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Do automated cars dream of electric sharing?

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Authors: George Kamiya, Kate Palmer and Jacob Teter

The future of self-driving cars remains highly uncertain. But visions of fully autonomous vehicles have captured the public imagination, with academics, technologists, and cultural commentators speculating on what a self-driving future might mean.

Building on our first comprehensive report on Digitalization & Energy, the IEA is setting out to explore the important and intriguing possibilities of emerging mobility technologies and services – defined here as automation, sharing, and electrification. Working at the intersection of energy, transport, and digital technologies, the IEA aims to assess how automation could impact long-term energy and emission trends and to advise on policies that could help to steer technology and business developments toward achieving environmental, energy, and other social goals.

To inform our modelling and policy analysis, we are tapping into expertise in multiple realms, consulting and exchanging ideas with researchers, technologists, legal experts, designers, investors, visionaries, and policy makers. The IEA recently convened a two-day workshop to bring together international experts and decision-makers from across these communities. This commentary summarises the lively debate and discussion at the workshop, and previews some of the key questions we will address in the coming months.

How and when will robots hit the road?

The future of highly automated and connected vehicles is decidedly uncertain; questions remain around technologies, regulations, and public acceptance. Experts predict a range of possible development and deployment pathways.

One possible trajectory continues down the long road of incremental progress. Technologies are first introduced in the luxury vehicle market, and then gradually diffuse down to other segments, bringing greater comfort and convenience, performance, and safety. Blind spot monitors, lane keeping, and collision warning and avoidance follow the route of adaptive cruise control to become standard features in more and more new cars.

Or we could leap directly to fully autonomous vehicles (AVs), deploying them in limited contexts and expanding the range and conditions of their use. Given the major challenge of putting human and robot-driven vehicles on a single road network, many see the best way forward to be designing separate “geofenced” spaces, effectively cordoned off roadways, for self-driving cars.

The most likely early adopters of AVs are commercial applications, particularly where labour costs are high or where automation could enable higher vehicle utilisation (such as trucks, buses, taxis and ride hailing). High-cost automated driving technologies also represent a lower proportional cost on larger, more expensive vehicles like buses and heavy trucks. Testing and trials in a variety of use cases are well underway, with over sixty cities hosting AV tests or committing to doing so in the near future.

Differing consumer preferences and demographics, regulatory regimes, and built environments will likely drive differences in adoption among regions. For instance, the aging population in Japan is a driver of its ambitious plans for AV deployment. High consumer acceptance and a favourable regulatory environment in Singapore could mean they will be among the first to deploy AVs widely. Some of these regional differences are already evident in the differences in how ride-hailing services are used in cities and suburbs and among countries. For instance, short-distance ride-hailing in the U.S. versus long-distance carpooling in Western Europe versus app-based motorcycle taxis in Indonesia. Finland is looking to integrate ride-hailing services into a multimodal Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) ecosystem.

Heaven, hell, or something in between

The consequences of automation on global energy demand and emissions are highly uncertain, depending on the combined effect of changes in consumer behaviour, policy intervention, technological progress and vehicle technology. Analyses of a range of scenarios in the U.S. context show a wide range of possible outcomes. For example, under a best-case scenario of improved efficiency through automation and ride-sharing, road transport energy use could halve compared with current levels. Conversely, if efficiency improvements do not materialise and rebound effects from automation result in substantially more travel, energy use could more than double.

In the rosiest of model scenarios, citizen-agents dutifully forgo private car ownership and instead use a mix of driverless shuttle services, shared bikes and e-scooters to connect to high quality rapid transit. On-street parking is eliminated, freeing up space for bikes, pedestrians, commerce, and green space. Trip costs and commute times drop. More universal and affordable mobility enhance equality of opportunity and access to jobs and services.

In the dystopian reading, AVs reduce driver stress and allow for more productive use of travel time, making private car travel more attractive. Living further outside city centres becomes more attractive and property values adjust accordingly, exacerbating sprawl. New demand from non-drivers (such as children and the elderly) contribute to greater overall travel. Costs for taxi services fall dramatically, encouraging a shift from public transit to low-occupancy AVs. Road freight also becomes much cheaper, encouraging more goods shipment. All these factors encourage more road travel activity and energy demand.

Sharing, electrification, and multi-modal integration

So how might we steer these new developments away from a 21st century reboot of car-centric cityscapes, and away from the noise, congestion and tailpipe emissions that are plaguing cities today?

Perhaps by focusing on the destination – a safe and comfortable city with many clean and convenient ways to get around – some design principles can be formulated. Policy and planning principles that focus on how sharing, electrification, and automation contribute to a multi-modal mobility ecosystem can help get us where we want to go.

Sharing of vehicles and rides could be key to making the most of scarce road space and dampening potential rebound effects in travel activity. Pricing signals based on footprint or passenger throughput can incentivise active modes, pooled rides, and transit. On the most heavily trafficked routes, supply-side measures, like converting lanes into dedicated priority bus networks, could help deploy automation sooner.

