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Consumers Pump the Brakes on Autonomous Vehicle Adoption

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As autonomous vehicle (AV) technology gets ever closer to scalable, real-world application, consumer trust in the safety of AVs appears to be stalling, according to the 2019 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.

“Consumers remain skeptical of AV safety, but we believe there will be a longer-term trend toward gradual acceptance of AVs as familiarity with the technology increases and as the benefits of self-driving cars are demonstrated,” says Thomas Schiller, European automotive leader, Deloitte Germany. “The automotive industry needs to factor into its plans the long capital investment cycle that will be required to bring flawless autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream. And a majority of consumers will want governments to exert a significant amount of control over the development and use of AVs.”

The drive to electrification

This year’s study uncovered increasing consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs), revealing that electrification could make a more immediate impact on global mobility than AVs.

While some barriers to mass adoption do remain, demand for EVs is growing across Europe due to supportive environmental policies, big brand bets, and shifting consumer attitudes. Interest grew fastest in the UK, where 37 percent would prefer a nontraditional powertrain, up 10 percent from last year – including hybrid, battery or other alternative – for their next vehicle.

“EVs can reduce the negative environmental impact caused by burning fossil fuels for transportation. And autonomous vehicles have the potential to dramatically improve road safety by reducing driver error. These are undeniably positive goals, but achieving them may be challenging,” continues Schiller. “Most analysts agree that electrified, autonomous vehicles will be part of our lives at some point in the future, but there are varying opinions on how long this may take. Some say this revolution may play out over the next several years. A more conservative view tempers this enthusiasm by taking into account several headwinds.”

Mobility revolution faces headwinds

The mobility revolution seems to be running up against entrenched consumer behavior, as consumers remain committed to private car ownership and multi-modal transportation remains an occasional behavior.

Private-car ownership continues to prevail: Daily usage of personally-owned vehicles is quite high in some European markets, but even where usage is lower, the expectation is to maintain the status quo in the coming years. The percentage of consumers that use their own vehicle every day ranges between 37 percent in the Netherlands to 66 percent in Italy and respondents across markets indicated they expect this usage to remain about the same over the next three years.

Multi-modal transportation remains low: The idea of integrating multiple modes of mobility, such as a subway or a commuter train in addition to a private vehicle, into one trip remains largely an occasional behavior for consumers.

Along with new transportation options, connectivity has unlocked an array of new choices for consumers purchasing vehicles:

Top priorities: Survey respondents overwhelmingly favored connected vehicle features which would save them time and ensure their safety. Updates regarding traffic congestion and alternate routes, suggestions on safer routes, and updates to improve road safety and prevent potential collisions were consistently listed as the top three connected car features.
Consumers split on the benefits of connectivity: When it comes to vehicle connectivity, consumer opinion is split. Consumers in Italy (60 percent) are embracing the idea of vehicle connectivity at almost twice the rate of consumers in Austria (29 percent) and Germany (35 percent).

Data collection and privacy: Connected-vehicle sensors can track everything from powertrain performance and operational statistics to geolocation information and occupant wellness. More than half of respondents from Austria, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands are concerned about biometric data being captured via a connected vehicle and shared with external parties, whereas a smaller percentage of consumers in Belgium, France, and Italy expressed similar concerns.

Who should manage the data?: Consumer concern extends to who whould manage the data being generated and shared by connected vehicles. While some would trust original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in this role, many would prefer anybody else – from government to auto dealers, insurance companies, cloud service providers, or others.

Reluctance to pay for connectivity: Once consumers are sold on a feature, they are not necessarily sold on the price. Approximately half of consumers in the Netherlands, Austria, France, and Germany are not willing to pay any extra money for a connected vehicle. Consumers in Italy and the UK are most likely to be willing to spend more for these features, with 72 percent of responents in Italy and 63 percent of respondents in the UK indicating they’d spend some money for a vehicle with certain kinds of connectivity technologies.

