A recent United Nations study predicted that the world’s population is expected to hit 10 billion by 2050 with almost 70% concentrated in cities across the globe. In Asia and Africa, it is estimated that urbanisation will be even higher than that of the global predicted average, edging closer towards 90% over the next three decades.
Cities across the globe, including Kuala Lumpur, are already suffering from overcrowding. Governments have been investing heavily to ensure that their cities can cope with the growing demands on infrastructure while maintaining a high quality of life for city dwellers. Mobility, accessibility and efficiency are key considerations when it comes to assessing a city’s quality of life or liveability as some would like to call it.
According to an article by the Economist, a study conducted in the United States, France and the UK estimated that congestion is expected to create losses of US$300bil by 2030 as a result of wasted time and fuel.
A new technology that is rapidly being developed by automakers, technology companies and start-ups around the world is fully connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) or level five (L5) CAVs as recognised by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It is expected to radically change how people and goods are transported.
At L5, the vehicle will no longer require a driver throughout its journey. A myriad of integrated sensors such as radar, light detection and ranging, global positioning system, odometry sensors, and intelligent cameras along with advanced machine learning and processing systems will work seamlessly together to drive the vehicle more consistently and safely than humans.
With onboard connectivity units, this system will also be able to communicate in real time with other CAVs and its surroundings via vehicle to vehicle technology, vehicle to infrastructure and long-range vehicle to everything connectivity via high speed networks to minimise congestion or safety risk.
The mobility experience will also be completely revolutionised. There are endless possibilities to reimagine the vehicle interior, including incorporating “Active” glass that enables windshields to become connected touch screens, controllable with eye-tracking and gesture recognition; and augmented reality displays and dynamic sensing that give passengers the option of using hand gestures and other signals to interact with their virtual environment.
Advanced communication will also be able to recognise the occupants’ devices to provide personalised experiences.
Market studies estimate that the global market for CAVs will reach US$42bil by 2025. Automakers have started to work beyond their traditional eco-system and collaborate with other industries such as telecommunications and big data firms that are pivotal in the race towards L5 capability.
Automakers are also potentially being disrupted by technology companies and startups who are making great strides in the development of autonomous vehicles systems.
This technology could very well be the key to maximising the potential of mobility through e-hailing and fleet management. Industry experts believe that with driverless vehicles, the cost per mile of on-demand services will drop significantly and people will no longer see the benefit of owning a car that sits unused 95% of the time, opting instead to maximise their value by relying on service providers such as Lyft, Grab and Uber to get around.
Today, navigational applications such as Waze and Google Maps give us a glimpse of how this technology will work as it assists us in recommending the fastest possible route to our destination in a timed manner, including factoring in distance and congestions ahead. Companies like those in the logistics sector and governments could be offered new fleet management services that will help reduce costs, increase productivity and connect new areas as technology drives down cost per km and increases round-the-clock operability.
However, developments in CAV technology are still facing challenges, some beyond the control of the automakers. One such challenge lies in policy and legislation as CAVs will require governments to reassess vehicle regulation on its roads in relation to industry, safety, liability and public awareness. Several cities have already begun engaging with CAV developers to provide them with “Living Laboratories” where the entire eco-system can accelerate their respective developments.
As the private and public sector start to advance collaborations to realise the full potential of CAVs, the public will see more of these precursor technologies in existing vehicles.
Malaysia is well-positioned to leverage this disruption by encouraging its legacy automotive industry to accelerate the transition towards L5 CAVs.
The Government has shown that it is highly supportive of technological advancements, being one of the first in South-East Asia to legalise e-hailing services such as Grab and Uber by making amendments to the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Act 1987. With e-hailing services banking on the potential of L5 CAVs, the local automotive and mobility industries are on the right path towards becoming global leaders in Connected Autonomous Vehicle Mobility in the not too distant future.
Mohd Husin Mohd Nor is a partner in Ernst & Young Advisory Services Sdn Bhd. The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.