Smart cars are the first step towards smart cities

Mercedes Benz’s electric cars are provided for car sharing as part of a smart city project in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images.

Autonomous vehicles, known as “AVs” or “smart cars”, are on their way to helping cities become smarter by reducing congestion and energy usage.

This is the first step towards the concept of “smart cities” — which incorporates the Internet of Things and data to make every day functions more efficient.

In an article for the World Economic Forum, experts from Bain and Company note that automation and shared mobility will play a key role, changing the ways that people commute in cities.

They suggest that, before long, fleets of electric AVs will drive people from their home to their office or the supermarket. These shared AVs will run at higher utilisation rates, substantially reducing the cost of mobility and easing congestion.

The article suggests that urban planners prioritise high-use vehicles. Focusing on fleets and high-use vehicles can maximise value by electrifying more miles while also reducing congestion and accidents. They also believe it is important to start deploying the critical charging infrastructure today in anticipation of the transformation.

Another concept being looked at in government and infrastructure circles is the idea of driverless vehicles being used as a “last mile” solution for public transport. Rather than driving to the station and parking your car, in the future commuters might be able to summon an autonomous vehicle to pick them up at home and drop them at the station. This will make costs fall through a reduced need for car ownership, and improve utilisation, as it will reduce the number of cars sitting parked, unused, for most of the day.

Gary Seabury, Executive General Manager for Rail at construction company John Holland, said the Singapore government is actively looking at this concept. Seabury said Singapore is looking at building underground “parking” at metro stations where the vehicle will drop you and then wait for incoming passengers to do the next trip, or a system where the vehicles will continually circulate moving on to the next pick up.

For more on smart cities, autonomous vehicles and developments being made possible by the internet of things, watch out for the BI / Research Connected World Report, coming soon.

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