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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The future of Automotive

On 4 May 2017, technology think tank RethinkX released a study on the future of Automotive (eg, Inverse, Telegraaf). Its headline predicts that "Due to major transportation disruption, 95% of U.S. car miles will be traveled in self-driving, electric, shared vehicles by 2030".

RethinkX: "Assuming existing technologies and using well-established cost curves, the report [] finds that within 10 years of the regulatory approval of driverless vehicles:
  • 95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand Autonomous Electric Vehicles (A-EVs) owned by companies providing Transport as a Service.
  • A-EVs engaged in Transport as a Service will make up 60% of U.S vehicle stock.
  • As fewer cars travel more miles, the number of passenger vehicles on American roads will drop from 247 million in 2020 to 44 million in 2030".
The year 2030 is only 13 years from now. Why would consumers go along? Essentially, self-interest: "The average American household will save $5,600 per year by giving up its gas-powered car and traveling by autonomous, electric TaaS vehicles." In Europe, these savings would likely even be bigger, given higher taxation on car mobility.

This report mentions some interaction between EVs and the power grid. It does not predict an artificially intelligent Grid that will be intertwined within the main roads (eg, 2040-2050). Such a Grid communicates with the self-driving cars on its roads. Each electric vehicle will either be a consumer or producer of electricity. Its net balance will either be bought from - or sold to - the Grid, similar to solar panels in housing. The Grid exchanges with the power grid.

This Grid will boost the driving range of electric vehicles to near unlimited mileage. Batteries will only support the last "few" miles to a certain address. This concept is similar to fiber-to-home internet using fiber-optic cables and copper wire cables for the last "meters". This Grid would be far superior to a vast physical network of EV charging stations.

The artificially intelligent Grid will control issues like distance, priority, right of way, speed, stopping and taxation. The car's AutoPilot will follow the Grid's instructions. Hence, car accidents will largely be history, apart from software glitches and the remaining off-the-grid driving.

In this view, EVs would behave like "connected" (though not physically) multiple unit trams. Vehicles will join and part the EV queue along the route. On leaving the Grid, the AutoPilot will assume control and the vehicle battery will support the final kilometers. 

On a smaller scale, the above already works in the Port of Rotterdam. PoR: "The port of Rotterdam was the first port in the world with automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and the first with automated terminals." Wiki: "The chariots navigate their own way around the terminal with the help of a magnetic grid built into the terminal tarmac." 

The Grid (Alcala Remix) by Daft Punk - Original Soundtrack Tron: Legacy (2010)