The utopian visions of future of mobility systems will not come to fruition overnight. As global consumers start to critically evaulate advanced vehicle technologies and whether they are willing to pay for them, OEMs are in the position of needing to push forward on costly R&D programs with little assurance of when this may realize a return on investment.

“Connected, electrified, and autonomous vehicles offer tremendous value for society, but consumers may be slow to adopt these advanced technologies at scale until there is clear and undisputed improvement in safety, cost, convenience, and superior customer experience from a trusted brand,” says Joe Vitale, Deloitte Global automotive sector leader.

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Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific

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A new World Bank report on the challenges facing the Pacific region’s outer island communities identifies investment in people and livelihoods as a key for inclusive economic growth.    

Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific looks at the challenges Pacific governments must address to provide services and infrastructure to populations spread across hundreds of islands spanning the vast Pacific Ocean. The report puts forward a series of practical steps that countries can take to overcome these challenges in a way that supports resilient and inclusive economic growth.

“Many Pacific countries are faced with significant challenges in delivering services and connecting remote, outer island communities; with difficult decisions around resources and how to best invest often limited resources into outer island communities,” said the report’s lead author, World Bank Lead Economist for Fiscal Policy and Sustainable Growth Robert Utz.

“This report aims to provide Pacific governments, development partners and decision-makers with evidence to assess options for fostering development for the people in those outer islands, so they can make stronger contributions to the larger economic development of the whole country.”   

The report identifies six guiding economic policy principles:

1)     Policy solutions that seek to achieve equitable increases in living standards need to be grounded in an understanding of the economic implications of the Pacific region’s unique economic geography.

2)     Outer islands’ development should be assessed from a spatial perspective; one that considers interactions with the country’s main island and the region beyond.

3)     A balanced approach that combines investments in urban areas to accommodate migration from outer islands to main islands with support for outer island populations is likely to achieve better welfare and equity outcomes than an approach that neglects one side or the other.

4)     Growth-enhancing investments should be guided by clearly-identified opportunities, rather than by a desire to try to equalize economic opportunities across islands.

5)     With limited scope to close the gap in economic opportunities between outer and main islands investments to promote livelihoods and human development should be given preference.

6)     Outer islands are subject to a complex political economy of intra-island and outer island-main island relationships that need to be considered in development interventions.

“This is an important and timely study,” said Denton Rarawa, Senior Economic Advisor at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. “The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to address the institutional, service delivery and capacity gaps of nations across the Pacific. As we strive for greater vaccination rates and begin to think about how we’d like to rebuild after the pandemic, I believe this report has a lot to offer the future of the Pacific, especially in our efforts to leave no one behind.”   

The Archipelagic Economies report is a companion publication to the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series, which in 2017 and 2018 looked at opportunities for economic growth in Pacific Islands Countries across key sectors including tourism, fisheries, and labour mobility. 

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 87 projects totaling US$2.09 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

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Global economic recovery continues but remains uneven

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The global economy is growing far more strongly than anticipated a year ago but the recovery remains uneven, exposing both advanced and emerging markets to a range of risks, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.

The OECD says extraordinary support from governments and central banks helped avoid the worst once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the vaccine roll-out continuing and a gradual resumption of economic activity underway, the OECD projects strong global growth of 5.7% this year and 4.5% in 2022, little changed from its May 2021 Outlook of 5.8% and 4.4% respectively.

Countries are emerging from the crisis with different challenges, often reflecting their pre-COVID 19 strengths and weaknesses, and their policy approaches during the pandemic. Even in the countries where output or employment have recovered to their pre-pandemic levels, the recovery is incomplete, with jobs and incomes still short of the levels expected before the pandemic.

Large differences in vaccination rates between countries are adding to the unevenness of the recovery. Renewed outbreaks of the virus are forcing some countries to restrict activities, resulting in bottlenecks and adding to supply shortages.  

There is a marked variation in the outlook for inflation, which has risen sharply in the US and some emerging market economies but remains relatively low in many other advanced economies, particularly in the euro area.

