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.
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.
US Blacklist of Chinese Surveillance Companies Creates Supply Chain Confusion
The United States Department of Commerce’s decision to blacklist 28 Chinese public safety organizations and commercial entities hit at some of China’s most dominant vendors within the security industry. Of the eight commercial entities added to the blacklist, six of them are some of China’s most successful digital forensics, facial recognition, and AI companies. However, the two surveillance manufacturers who made this blacklist could have a significant impact on the global market at large—Dahua and Hikvision.
Putting geopolitics aside, Dahua’s and Hikvision’s positions within the overall global digital surveillance market makes their blacklisting somewhat of a shock, with the immediate effects touching off significant questions among U.S. partners, end users, and supply chain partners.
Frost & Sullivan’s research finds that, currently, Hikvision and Dahua rank second and third in total global sales among the $20.48 billion global surveillance market but are fast-tracking to become the top two vendors among IP surveillance camera manufacturers. Their insurgent rise among IP surveillance camera providers came about due to both companies’ aggressive growth pipelines, significant product libraries of high-quality surveillance cameras and new imaging technologies, and low-cost pricing models that provide customers with higher levels of affordability.
This is also not the first time that these two vendors have found themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government. In 2018, the U.S. initiated a ban on the sale and use of Hikvision and Dahua camera equipment within government-owned facilities, including the Department of Defense, military bases, and government-owned buildings. However, the vague language of the ban made it difficult for end users to determine whether they were just banned from new purchases of Dahua or Hikvision cameras or if they needed to completely rip-and-replace existing equipment with another brand. Systems integrators, distributors, and even technology partners themselves remained unsure of how they should handle the ban’s implications, only serving to sow confusion among U.S. customers.
In addition to confusion over how end users in the government space were to proceed regarding their Hikvision and Dahua equipment came the realization that both companies held significant customer share among commercial companies throughout the U.S. market—so where was the ban’s line being drawn for these entities? Were they to comply or not? If so, how? Again, these questions have remained unanswered since 2018.
Hikvision and Dahua each have built a strong presence within the U.S. market, despite the 2018 ban. Both companies are seen as regular participants in industry tradeshows and events, and remain active among industry partners throughout the surveillance ecosystem. Both companies have also attempted to work with the U.S. government to alleviate security concerns and draw clearer guidelines for their sales and distribution partners throughout the country. They even established regional operations centers and headquarters in the country.
While blacklisting does send a clearer message to end users, integrators, and distributors—for sales and usage of these companies’ technologies—remedies for future actions still remain unclear. When it comes to legacy Hikvision and Dahua cameras, the onus appears to be on end users and integrators to decide whether rip-and-replace strategies are the best way to comply with government rulings or to just leave the solutions in place and hope for the best.
As far as broader global impacts of this action, these will remain to be seen. While the 2018 ban did bring about talks of similar bans in other regions, none of these bans ever materialized. Dahua and Hikvision maintained their strong market positioning, even achieving higher-than-average growth rates in the past year. Blacklisting does send a stronger message to global regulators though, so market participants outside the U.S. will just have to adopt a wait-and-see posture to see how, if at all, they may need to prepare their own surveillance equipment supply chains for changes to come.
After Google’s new set of community standards: What next?
After weeks of Google’s community standard guidelines made headlines, the Digital Industry Group Inc. (Australia based NGO) rejected proposals from the regulating body based in the southern hemisphere. The group claimed that regulating “fake news” would make the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission a moral police institution. In late August, Google itself forbade its employees from indulging in the dissemination of inadequate information or one that involved internal debates. From the outset, the picture is a bit confusing. After the events in Australia, Google’s latest act of disciplinary intrusion seems all but galvanizing from certain interests or interest groups.
A year earlier, Google was shaken by claims of protecting top-level executives from sexual crimes; the issue took a serious turn and almost deteriorated company operations. If anything but Google’s development from the horror of 2018 clearly suggests a desperate need from the hierarchy to curb actions that could potentially damage the interests of several stakeholders. There is no comprehensive evidence to suggest that Google had a view on how the regulations were proposed in Australia. After all, until proven otherwise, all whistleblowing social media posts and comments are at one point of time, “fake”. Although the global giant has decided to discontinue all forms of unjustifiable freedom inside its premises; however, it does profit by providing the platform for activism and all forms of censure. The Digital Industry Group wants the freedom to encourage digital creative contents, but Google’s need to publish a community guideline looks more of a defensive shield against uncertainties.
