We have to nurture engineers—auto, technology, electrical—who can make combustion engines even more efficient, and help develop alternative propulsion technologies like plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell electric.
We are amid one of the great technological revolutions. Robotics, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are radically transforming how we work, build, live, learn—and how we travel.
The mobility revolution is upon us. From autonomous driving technology, electric vehicles, cars that talk to each other, vehicles you can summon from your smartphone … the future is here.
At the centre of this mobility revolution are the engineers who are turning science fiction into fact. Against this backdrop, it’s important that FISITA—the federation of automotive engineering societies, which is hosting the World Automotive Congress in Chennai next month—harnesses the opportunity to understand what is driving change in mobility, who is leading that change, and what will the future look like.
So, what is driving the change in the way we move? I put it down to four main factors: road safety, congestion, pollution and carbon emissions.
Road safety: Every year, 1.3 million people die in road fatalities. Every one of them is a mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter or friend. Global data indicates that more than 90% crashes are caused by human error. With new safety technologies and semi-autonomous vehicles that don’t operate when the driver is drowsy or distracted, we can save lives. Instead of trying to protect passengers during and after a crash, we must prevent crashes from happening in the first place—automotive engineers are at the forefront of developing and refining this technology.
Congestion: Rapid urbanisation is increasing congestion globally. India currently has five megacities, with a population above 10 million. Two more—Hyderabad and Ahmedabad—are expected to join the list by 2030. This means we must implement ways to move more and more people through complex urban environments. Ride-sharing and car-sharing technologies will play a major role, and will be based on autonomous and fully electric vehicle platforms.
By allowing vehicles to travel closer together, in a safer way and at higher speeds, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will be one of the many advancements that contribute to easing congestion over time.
Pollution and carbon emissions: Across the world, governments are taking steps, particularly electrification, to tackle carbon emissions. The Indian government has stated its objective that, by 2030, 30% of new vehicles sold will run on electricity. The policies of the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, are driving increased investment in electric vehicles.
Electric vehicles, along with hybrid technology and ride-sharing, provide an opportunity to India and other nations to also meet their climate mitigation promises, and allow businesses and people to shift to greener infrastructure and utilities. It has the ability to bring about positive change not just in people’s lives, but also across sectors like auto, technology, logistics and human resources.
India is an important incubator for modern technologies. It has an industrial base that can be supported by quality infrastructure, smooth policy implementation, and by acting on what consumers are asking for, to drive technological innovation and change. India is working towards developing 100 smart cities by 2020, where the Indian auto industry, given its range of smart mobility solutions, is expected to contribute immensely.
With each major advancement in mobility—from horseback to ships, steam engines and combustion engines to air travel—there has been a demonstrable benefit to humanity. These innovations bring people together, they get goods to market quicker, they contract and connect our world, they power our economy, and they create new jobs and opportunities.
Engineers—auto, technology, electrical—are revolutionising the way we commute and transport. They are making combustion engines more efficient, while continuing to evolve and refine alternative propulsion technologies: plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell electric. Their technical know-how is key to industrialising new propulsion systems and making conventional powertrains better with each day.
With smart mobility solutions now within reach, we are at the cusp of delivering a substantial change for humanity and environment. Not only will they be efficient and safe, but advanced propulsion systems and transportation technologies will also contribute to transforming our urban and natural environments for the better.
By- Dan Nicholson. The author is president of FISITA (the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies) and VP, Global Propulsion Systems, General Motors