The future of mobility: intelligent, sustainable and connected

1 de December de 2020

The transport and mobility industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Decarbonisation and the shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly production model are leading to the rise of new transport models: the electric car, the connected vehicle, autonomous driving, unmanned boats, drones, intelligent logistics networks…

But for this new model to be operational and widespread, the industry is facing important changes such as the transformation of the combustion car, electrification of vehicles, autonomy of electric batteries, a network of globalised recharging points, security in autonomous driving, telecommunications and the Internet of Things, new fuels…

1. Covid-19

Undoubtedly, the great challenge facing this industry, like many others, is the recovery after the impact of the Covid-19, which led to an unprecedented halt in the factories of half the world, especially in the automotive industry and the supply chain of the entire auxiliary industry worldwide. The international dynamics have been altered and the challenge is to recover stability in order to close new contracts, especially in the naval and aeronautical industries, which are very affected by the current climate of instability.

2. Sustainability and decarbonization

Emissions are one of the current issues in industry in general and in transport in particular. The model of mobility of the future looks towards more sustainable and less polluting transport in which renewable energies and the replacement of combustion systems with green alternatives will prevail. In this regard, tax incentives and aid implemented at national and European level are important to encourage the purchase of less polluting vehicles and promote new ways of moving more in line with the sustainability of our cities of the future. Likewise, industries such as the maritime industry are already implementing new rules such as the one on sulphur reduction in fuels, which seek to benefit health and the environment, particularly for populations living near ports and coasts. The trend will undoubtedly continue to move towards new restrictions and solutions based on innovation and technology.

3. New fuels

Combustion and the diesel engine have for years been the reference system for road and sea transport. However, due to environmental requirements, multiple alternatives are emerging. The most popular is undoubtedly green hydrogen, which promises to revolutionize the mobility system just as electrification is doing, although it faces many logistical challenges and adaptation of industries that need time to adapt their products and safety standards to new energies. Likewise, there are other alternatives that are being strongly researched, such as biofuels: biodiesel and bioethanol. Biodiesel comes from animal fats and vegetable oils or from the fermentation of renewable sources of sugar or starch, such as cassava, corn, sugar beet, sugar cane and wheat. Likewise, liquid natural gas is being used mainly in ferries and ships that make short trips (due to the lack of a global network of refueling points). On the other hand, the transport sector is also exploring more sustainable sources such as nuclear propulsion or the installation of renewable energies, although for example the installation of solar panels on board ships is still complex and can considerably affect the stability of the vessel.

4. Electrification

In line with the point of sustainability, the electric vehicle is presented as the great revolution in urban mobility today. There are already many hybrid and electric models circulating in our cities, although the truth is that today these cars only represent 3% of the car fleet in most countries. Even so, the trend is clearly upwards. However, in order to globalize their use, it will be necessary to overcome major challenges such as improving electric batteries and their autonomy, a global and stable network of recharging points and more affordable prices for the average consumer, which is what is being promoted in countries such as Spain with incentives to purchase these vehicles. However, electrification does not only affect the automobile; hybrid or fully electric models are already being introduced in the maritime and aeronautical sectors, where their application is more complex but is already seeing some results, such as in the growth of production and purchase of electric leisure and small fishing boats and some larger vessels such as short distance ferries.

5. Autonomous and connected vehicles

The autonomous vehicle par excellence is the drone, which has experienced an unprecedented boom and is already in the priority points of major manufacturers, since especially in the context post covid-19, this promises to be a niche market to pull the recovery of this industry. But beyond aeronautics, unmanned vehicles that a few years ago sounded like the future are now beginning to become a reality, at least in the experimental phase. Although their use is far from widespread, in recent years there have been great advances in the field of autonomous driving, which offer promising results for safer and more efficient mobility in the future, both at the level of cars and ships or planes/drones that can make deliveries and free up logistics networks, for example. However, this will require solving the issues of regulation, liability in case of accidents, minimizing “machine” error and achieving a communication and connectivity network that supports the future connection of millions of vehicles, public and private, making decisions by humans in real time.

6. Shared mobility and new cities

The mobility model is changing, and with it the forms of consumption linked to the automobile. Uber and cabify revolutionized the market in their day, breaking into a new business model based on the car as a service and not as property. These models, far from being diluted, have only become more established and will undoubtedly mark the pattern of mobility in many cities of the future, where users see no benefit in, for example, owning a car and prefer to opt for shared alternatives which, in some cases, can also reinforce sustainability and respect for the environment. Scooters, bicycles and even drones are new players in our mobility scene, a reality that has undoubtedly come to stay. The challenge now is to implement and update the current regulations in order to boost their growth in a rational and sustainable way.

7. Innovation and competitiveness

The global model in which we live requires companies to implement processes of continuous improvement and encourage innovation, which will undoubtedly be even more relevant in the coming years to meet challenges such as decarbonization, adaptation of sales models and other developments that are affecting a sector, the mobility, which is facing an unprecedented transformation and constantly changing.