One of the major appeals of living in Switzerland is its hyper efficient public transport system. With a single “Swiss Pass” you can quickly reach any place in the country by train, bus, boat, sharing vehicle or sharing bike. The train network in Switzerland is particularly impressive with an average of 119 trains running daily per kilometer of track (compared to countries like France that have 48 trains per kilometer and far fewer mountains to travel across). Train transport has contributed to the reduction of the number of kilometers traveled by passenger car in Switzerland over last 10 years. In 2018 new registrations of passenger cars fell by 4.5% compared to 2017. This decline affected particularly petrol and diesel cars - hybrid and electric cars grew by almost 40% over the same period. So the latest mobility trend news are great news for the environment and for car manufacturers investing heavily in environmentally friendly technologies.
Mobility is a growing necessity and engine for society and for the economy. It's also responsible for a significant amount of our greenhouse gas emission, with growing traffic volumes despite increasing prices for energy and mobility services. Cutting emissions cannot be achieved by just making combustion engines more efficient or green; it will require fundamental changes in the transportation system. A recent study from the Lucerne School of Business shows for the first time that proximity to a car-sharing station has direct impacts on the environment: anyone living within 840 metres of a shared car station uses less energy and produces a lower volume of greenhouse gas than the average Swiss national. So the closer the car-sharing parking is located, the better it is for the environment. Car sharing will therefore play a key role in helping cities, municipalities and states achieve their environmental targets. But not many will be willing (and/or have the resources) to set up a close-knit car sharing network.
So the car-sharing industry will need to find new business models to deploy their network without significant investments. After having introduced sharing scooters and carpool sharing platforms, Switzerland is seeing a revolution in this aspect where dealer cars are expected to become sharing cars. Countless cars sit idle in car dealerships for days, weeks or months. Swiss car sharing company Mobility wants to now exploit this potential and fit them out with car-sharing technology.
Switzerland is a world leader in mobility but many western countries are now also seeing their cities and transportation transform through technology and sharing services. And while AirBnB revolutionised metropolitan property rental markets with little to no needed investment, the mobility revolution will not happen without major technology breakthroughs. Contrary to sharing apartments, sharing cars will require much more sophisticated technologies than today: more security for key-less opening and closing of vehicles, more safety for driving autonomous cars to your front door, more power efficiency to reduce battery charging times and increasing the battery life of your e-vehicle.
As a result not only car makers but also the whole ecosystem will have to combine all three dimensions of safety, security and low power in future products. The example of autonomous cars is striking: it will not only require a GPS receiver in the car to give centimeter-level accuracy safely within urban environments, but also detect malicious attacks (e.g. against spoofers that are readily available on the marketplace) so as to keep cars driving seamlessly without the need for a driver to intervene. And it will need to do so at an order of magnitude lower power level than today, to not only extend the duration of the driving but also to work in conjunction with power hungry graphic display processors for more interactive infotainment systems like smart cockpits.
Last but not the least, while GPS-enabled telematics devices are optional under current insurance covers, in future, a new generation of these devices will likely be built into all mobility products and services to cover all possible damages in case of accident. Such devices will require highly reliable and accurate location data for safety features that avoid risks and to reconstruct events when accidents happen.
Today's car manufacturers need to come to grips with the massive technological challenges they face to support the mobility transformation. Those that overcome today's main technology barriers will be able to capture the massive opportunity the new mobility future for tomorrow's cities holds.