powered solely by electricity. Volocopter drones take off and land vertically, can fly two people for up to 30 km, and cover up to 1.6 km at speeds of up to 100 km/h and altitudes of up to 300 meters.
While flying drone taxis sound like science fiction, two countries already make use of the technology.
- Dubai: Began testing Volocopter drones in September 2017 for aerial taxi use.
- Singapore: Plans to test the reliability of Volocopter aircraft in urban environments and with an additional management system for operations.
Delivery robots help make last-mile delivery faster and more efficient. Companies like Postmates and Yelp Eat24, for example, use Personal Delivery Robotic Devices (PDDs) for food delivery. Couriers send PDDs on document courier services or quick medicine deliveries.
Examples of delivery robots in the US:
- Austin, Texas: Started regulating delivery robots in August 2017, stating that delivery robots must operate only on sidewalks and pedestrian ways under the speed limit of 10/mph, and weigh no more than 300 lbs.
- Dallas: Plans a six-month pilot program for the purpose of letting companies deploy up to twenty robotic delivery devices on the streets. The fleets of electronic and autonomous devices are restricted to the following criteria: 26 inches wide, 48 inches high, and a maximum speed of 5 miles per hour.
- Washington D.C: Uses Starship robots to deliver and track small packages within a two-mile radius. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) plans to replace big delivery trucks with the delivery robots to reduce traffic congestion.
Delivery drones are autonomous vehicles used to mobilize a variety of goods such as food, medical care, envelopes, and parcels. Drone designs vary according to designated purpose. The drone can complete deliveries across a variety of weather conditions and flight paths in suburban environments.
While drone delivery technology hasn’t been fully deployed yet, experiments are being conducted to test the reliability of the technology. Global efforts and investment capital are being poured into drone delivery experiments with the goal of reducing delivery costs by improving performance.
The following countries are making headway in drone delivery technology:
- Singapore: The Airbus Skyways project completed its first flight demonstration at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in February 2018. The drone took off from a dedicated maintenance center, landed on a designated parcel station, picked up the parcel and then delivered it.
- USA: 7‑Eleven and Flirtey began testing drone delivery services in 2016. Flirtey drone delivery containers use precision GPS to send hot and cold food merchandise to the customer’s house. UPS experimented with using drones manufactured by CyPhy Works and Zipline for life-saving and urgent deliveries.
- Japan: At the moment, drones can handle short-range delivery, but new connectivity technologies might help expand the reach. In November 2016 Rakuten integrated the cellular LTE network with NTT DoCoMo to test upgraded long-distance drone delivery capabilities.
- UK: Amazon tested using drones for same-day delivery in November 2014. The drones delivered packages weighing up to 5lbs while operating in up to 50 mph for up to 30 minutes of flight time. On December 7, 2016, a tested drone delivered a package to a destination in Cambridge 13 minutes after the order was placed.
- New Zealand: In November 2016, Flirtey and Domino’s Pizza tested autonomous delivery of pizzas to select customers.
- Germany: DHL is developing a drone-based package delivery system. Between January and March 2016, DHL tested direct integration of a small aerial drone called Parcelcopter into the delivery chain. The copter was loaded and unloaded automatically by designated packing station and landing platform.
Smart Streetcar Corridor
A Smart Corridor is a new method of traffic management technology for roadway optimization. The initials “SMART” stand for Safety, Mobility, and Automated Real-time Traffic Management.
While the technology is still new, local authorities in the US already dedicate stretches of road for live testing.
- Kansas City, Missouri: The city allocated a 2.2-mile streetcar corridor that includes cameras, smart lighting, and 25 digital information kiosks that offer public Wi-Fi networks, public web access, and local content. Sensors collect data from the pavement, water, lights, traffic signals, and water pipes. The information helps monitor and manage human and vehicular traffic, and provides demographic data. In April 2015, Kansas City’s city council passed and implemented data privacy measures.
