Opinion | While rapid urbanization, increased pollution, and traffic congestion have long since called for more efficient transport systems in India and around the globe, COVID-19 has accelerated changes that will fundamentally alter the mobility landscape. The transition from conventional to smart transport systems is no longer a need but an imperative. Yet, as the sector presents itself as a hotbed for opportunities and innovation, players must dig deep to understand what they want future transport to deliver.
According to TERI, India’s urban population is expected to grow from 410 million in 2014 to 814 million by 2050. The 2011 census revealed that 31% of the population lived in urban areas, and by 2025 46% of Indians are expected to live in cities with more than 1 million people. The number of cities with populations of more than 1 million will grow from 42 to 68 by 2030 (McKinsey) and in 2050 urban India will be home to 14 percent of the world’s urban population (ResearchGate).
Over the past four years, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi have consistently featured on TomTom’s top 10 most congested cities in the world for traffic. According to IQAir, in terms of pollution, a worldwide survey in 2019 discovered that 21 out of the 30 most polluted cities were in India, pushing India’s ranking as a country to 5th place. These are just some of the indicators of the need for smart transport solutions.
With technology spearheading the transformation across industries today, there is a tendency to rely solely on it while deliberating on the future of mobility. Technology is undoubtedly set to usher in an exciting new age in transportation, but the need of the hour is to first assess the mobility needs of India’s cities and towns well into the future in order to draw up the right-fit mobility architecture and subsequent outcomes.
Smart mobility presents a new and revolutionary outlook to the way we get around, one that is safe, clean, and more efficient. Some outcomes that the mobility blueprint in any city should aim to deliver are sustainable, environment-friendly modes of transport, convenience, reduced congestion, efficiency, safety, affordability, adoption of best world practices and smaller urban footprint for parking.
While the transition from conventional to smart transport presents a host of promising opportunities, it is not without its challenges, some of which are:
Relevance for the Future: India’s high pace of development makes it challenging to build a blueprint relevant for the next 25 years. Players need to delve deep to develop systems that are here to stay while provisioning for change and adaptability. Digitization, automation and new business models have revolutionized other industries, and the automotive industry is no exception. Preparedness is key for players in this segment to flourish.
Infrastructure: Mobility transformation requires supporting infrastructure. For instance, with the growth of electric vehicles, cities will need to start constructing better infrastructure for electric charging. Assurance of convenience, accessibility and lower costs will provide people with a greater incentive to opt for EVs.
Customer consciousness: Citizens need to become more aware of the country’s problems reeling under increased pollution, congestion, etc. The mobility sector must make proactive efforts to educate consumers, making them equal stakeholders in this revolution.
Benchmarking: Benchmarking, some of the top global cities and their models are crucial to envisioning solutions for India. Although what works for other countries may or may not work here, one must remain abreast with practices worldwide.
Technology: Technology is a crucial driver for mobility transformation. For smart mobility to take full shape, it is critical to have a robust supporting technology backbone in place. For example, a significant component of EV costs is its battery prices. Improved technology can reduce battery costs, increase efficiency and improve driving range, thus making EVs more accessible and attractive.
Skills for the modern economy: New and futuristic skills are pertinent to harness the full potential of smart mobility. One of the factors that will determine the segment’s future is the ability to build a workforce that has the right level of skills to deliver what the market demands, is agile, and keeps abreast with growing trends.
Supply ecosystem: It is vital that indigenous products and services essentially meet the mobility industry’s needs for transformation and development. That is the only way to achieve the scope and scale of the magnitude in context. This calls for the supply ecosystem to step up both in terms of innovation, quality and scale. Better access to capital, especially for MSMEs also becomes crucial.
Government involvement: Finally, this transformation cannot be achieved without active government involvement. If you look at most advanced economies, the mobility space gets an unfair share of government attention and incentives. A vital role of the government is to influence an ecosystem that allows public-private partnerships, collaboration with knowledge institutions to address air quality, traffic congestion, sustainability issues etc. Support is needed in the form of defining regulations on emissions and fuel efficiency, exploring incentives and subsidies, crafting policies and strategies.
Regardless of its challenges, smart mobility has arrived and is here to stay. A positive, action-oriented perspective and willingness to explore uncharted territory would help industry players be a part of the success story of smart mobility in India. However, the development that takes place now must bear in mind, the needs of an ever-growing urban society and build solutions that can adapt to the pace and evolving nature of urban mobility needs.
Author: Raghu Kerakatty, CEO, Toutche Electric
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.
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