The way we get from A to B will change over the next few years. Alternative drive systems will play an important part in that, but so too will other innovative technologies that enable automatic and autonomous driving. This transformation is happening hand in hand with the development of urban conurbations.
And what they are showing is that modern vehicles are no longer merely a means of getting from A to B. They have become mobile devices that assist their drivers with a variety of systems while they are on the move.
Making this happen requires vehicles to have complex electronic components that can collect and evaluate data and derive actions from it. Cameras, sensors and the central control unit (zFas) are constantly talking to each other. The data they collect is processed and shown to drivers and passengers using infotainment components. This real-time communication model is being extended in tomorrow’s mobility so that not only vehicles and passengers communicate with each another, but vehicles and their surroundings, vehicles with vehicles – and even vehicles with their urban environments. This may seem a long way off, but there are several projects already dealing with the various disciplines involved which will, in the more distant future, be brought together as one.
For example, these projects include investigating how we can enhance roads with additional benefits. In the field of electromobility, wireless charging technology (inductive, in other words) offers an exciting opportunity. This technology is currently designed for static charging in a fixed location, but at some point it could become more dynamic – wireless charging roads that charge batteries in suitably equipped electric vehicles as they drive along longer sections equipped with wireless charging plates. Projects like this are already being tested.
Carlo Ratti: It is true that the word is being used excessively – and I do not like it at all. However, behind it is the manifestation of a broader technological trend: The internet is entering the spaces we live in, and is becoming the Internet of Things – a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data. As a result, many aspects of urban life are being rapidly transformed: From energy to waste management, from mobility to water distribution, from city planning to citizen engagement.
Electric Vehicles could play a crucial role in terms of energy source, as they can be run on renewables and make our transportation systems more sustainable. But I think that the biggest transformations will happen with Autonomous Vehicles. "Your” autonomous car could give you a lift to work in the morning and then, rather than sitting idle in a parking lot, give a lift to someone else in your family – or to anyone else in the neighborhood. This could potentially blur the distinction between private and public modes of transportation.
However adoption of sharing will depend on how our values will change – and in particular on the role of the automobile as a status symbol. I believe that this is possible. It was Norwegian sociologist Thorstein Veblen, over 100 years ago, who coined the term conspicuous consumption. Veblen had realized that families at that time bought cars or other valuables only to show off their social status. Today things are changing. The advent of the Internet and social media, along with an important urban revolution, have being determined new ways of showing one own social status, starting from the sharing paradigm.
"Electric Vehicles could play a crucial role in terms of energy source, as they can be run on renewables and make our transportation systems more sustainable."
I think that today’s infrastructure still needs work, but that it is changing fast! In a recent study, we tried to optimize Electric vehicle charging stations location in the city of Boston, starting from a massive cellular phone data sets covering mobility of 1 million users over 4 months. Results show that by analyzing users’ behavioral data we can find the best solutions in terms of drivers' discomfort and the number of charging stations required.
If we focus on the design of each single vehicle, with Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles we can imagine our cars becoming an extension of our houses. And while traveling we will be able to do lot of other activities – reading a book or taking a nap.
Statistics portal Statista has calculated that around 16 zettabytes of data was generated in 2016, an enormous number with 21 zeros. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This figure is set to rise to 163 ZB by 2025 – the equivalent of 5.2 million gigabytes per second.