A rapid increase in demand as economies reopen has pushed up prices in key commodities such as oil and metals as well as  food, which has a stronger effect on inflation in emerging markets. The disruption to supply chains caused by the pandemic has added to cost pressures. At the same time, shipping costs have increased sharply.

But the Interim Outlook says that these inflationary pressures should eventually fade. Consumer price inflation in the G20 countries is projected to peak towards the end of 2021 and slow throughout 2022. Wage growth remains broadly moderate and medium-term inflation expectations remain contained.

The report warns that to keep the recovery on track stronger international efforts are needed to provide low-income countries with the resources to vaccinate their populations, both for their own and global benefits.

Macroeconomic policy support is still needed as long as the outlook is uncertain and employment has not yet recovered fully, but clear guidance is called upon from policymakers to minimise risks looking forward. Central banks should communicate clearly about the likely sequencing of moves towards eventual policy normalisation and the extent to which any overshooting of inflation targets will be tolerated. The report says fiscal policies should remain flexible and avoid a premature withdrawal of support, operating within credible and transparent medium-term fiscal frameworks that provide space for stronger public infrastructure investment.

Presenting the Interim Economic Outlook alongside Chief Economist Laurence Boone, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said: “The world is experiencing a strong recovery thanks to decisive action taken by governments and central banks at the height of the crisis. But as we have seen with vaccine distribution, progress is uneven. Ensuring the recovery is sustained and widespread requires action on a number of fronts – from effective vaccination programmes across all countries to concerted public investment strategies to build for the future.”

Ms Boone said: “Policies have been efficient in buffering the shock and ensuring a strong recovery; planning for more efficient public finances, shifted towards investment in physical and human capital is necessary and will help monetary policy to normalise smoothly once the recovery is firmly established.”

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Financing Options Key to Africa’s Transition to Sustainable Energy

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A new whitepaper outlining the key considerations in setting the course for Africa’s energy future was released today at the 2021 Sustainable Development Impact Summit. The report, “Financing the Future of Energy,” outlines Africa’s electricity landscape and financing options in context with the global drive to reduce carbon emissions.

Africa’s power sector will play a central role in the transition from fossil fuel-driven power generation to a renewable-strong energy mix. According to the whitepaper written in collaboration with Deloitte, the migration to a multi-stakeholder-oriented net-zero power grid is being driven by “the 3Ds:”

  • Decarbonization: moving from fossil fuel sources to renewables
  • Decentralization: Shifting from centrally managed generation, transmission, and distribution to decentralized systems
  • Digitalization: Leveraging digital technology to advance the transition

The report contends that new coalitions and investments with developed nations and NGOs including the World Economic Forum must coordinate and enable countries to leapfrog existing technologies and infrastructure.

“The need for digitally smarter utility platforms and sustainable development programs will guide global leaders in helping to shape equitable and inclusive recovery programs,” said Chido Munyati, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. “The entire continent remains vulnerable, but this whitepaper offers a view on what are viable financing options that exist today for clean energy sustainability and equitable recovery for all of Africa.

Funding will be the biggest hurdle to ensuring Africa’s sustainable transition to Renewables at scale; there are many financing solutions available,” said Mario Fernandes, Director, Africa Power Utilities and Renewables, Deloitte. “Africa’s winners will be the ones that are able to leverage what exists while creating an enabling environment for the private sector through a Renewables Energy Investment facility.”

Case studies in China and India showed that financing solutions for a clean energy transition often involve long cycles. Economic booms in these countries resulted in a significant shift in carbon emissions. Since similar economic booms are expected across Africa, the report highlights how crucial it is to anchor growth in technologies that can enable lower emissions.

While Africa’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel significantly lags behind those of other continents, it still carries a huge potential to accelerate the transition to a net-zero future. Currently, half of the continent lives without adequate access to electricity. As energy demands increase, the energy gap could be bridged through clean energy alternatives, if the financing solutions are employed now.

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