- Atlanta, United States: In September 2017, the state of Atlanta launched a 2 mile-long North Avenue smart corridor. The corridor operates as an ongoing testing ground for the plans of the state for improvements in transportation infrastructure, utilizing deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, data collection and analytics, and connected and autonomous vehicles. The streetcar route has a dozen kiosks providing the public with information about transportation, city services, and local entertainment. A live map, provided by Xaqt, shows the location of the streetcars, available parking spaces, and traffic speeds.
Autonomous Electric Shuttle Pilot
Cities around the world are trying to improve local public transportation with self-driving electric shuttles. The size of the shuttle differs from city to city, from small shuttles designed for four passengers and up to fifteen in long shuttles. The shuttles run on electricity, thus reducing the level of CO2 emissions produced by urban transportation vehicles.
- Paris, France: Ile-de-France Mobilités, Keolis, and Navya launched a pilot in La Défense, a busy business district. Three autonomous electric shuttles were deployed, each one carrying up to 15 passengers (11 seated and 4 standing), operated with a 10-minute headway during peak periods and 20-minute headways during off-peak times.
- Canada: In September 2018, Keolis and the City of Candiac began testing the first long-term demonstration of an autonomous electric shuttle on public roads in Canada. The Navya autonomous shuttle can carry 15 passengers at an operational speed of 25 km/h will operate along a 2 km route. The shuttle will provide free service between the park-and-ride lot and André-J.Côté Park.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) are tested and being deployed around the globe. The goal? Reducing the number of road accidents caused by human error. China has plans to make ten percent of all vehicles fully autonomous by 2030. Japan is designing a showcase of autonomous technology for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
- Berlin: A three-year project called The DIGINET-PS received 5 million Euros in funding and special permission from the German government to transform a 6.3 km route into an urban testing ground for autonomous vehicles.
- Guangzhou: In 2018, two pilots showcased local startups working on AV technology. Pony.ai operated a 6-vehicle fleet within a 30 square kilometer area. JingChi deployed their fleet at the BioTech Island on a 1.8 square kilometer area.
- Jerusalem: In May 2018, Intel and Mobileye launched their first pilot, deploying approximately 100 cars. Jerusalem was chosen as a testing ground because of its reputation for aggressive driving and haphazard traffic enforcement, with the goal “to demonstrate that the technology can work in any geography and under all driving conditions.”
- London: The GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) was a three-year program funded by the UK government. It ran three autonomous vehicle trials that tested driverless shuttle, an autonomous vehicle valet parking service, and an automated grocery delivery pod.
- San Francisco: Treasure Island, a former naval base, has been chosen for residential use with 8,000 residential units under construction. Authorities are planning driverless shuttles that will connect existing bus stops with a planned ferry terminal, and other destinations around the island, by 2020.
Mobility Technology Is No Longer Science Fiction
For decades, visions of flying cars, robots, and starships filled the screens and ignited the imagination. Now, mobility technology is applying visionary concepts to breathe life into any imaginable form of mobility. Global experiments in mobility technology are turning science fiction concepts into reality. Soon, you’ll be able to doze off while your autonomous car drives you, hail a flying taxi to cut through traffic, and open your door to a pizza delivery robot.
Mobility has always been a catalyst for change. Mobility impacts our ability to commute, deliver, and communicate. Through transportation, we can discover new worlds, create trade routes, and increase economic reach, improve productivity and labor, and develop new categories of industry. Mobility technology is the next stage in the evolution of transportation, as disruptive as the commercialization of cars. Mobility technology can transform entire societies, make cities “smarter,” increase productivity, and shift the economy.
As we prepare for this new wave of mobility, policymakers, and innovators of the transport industry can benefit from being part of the change. Policymakers can shape mobility technology to fit the needs of their constituents. Mobility innovators can invest their resources in technologies that lead the world into the next generation of human life, progress, and prosperity.