Digitisation within the automotive industry is responsible for a rapid evolution. Technologies such as autonomous driving, electric vehicles, faster connectivity, and artificial intelligence are transforming the way city dwellers travel. As technology evolves, requirements and expectations also change.
Urbanisation has been driving this evolution to a certain degree. As a city develops and grows, mobility preferences change based on the traveller’s lifestyle. Imagine how constricting life would be in Dubai if you were unable to hop onto the metro to reach Mall of the Emirates, for example.
Great metro connectivity, access to ride-sharing applications and the development of electric or hybrid vehicle options have become key to meeting local mobility requirements and expectations.
The challenge, however, is to shape the future of mobility while anticipating the expectations of both the government and the city’s residents to ensure safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions.
Indeed, congestion, pollution and lack of access to public transportation networks are becoming increasingly pressing issues. Thus, the importance of understanding developments in traffic and mobility systems is vital.
Having said that, it is a transformative time in the automotive business, not least here, in the Middle East. Technological integration and digitisation have been vital in this revolution.
Vehicle automation is the next big change
There are different levels of autonomy in the mobility sector. While some modes of transport, such as the driverless Dubai Metro, showcase a higher degree of autonomy, there are autonomy levels which still necessitate the driver’s control.
Levels one to three entail that while self-driving technologies are used within the vehicle, the driver still needs to take control to operate the car to maintain overall safety. The park assist feature, lane assist, and adaptive cruise control are examples of self-driving technologies in personal vehicles which have been immeasurably successful, however, they do not make a car completely autonomous.
For instance, the front and rear cross traffic alert feature, which warns the driver about an imminent crash, helps to use the maximum braking capacity of the car to avoid an accident; nonetheless, it still requires overall control from the person in the driving seat.
As technology continues to advance, personal vehicles will become completely autonomous, allowing passengers to travel distances with real independence. These cars are expected to be electric, free of human error and extremely efficient — which is good news for the environment.
Autonomous cars can even be programmed to ‘talk’ to each other, which means that if there is heavy traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, for example, the cars can communicate and could suggest an alternate route. Also, this technology can further reduce the risks of collisions on the roads.
While this isn’t expected to become a reality overnight, the UAE government has already started laying in place the foundation for a complete and successful integration by means of setting standards and regulations for autonomous vehicles.
E-mobility is the need of the hour
The shift to electric vehicles is a technological requisite to fully autonomous vehicles, and besides, the advantages they present for the environment and lower maintenance costs are vital for the future. The global automotive industry has been implementing an extensive electrification roll out. Volkswagen, globally, aims to offer nearly 20 pure electric models by 2025.
The automotive industry is working together with technology leaders and authorities to develop integrated systems that are more conducive to the modern lifestyle. Having said that, electric vehicles are still priced as niche products and are yet to become a standard option.
That needs to change.
It is also encouraging that in the Middle East, the UAE is one of the most developed markets for electrical vehicles, following the installation of several charging stations around Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
A greener tomorrow
The UAE is already driving the way forward for autonomous transportation through the Dubai Autonomous Transportation strategy, which aims to ensure that 25 per cent of the total transportation in Dubai changes to autonomous mode by 2030. Reaching this milestone would have a huge financial benefit as well as a massive reduction in the city’s carbon footprint.
The wide-spread adoption of self-driving cars in the future holds many promises. Less traffic and road collisions, as well as reduced carbon footprint, all contribute to a more sustainable future.
Backed by government vision, carbon-neutral and sustainable mobility is not only an achievable goal in the UAE in the near to medium term, it is inevitable. It is an exciting and challenging time for the automotive trade.
Victor Dalmau is the managing director for Volkswagen Middle East