On its statement, the disciplinary clause, significantly mentions about the actions that will be taken against staffs providing information that goes around Google’s internal message boards. In 2017, female employees inside the Google office were subjected to discrimination based on the “gender-ness” of working positions. Kevin Kernekee, an ex-employee, who was fired in 2018, confirmed that staff bullying was at the core of such messaging platforms. Growing incidents inside Google and its recent community stance are but only fuelling assumptions about the ghost that is surrounding the internet giant’s reputation. Consequently, from the consumer’s point of view, an instable organization of such global stature is an alarm.
The dissidents at Google are not to be blamed entirely. As many would argue, the very foundation of the company was based on the values of expression at work. The nature of access stipulated into Google’s interface is another example of what it stands for, at least in the eyes of consumers. Stakeholders would not wish for an internal turmoil; it would be against the enormous amount of trust invested into the workings of the company. If google can backtrack from its core values upon higher forces, consumers cannot expect anything different. Google is not merely a search engine; for almost half of the internet users, it is almost everything.
“Be responsible, Be helpful, Be thoughtful”. These phrases are the opening remarks from the newly engineered community guideline. As it claims in the document, three principles govern the core values at Google. Upon closer inspection, it also sounds as if the values are only based on what it expects from the people working for the company. A global company that can resort to disciplining its staff via written texts can also trim the rights of its far-reaching consumer groups. It might only be the beginning but the tail is on fire.
How to Design Responsible Technology
Biased algorithms and noninclusive data sets are contributing to a growing ‘techlash’ around the world. Today, the World Economic Forum, the international organisation for public-private cooperation has released a new approach to help governments and businesses counter these growing societal risks.
The Responsible Use of Technology report provides a step-by-step framework for companies and governments to pin point where and how they can integrate ethics and human rights-based approaches into innovation. Key questions and actions guide organizations through each phase of a technology’s development process and highlight what can be done and when to help organizations mitigate unethical practices. Notably, the framework can be applied on technology in the ‘final’ use and application phase, empowering users to play an active role in advocating for policies, laws and regulations that address societal risks.
The guide was co-designed by industry leaders from civil society, international organizations and businesses including BSR, the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Microsoft, Uber, Salesforce, IDEO, Deloitte, Omidyar Network and Workday. The team examined national technology strategies, international business programmes and ethical task forces from around the world, combining lessons learned with local expertise to develop a guide that would be inclusive across different cultures.
“Numerous government and large technology companies around the world have announced strategies for managing emerging technologies,” said Pablo Quintanilla, Fellow at the World Economic Forum, and Director in the Office of Innovation, Salesforce. “This project presents an opportunity for companies, national governments, civil society organizations, and consumers to teach and to learn from each other how to better build and deploy ethically-sound technology. Having an inclusive vision requires collaboration across all global stakeholders.”
“We need to apply ethics and human rights-based approaches to every phase in the lifecycle of technology – from design and development by technology companies through to the end use and application by companies across a range of industries,” said Hannah Darnton, Programme Manager, BSR. “Through this paper, we hope to advance the conversation of distributed responsibility and appropriate action across the whole value chain of actors.”
“Here, we can draw from lessons learned from companies’ efforts to implement ‘privacy and security by design,” said Sabrina Ross, Global Head of Marketplace Policy, Uber. “Operationalizing responsible design requires leveraging a shared framework and building it into the right parts of each company’s process, culture and commitments. At Uber, we’ve baked five principles into our product development process so that our marketplace design remains consistent with and accountable to these principles.”
This report is part of the World Economic Forum’s Responsible Development, Deployment and Use of Technology project. It is the first in a series tackling the topic of technology governance. It will help inform the key themes at the Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit in San Francisco in April 2020. The project team will work across industries to produce a more detailed suite of implementation tools for organizations to help companies promote and train their own ‘ethical champions’. The steering committee now in place will codesign the next steps with the project team, building on the input already received from global stakeholders in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network brings together more than 100 governments, businesses, start-ups, international organizations, members of civil society and world-renown experts to co-design and pilot innovative approaches to the policy and governance of technology. Teams in Colombia, China, India, Israel, Japan, UAE and US are creating human-centred and agile policies to be piloted by policy-makers and legislators, shaping the future of emerging technology in ways that maximize their benefits and minimize their risks. More than 40 projects are in progress across six areas: artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility, blockchain, data policy, drones and the internet of things.
The Network helped Rwanda write the world’s first agile aviation regulation for drones and is scaling this up throughout Africa and Asia. It also developed actionable governance toolkits for corporate executives on blockchain and artificial intelligence, co-designed the first-ever Industrial IoT (IIoT) Safety and Security Protocol and created a personal data policy framework with the UAE.
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