Electrification could help to reduce the energy use and emissions impacts of AVs. With high utilisation rates, commercial fleets – the most likely early adopters of AVs – will favour powertrains with low operational costs and higher efficiencies such as EVs. Automated driving technologies may be easier to implement in EVs due to the greater number of drive-by-wire components. While the outlook for electrification of AVs seems promising, commercial services will demand greater utilisation and range, requiring larger and more expensive battery packs or more frequent recharging. On-board computers and electronics may draw significant power, reducing the range of an electric AV. Ensuring suitability and synergies between automation and electrification requires a more deliberate design of EV-related policies and charging infrastructure buildout to prepare for an automated and shared future.

Early evidence from several major U.S. cities, including Boston and New York, show that ride-hailing services may be adding to congestion and substituting for public transit. While low-cost autonomous taxis could accelerate this trend and displace public transit, the right policies could instead ensure that they serve as first- and last-mile feeders to transit services and as substitutes to single occupancy vehicles. If cities and countries can compel corporate providers of mobility services to disclose certain key data, urban and transport planners may be able to better target infrastructure investments and services to ensure more efficient and equitable access.

Policies for a sustainable and equitable mobility future

Governments at all levels can play a critical role in enabling emerging mobility technologies and ensuring that they help to solve (rather than exacerbate) existing challenges. Crucially, efforts to limit the use of single-occupancy vehicles must be complemented with policies to encourage and promote sharing, interoperability, and integration across different modes and mobility service providers.

At the national level, regulations should seek to support rather than impede, but also steer AV development, while ensuring safety of road users and pedestrians. National strategy and policy can empower cities to adopt smarter mobility practices across all transport modes. Clear policy intent and implementation at this level can have long-term ripple effects, like shaping more efficient car designs of the future.

Adoption of AVs has the potential to make cities more sustainable, inclusive, prosperous, and resilient. Fair user fees across all modes can encourage more efficient use of our city streets. So far, more than 100 cities and companies have committed to supporting this idea through the Shared Mobility Principles for Liveable Cities. With automation likely to reduce the need for parking, cities will face key decisions on how to repurpose these spaces to ensure safer, more sustainable and productive neighbourhoods and cities.

Dynamic congestion pricing could be a simple and effective policy tool to mitigate some of the negative externalities of AVs, like greater vehicle travel and empty vehicle miles. But congestion pricing has been politically difficult to date, with only a few cities worldwide implementing it effectively. Rising gridlock and new technology options could drive greater public appetite for pricing; otherwise, governments will need to look at developing creative policy packages to achieve similar outcomes.

Next steps

The impacts of vehicle automation are likely to extend into many facets of the economy, the physical landscape, and our daily lives. In this introductory commentary, we have only touched on some of the critical issues and questions that we aim to explore further in future posts.

*Kate Palmer, former Transport Analyst (Trainee); Jacob Teter, Transport Analyst.

IEA

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Science & Technology

What is a ‘vaccine passport’ and will you need one the next time you travel?

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An Arab-Israeli woman shows her COVID-19 card which shows she has been vaccinated against the virus. Mohamed Yassin

Is the idea of a vaccine passport entirely new?

The concept of a passport to allow for cross border travel is something that we’ve been working on with the Common Trust Network for many months. The focus has been first on diagnostics. That’s where we worked with an organization called “The Commons Project” to develop the “Common Trust Framework”. This is a set of registries of trusted data sources, a registry of labs accredited to run tests and a registry of up-to-date border crossing regulations.

The set of registries can be used to generate certificates of compliance to prevailing border-crossing regulations as defined by governments. There are different tools to generate the certificates, and the diversity of their authentication solutions and the way they protect data privacy is quite remarkable.

We at the Forum have no preference when it comes to who is running the certification algorithm, we simply want to promote a unique set of registries to avoid unnecessary replication efforts. This is where we support the Common Trust Framework. For instance, the Common Pass is one authentication solution – but there are others, for example developed by Abbott, AOK, SICPA (Certus), IBM and others.

How does the system work and how could it be applied to vaccines?

The Common Trust Network, supported by the Forum, is combining the set of registries that are going to enrol all participating labs. Separately from that, it provides an up-to-date database of all prevailing border entry rules (which fluctuate and differ from country to country).

Combining these two datasets provides a QR code that border entry authorities can trust. It doesn’t reveal any personal health data – it tells you about compliance of results versus border entry requirements for a particular country. So, if your border control rules say that you need to take a test of a certain nature within 72 hours prior to arrival, the tool will confirm whether the traveller has taken that corresponding test in a trusted laboratory, and the test was indeed performed less than three days prior to landing.

The purpose is to create a common good that many authentication providers can use and to provide anyone, in a very agnostic fashion, with access to those registries.

What is the WHO’s role?

There is currently an effort at the WHO to create standards that would process data on the types of vaccinations, how these are channelled into health and healthcare systems registries, the use cases – beyond the management of vaccination campaigns – include border control but also possibly in the future access to stadia or large events. By establishing in a truly ethical fashion harmonized standards, we can avoid a scenario whereby you create two classes of citizens – those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

So rather than building a set of rules that would be left to the interpretation of member states or private-sector operators like cruises, airlines or conveners of gatherings, we support the WHO’s effort to create a standard for member states for requesting vaccinations and how it would permit the various kinds of use cases.

