Intelligent World 2030: In the Fast Lane to the Future

BySamuel Winfield D’Arcy

December 2, 2021

Samuel Winfield D’Arcy

In our Intelligent World 2030 report, we discuss how technology will change almost every aspect of life, focusing on “8 Outlooks” that will unfold over the next decade. In part 5 of this series, we look how technology will evolve transportation into something faster, greener, and safer.

Don’t miss the first four posts:

  1. 8 Outlooks for Intelligent World
  2. Intelligent World 2030: How Will You Experience Healthcare in the Future?
  3. Intelligent World 2030: Food for Thought
  4. Intelligent World 2030: There’s No Place Like Home

Transportation is at the heart of the global economy, keeping it moving in both the physical and figurative sense. The need for transportation today is stronger than ever, even as the world becomes increasingly digital and connected and remote working becomes more common.

By the time 2030 rolls around, Huawei expects that:

  • 50% of new vehicles sold will be electric vehicles.
  • 20% of new vehicles sold in China will be autonomous vehicles.
  • Whole-vehicle computing power will exceed 5000 TOPS (Trillions or Tera Operations per Second).
  • 60% of new vehicles sold will support C-V2X.

From this, we can see that transportation will become much more intelligent and greener. Yet there are a number of challenges facing transportation both now and over the next 10 years.

End of the Road for Fossil Fuels and Congestion

Transportation is a major contributor to carbon emissions, with cars and aviation accounting for a large proportion as they still predominantly run on fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the transportation industry contributed 26% of global carbon emissions in 2020, far exceeding the manufacturing and construction industries. And although the aviation industry contributed about 2% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions in 2019, it’s expected to reach 25% by the middle of the century if such emissions are not curtailed.

Cutting these emissions will be challenging, given that many people around the world rely on cars to get to work, take children to school, or go shopping, and prefer taking planes for long-distance travel.

Congestion is another major challenge facing transportation. In 2019, for example, it caused losses of US$88 billion in the US, where the average commuter wastes 54 hours a year in traffic jams. It’s not just roads that are affected by congestion though. Some railways are notoriously congested, with videos of passengers being crammed onto train carriages frequently go viral.

These challenges are calling for a major upheaval in our current methods of transportation.

Start of the Next Transportation Revolution

Throughout history, there have been numerous revolutionary breakthroughs in transportation:

  • 3500 BC: fixed wheels first used on carts
  • 312 BC: paved roads first built by the Romans
  • 1814: first steam-powered railway train built
  • 1914: world’s first scheduled passenger airline service took off

Each of these revolutionary breakthroughs made it significantly more efficient to get from A to B and enhanced the experience of the journey. Between now and 2030, we can expect to see multiple breakthroughs as new development directions including EVs, autonomous driving, vehicle sharing, and connected vehicles continue to emerge.

These breakthroughs will culminate in modes of transportation that offer all-new experiences while slashing the carbon emissions of today’s transportation. But as these directions start to take shape and see large-scale application, they will all rely on technology to work and stay connected.

Direction 1: Electric Vehicles (EVs)

EVs are becoming an increasingly common sight on roads around the world, driven largely by national and regional targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the EU wants all new vehicles sold in 2035 to be zero-emission vehicles, while China wants to phase out traditional fuel vehicles by 2030.

Substantial progress is already being made in EV adoption. Shenzhen in China, for example, completed its switchover to electric-powered buses in 2017, with all of its 16,000-strong fleet now electric. Denmark is not far behind, with 78% of its fleet emissions-free, and Luxembourg and the Netherlands are each at around 66%.

Adoption of EVs is more prominent in the public transport sector, which can be expected to go green quicker than private cars. This is because it replaces vehicles at a faster rate than in the private sector and has the infrastructure to conveniently charge and maintain vehicles.

Although most widely popularized, it’s not only road vehicles that are going green. Work is also underway to develop large clean energy passenger aircraft, with France announcing a €1.5 billion investment in June 2020. With this investment, France plans to develop a hybrid electric “successor” model to the Airbus A320, aiming to take its maiden flight by 2035. If this and other clean energy passenger aircraft can get off the ground (excuse the pun), they could go a long way to helping cut the emissions of the aviation industry.

