Cars Only Part of Future Transportation Puzzle
Panel looks at long-term trends that will affect future car use.
As automakers and others peer into the future, they see a transportation landscape that looks much different from today – and one in which the automobile may lose its luster as the ride of choice for many commuters.
That was the takeaway from a panel discussion on June 21 in Monte Carlo at the Automotive News Europe Congress on long-term transportation trends. If car companies expect to survive, they won’t just be in the automobile manufacturing business in the long-term, but in the mobility business as well.
Many factors are accelerating the trend of the car possibly becoming a smaller piece of the future transportation puzzle. The four panelists all pointed to a large shift toward urban living as a key factor in future transportation. “Urbanization is the megatrend we have to take into account,” said Claus Ehlers, director of society, vehicle concepts and human factors at Daimler. “By 2050, it is believed 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities,” added Peter Cirulis, president of European operations for automotive supplier Dana Holding Corp.
Of course, all those city dwellers will need to get where they’re going. And other related trends -- such as car sharing, the drop in driver licensing and driving among young people and increasing connectivity for everyone -- will further change how we get around. Some automakers, such as BMW and General Motors, are already investing in what could be a less car-centric future.
Last year, BMW founded its iVentures arm to not only focus efforts on its i3 and i8 electric cars but also to deliver “innovative mobile solutions that improve urban mobility -- inside and outside of the car.” Meanwhile, GM’s OnStar has partnered with RelayRides on its car-sharing business, and Bill Ford helped start the venture capital firm Fontinalis Partners by investing $13.7 million in the car-sharing company Wheelz.
The panelists in Monte Carlo also pointed out that technology, often cited as a factor in pulling young people’s interest and income away from purchasing cars, is a potential threat. News this week that car technology is a huge pain point for consumers, according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, doesn’t bode well for automakers. “The car is still associated with emotions,” said Peter Fuss, senior automotive advisory partner at Ernst & Young. “Who is offering the emotions the customer is prepared to pay for? Google? Apple? That is one of the big challenges.”
Connectivity will also play a major role in future transportation trends, especially in reducing traffic and accidents. Cirulis noted that many automakers are experimenting with connected vehicle systems, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun field trials of connected vehicles to prevent accidents. Volvo is working on “road trains” for cars to improve traffic flow on highways, while Honda is developing connected-car technology to also prevent traffic jams. Of course, Google is quickly moving forward with autonomous vehicles.
But Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development at Ford of Europe, brought up one of the big challenges facing connected cars. “How do you mesh an individual's desire for privacy with the need to collect data to make a network run?” she asked. “How is privacy respected when knowing a person's specific location can improve public safety?" Samardzich also said Ford is planning for "a transportation system that helps us regain our most precious commodity -- time."
Looking far into the future at the 2050 time frame, Samardzich said one thing is for certain: “The transportation system will be an ecosystem that integrates all modes of travel together.” So get used to more multimodal transportation in the future that could involve a combination of cars, public transportation, biking and walking.
[News Source: Automotive News]
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