It is important that we rely on the normative body (the WHO) to create the vaccine credential requirements. The Forum is involved in the WHO taskforce to reflect on those standards and think about how they would be used. The WHO’s goal is to deploy standards and recommendations by mid-March 2021, and the hope is that they will be more harmonized between member states than they have been to date in the field of diagnostics.

What about the private sector and separate initiatives?

When registry frameworks are being developed for authentication tools providers, they should at a minimum feed as experiments into the standardization efforts being driven by WHO, knowing that the final guidance from the only normative body with an official UN mandate may in turn force those providers to revise their own frameworks. We certainly support this type of interaction, as public- and private-sector collaboration is key to overcoming the global challenge posed by COVID-19.

What more needs to be done to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines?

As the WHO has warned, vaccine nationalism – or a hoarding and “me-first” approach to vaccine deployment – risks leaving “the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk.”

COVAX, supported by the World Economic Forum, is coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations and others. So far, 190 economies have signed up.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) is another partnership, with universal access and equity at its core, that has been successfully promoting global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The World Economic Forum is a member of the ACT-Accelerator’s Facilitation Council (governing body).

World Economic Forum

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Iran among five pioneers of nanotechnology

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Prioritizing nanotechnology in Iran has led to this country’s steady placement among the five pioneers of the nanotechnology field in recent years, and approximately 20 percent of all articles provided by Iranian researchers in 2020 are relative to this area of technology.

Iran has been introduced as the 4th leading country in the world in the field of nanotechnology, publishing 11,546 scientific articles in 2020.

The country held a 6 percent share of the world’s total nanotechnology articles, according to StatNano’s monthly evaluation accomplished in WoS databases.

There are 227 companies in Iran registered in the WoS databases, manufacturing 419 products, mainly in the fields of construction, textile, medicine, home appliances, automotive, and food.

According to the data, 31 Iranian universities and research centers published more than 50 nano-articles in the last year. 

In line with China’s trend in the past few years, this country is placed in the first stage with 78,000 nano-articles (more than 40 percent of all nano-articles in 2020), and the U.S. is at the next stage with 24,425 papers. These countries have published nearly half of the whole world’s nano-articles.

In the following, India with 9 percent, Iran with 6 percent, and South Korea and Germany with 5 percent are the other head publishers, respectively.

Almost 9 percent of the whole scientific publications of 2020, indexed in the Web of Science database, have been relevant to nanotechnology.

There have been 191,304 nano-articles indexed in WoS that had to have a 9 percent growth compared to last year. The mentioned articles are 8.8 percent of the whole produced papers in 2020.

Iran ranked 43rd among the 100 most vibrant clusters of science and technology (S&T) worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020 report.

The country experienced a three-level improvement compared to 2019.

Iran’s share of the world’s top scientific articles is 3 percent, Gholam Hossein Rahimi She’erbaf, the deputy science minister, has announced.

The country’s share in the whole publications worldwide is 2 percent, he noted, highlighting, for the first three consecutive years, Iran has been ranked first in terms of quantity and quality of articles among Islamic countries.

Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology has said that Iran is playing the leading role in the region in the fields of fintech, ICT, stem cell, aerospace, and is unrivaled in artificial intelligence.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Science & Technology

Free And Equal Internet Access As A Human Right

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Having internet access in a free and equal way is very important in contemporary world. Today, there are more than 4 billion people who are using internet all around the world. Internet has become a very important medium by which the right to freedom of speech and the right to reach information can be exercised. Internet has a central tool in commerce, education and culture.

Providing solutions to develop effective policies for both internet safety and equal Internet access must be the first priority of governments. The Internet offers individuals power to seek and impart information thus states and organizations like UN have important roles in promoting and protecting Internet safety. States and international organizations play a key role to ensure free and equal Internet access.

The concept of “network neutrality is significant while analyzing equal access to Internet and state policies regulating it. Network Neutrality (NN) can be defined as the rule meaning all electronic communications and platforms should be exercised in a non-discriminatory way regardless of their type, content or origin. The importance of NN has been evident in COVID-19 pandemic when millions of students in underdeveloped regions got victimized due to the lack of access to online education.

 Article 19/2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights notes the following:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Internet access and network neutrality directly affect human rights. The lack of NN undermines human rights and causes basic human right violations like violating freedom of speech and freedom to reach information. There must be effective policies to pursue NN. Both nation-states and international organizations have important roles in making Internet free, safe and equally reachable for the people worldwide. States should take steps for promoting equal opportunities, including gender equality, in the design and implementation of information and technology. The governments should create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling online environment in accordance with human rights.

It is known that, the whole world has a reliance on internet that makes it easy to fullfill basic civil tasks but this is also threatened by increasing personal and societal cyber security threats. In this regard, states must fulfill their commitment to develop effective policies to attain universal access to the Internet in a safe way.

 As final remarks, it can be said that, Internet access should be free and equal for everyone. Creating effective tools to attain universal access to the Internet cannot be done only by states themselves. Actors like UN and EU have a major role in this process as well.

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