Direction 2: Autonomy

While EVs are set to make drastic reductions to emissions, it is autonomous driving that will reshape our travel experience as well as business models in the transport industry. Some also see autonomous driving as a way of eventually eliminating road fatalities.

In my previous post Hello Autonomous Driving, Goodbye Traffic Lights?, I mentioned some of the physical changes we can expect as autonomous driving systems approach L5, a fully autonomous experience where no human operations are needed. But this is still some way off. To get there will require collaboration between industries, such as ICT, manufacturing, and transportation.

Plans are underway across the globe to promote and standardize autonomous driving systems. For example, the EU aims to make autonomous vehicles commonplace on its roads by 2030, and wants to achieve its Vision Zero goal of eliminating vehicle-related fatalities by 2050. Meanwhile, China aims to have conditional autonomous vehicles in large-scale production and high-level autonomous vehicles commercialized for specific environments by 2025, and to build a mature, standardized intelligent vehicle system by 2050.

While some of these dates are still a way off, there are plenty of applications for autonomous driving in the short term. We have already seen low-speed unmanned vehicles used successfully in certain controlled environments, combatting COVID-19 by distributing medical supplies and even carrying out cleaning and disinfection. Such applications are only going to increase as both the technology and regulatory frameworks develop.

Let the AI do the heavy lifting in while you kick back in the mobile third space

Advances in autonomous driving will also see cars become the “mobile third space“. They will be completely redesigned, becoming unrecognizable from the cars of today. It will open up all-new business models, such as self-driving food trucks that take you on a scenic route while you enjoy a private dinner with a friend. This is just the tip of the iceberg — the possibilities are endless.

Direction 3: Sharing Vehicles

With the emergence of car-pooling initiatives, and more recently ride hailing apps and vehicle-sharing apps, we have already seen the concept of sharing vehicles take shape. This will be further transformed in the future with the construction of centralized transport management systems that schedule vehicles and resources for far higher efficiency and improved experience. This will lead to the emergence of Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

MaaS systems will integrate local transport, such as buses, rail, and shared cars and bikes, with intercity transport, spanning planes, high-speed rail, and long-distance coaches. In addition, it will provide local information about diverse topics such as dining, accommodation, shopping, and tourist attractions by building on the current intelligent scheduling functions of public transport systems.

MaaS is already being explored in Europe by cities such as Gothenburg, Hanover, Vienna, and Helsinki, where they are using digital technologies to optimize their transport systems.

Direction 4: Connected Vehicles

Autonomous driving will truly come into its own once all vehicles are connected. Connected vehicles will achieve effective information exchange, sensing, and decision control, improving the safety and efficiency of autonomous driving. What’s more, connected vehicles will have far less reliance on expensive on-board sensors, greatly reducing the cost per vehicle and thereby enabling the large-scale commercialization of autonomous driving.

But connecting all vehicles will be no easy task. It requires continuous network coverage, yet only about 20% of the world’s land area is currently covered by mobile communications. And if we consider the sea area, that figure drops to 6%.

Considering this, how can we ensure continuous coverage required for connecting vehicles? The answer is a space-air-ground integrated network. Such a network will be able to support not only unmanned vehicles, but also drones for use in container dispatching, for example. It will be possible to provide broadband connections to aerial vehicles 10 kilometers above the ground and even low-orbit spacecraft hundreds of kilometers high.

We’ve Reached the Crossroads

Much progress is being made by technologists and governments to drive the development of transportation towards becoming greener and experience-centric. Yet the public must be willing to adopt some of these new technologies and transportation methods to get the necessary uptake.

Over the next few years, we’ll be given more and more choices for how to get from A to B. But do you think convenience and superior experience are a trade off for greener choices or can we achieve all three? Let us know below.

Learn more about our predictions for transportation.

What else will be different in the Intelligent World 2030? Download our Intelligent World 2030 report to find out more.

Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Samuel Winfield D’Arcy

Senior Technical Writer, Huawei

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