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5 questions for
Nicole Scott

We spoke with Nicole Scott, journalist and television producer for Beyond Innovation about the extent to which autonomous driving is changing, what innovations are taking place, and the role of buses in the process.

Nicole Scott
Nicole Scott

Is autonomous driving, the radical innovation that will change everything?

The autonomous car is an innovation that will profoundly change the world.

How? The reasoning is simple: car utilization is unbelievably inefficient. Our utilization of cars is starkly different from the car manufacturing process, which represents one of the most efficient industries today. According to a study by Morgan Stanley, cars are driven only 4% of the time. That’s 8.4 trillion hours of idle time per year. If you consider the global vehicle fleet with a collective ownership value of $20 trillion, the amount of money wasted is staggering!

Shifting our fleets from personal vehicles to shared mobility will decrease the number of cars on the road. When people think of an autonomous future they are most often presented with an autonomous car. Sure, having a car that's in use 100% of the time instead of 4% will significantly decrease the number of cars on the road. What is a more realistic future is a more efficient public transportation system that will have buses replacing the individual transportation that used to fill city streets. If we are thinking of efficiency a bus will 100 passengers is of course more efficient than a car moving 1.

What role does the bus play in autonomous driving?

The bus will be the first place that most people will experience a fully self-driving vehicle on a city street. Though a lot of people have cars, they are not level 4, so the chance of using an autonomous minibus is currently higher. The autonomous bus has the potential to be the ambassador for autonomous vehicles.

What challenges does autonomous drive face when it comes to digitalization?

Autonomous vehicles exist in an ecosystem, and that ecosystem is still being built. High-Definition Maps are needed for vehicles to navigate urban environments more efficiently and safely. HD Maps or 3D Maps roadmaps have inch-perfect accuracy and a high environmental fidelity – they contain information about the exact positions of pedestrian crossings, traffic lights/signs, barriers and more. We also need our autonomous vehicles to be connected, Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Car-to-Everything (C2X) need physical infrastructure, traffic lights to become smart, blind turn detectors to further aid autonomous vehicles navigate safely. We of course want autonomous vehicles to be able to operate without any help but connecting them to each other and to a city-wide infrastructure has added traffic efficiency benefits in addition to being more sustainable.

No one will be able to avoid autonomous driving. How are you we preparing for the autonomous future?

Personally, there is nothing that I as an individual can do to prepare, legislation is not under my control, and I can not change the city infrastructure as an individual either. As one person, I could not get a driving licence or maybe vote for parties that are more progressive and not against removing the car from the city centre. But that's about it.

Much is unknown about how autonomous vehicles (AVs) will communicate with the people they will be sharing the roads with, will it be sound, light patterns projected on the roads, or symbols directly on the vehicle? All of this is still being figured out. What is clear is that the car will no longer be the mode of transportation that cities are organized around. This doesn't mean getting rid of roads but it does mean preparing for a future where people take back the streets. Roads that were once running along a lake would be turned into parks and cycling paths. AVs on our roads will mean less congestion and gridlock because they are capable of communicating with each other improving traffic flows. Along with this will be a fundamental rethinking of what vehicles we allow in city centres. Buses and logistics vehicles will be the primary autonomous vehicles populating our cities' roads. Changing city infrastructure to have protected bus lanes that take logistics and delivery routes into account will lay a strong foundation for the future.

What does the future of mobility look like to me?

The mobility of 2021 won't be the mobility of 2030. Cities will be there for people, and not for cars. The transport sector is responsible for the highest proportion of CO2 emissions worldwide, at 24 percent, and the fact that every motorist in Munich spends an average of 87 hours a year (or ten full working days) in traffic jams shows that things cannot go on like this.

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