Sunday, December 24, 2017

Creating Sustainable Mobility Technologies – Opportunities and Challenges

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This is the second in a series of Blog posts on the Urban Mobility Challenge. You will the first post here -

Sustainable mobility for the future is all about creating automotive technologies that are clean, safe and fast. If we look at the urban mobility scenario today, there are three problem areas that need attention (a) pollution due to vehicular emission (b) vehicular accidents and (c) loss of productivity due to difficulty in navigating through dense traffic. Electric Vehicles are emerging as the future clean vehicle technology and will remove concerns around rising vehicular emissions. Autonomous cars have demonstrated accident-free performance for more than a million miles. Connected vehicles that can proactively communicated with signals, parking lots and other vehicles on the road are fast emerging as the solution for handling traffic jabs in the cities.

The opportunities in the short-term include introducing battery powered electric vehicles (that are powered by a mix of solar and fossil fuel), autonomous tractors and border patrol vehicles and connected vehicles whose location and performance can be monitored remotely. In the medium term, electric vehicles fully powered by solar, autonomous trucks that can move on dedicated tracks on the highways to transport goods and connected vehicles that can talk to signals and parking spaces. In the long term, we visualize emergence of electric vehicles that will not need energy storage (create and use electrical energy on the go), autonomous cars on the road and connected vehicles that can talk to each other, plan their route and coordinate their movement.

The challenges in realizing these three technologies – electric, autonomous and connected vehicles – are three fold. The first is the materials challenge – the scarcity of materials such as Lithium for battery, Rare Earth minerals for magnets in the motors, Cobalt etc may become bottlenecks for scaling up these technologies. The second challenge is about Intellectual Property (IP) – since these technologies are exponentially growing and converging, there is a need to accelerate the creation and commercialization of IP. For instance, if it takes more than five years to secure IP for a technology invention, then the technology may become obsolete by that time. The third challenge is to get the ecosystem ready for effective diffusion of these technologies. For instance, electric vehicles will need charging infrastructure, autonomous vehicles will need favorable legal framework and connected vehicles will need seamless internet availability.

We will describe the potential opportunity to create sustainable mobility for the future by investing in the development of electric vehicle, autonomous vehicle and connected vehicle technologies. We will also discuss the challenges associated with critical materials, intellectual property and ecosystem readiness.

1 comment:

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