The current status quo is simply no longer sustainable. In 1990, 39.2 million new cars were purchased globally, a figure that will nearly double to 74.4 million vehicles by the end of 2016. By 2020, global annual vehicle sales are expected to exceed 100 million units.
Despite car sales heading for record levels, the winds are shifting. We are witnessing a period of disruption brought about by innovative technologies, the new generation of consumers and entrepreneurs, and transformative ideas that address the problems in our transportation network.
We have come full circle, and once again the automobile is front and centre as one of the most important changes in this new age of mobility. Today’s cars are smart and already include some level of automation, like automatic parking and lane change assistance.
They interact with roadside devices in unprecedented ways, with connected vehicles sending and receiving signals with other vehicles, street lights, road sensors, and other devices that help make your driving experience safer and better. Today, self-driving cars are bringing us one step closer to what was once seen as pure science fiction. “In my opinion, not considering the impact of C/AV at this point is simply malpractice,” says Scott Shogan, Connected/Automated Vehicle Market Leader for WSP in the US.
While you are reading this, people are driving autonomous vehicles. Tesla, Google, Volvo, and several other innovative companies have already built functioning autonomous vehicles. In order to foster a better understanding of emerging technologies, our transport authorities, transit system operators, and city officials need to work closely with these companies to prepare for the introduction of autonomous cars on our roads.
In the United States, the State of Michigan has already been working with connected and automated vehicles for quite some time and has developed an interesting project called Mcity, which simulates conditions that these vehicles will encounter on real-world roadways. Mcity includes a network of roadways with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, simulated buildings, streetlights, and obstacles like construction barriers.
In Sweden, Volvo is preparing to test 100 self-driving cars in the streets of Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city.
“We have the opportunity to design and deploy some very advanced technology systems,” says Jan Hellåker, Program Director for Drive Sweden, the organization in charge of promoting the project’s driverless initiatives. “But we need all stakeholders to become involved in order to establish an open dialogue that ensures that we do things right.”
China has not shied away from autonomous vehicles either, with the charge being led by technology giants who have partnered with car manufacturers. Chinese companies like Changan, Baidu, and Geely have all been building and testing their own self-driving vehicles.