Smart, Low-carbon Transport Opens up the Mobile Third Space
In 2030, the transport system will see innovations across many different dimensions. Vehicles using green energy and controlled by autonomous driving technology will provide us with a mobile third space. Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will make emergency rescue faster, reduce the costs of delivering emergency medical supplies, and may even change how people commute. Mobility solutions will be efficient, customized, and shared, meaning that vehicles will be used much more consistently and travel will become greener.
All of these will require secure and stable autonomous driving algorithms; cost-effective, reliable sensors; high-speed, stable space-air-ground integrated networks; and a central brain with massive computing power for traffic management. These technologies will be indispensable for developing connected, autonomous, shared, and electric vehicles that deliver a low-carbon transport experience.
Directions for Exploration
Electric vehicles for green transport
Snapshot from the future: Renewable energy boosts green mobility
The adoption of new energy vehicles in urban public transportation, including buses and taxis, started early and is now well-advanced in many cities.
Reasons for the fast progress of new energy vehicles in public transportation:
- Public transport vehicles are replaced at a relatively fast rate, providing the opportunity to plan and quickly implement the adoption of EVs.
- These publicly-owned vehicles are centrally stored and maintained in specialized facilities that can easily be upgraded into multi-functional spaces with charging piles for EVs. Therefore, the charging problem is not a major obstacle for the electrification of public transportation.
- Public transport vehicles also travel longer distances every day and generate more carbon emissions than private vehicles. Therefore, the wide adoption of electric public transport is a highly efficient way of reducing vehicle emissions.
Snapshot from the future: Clean energy aircraft trials
In terms of carbon emissions, the aviation industry contributed about 2% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions in 2019. If such emissions are not effectively curtailed, this percentage is expected to increase to 25% by the middle of this century.
At present, three main types of clean energy aircraft are being developed: hybrid-electric, pure electric, and hydrogen-powered. In addition to improvements in increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution and noise, clean energy aircraft also represent an opportunity to try new designs, such as blended wing body aircraft. This design can significantly reduce aircraft's drag and energy consumption, and improve flight performance. In addition, this design can increase the amount of space in the aircraft cabin, which is very valuable as it increases the aircraft's carrying capacity.
Autonomy opens up the mobile third space
Snapshot from the future: Self-driving vehicles in the fast lane
- Low-speed public roads: Self-driving vehicles have delivered positive results in fields such as logistics and distribution, cleaning and disinfection, and patrolling.
- High-speed semi-closed roads: Heavy trucks are expensive, so the price of sensors is not a limiting factor. Heavy trucks are mainly used in high-speed cargo transportation, ports, and logistics parks, which means the driving environment is less complex and routes are generally fixed. Heavy trucks are rarely seen on complex urban roads. This reduces the complexity of the driving environment that autonomous driving systems have to handle. Truck drivers are expensive, and they frequently breach rules by overloading their vehicles and working overtime. So autonomous driving of heavy trucks would quickly help industries cut costs and work more efficiently, making this a compelling business case.
- Special non-public roads: Autonomous driving is playing an increasingly important role in environments like mines and ports.
- Public roads: Robotaxis are an obvious business model for self-driving companies, and are one of the best ways to get returns from their initial investment.
Snapshot from the future: Urban air mobility
The development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft has attracted investment from innovative companies around the world, and their performance has seen solid progress.
These new aircraft may be used in various scenarios, including emergency medical services, urban air mobility (UAM), regional air mobility (RAM), freight transport, and personal aircraft.
Sharing vehicles for faster, low-carbon transport
Snapshot from the future: Mobility as a Service (MaaS) available on demand
MaaS is to put the user at the core of transport services, offering them tailor-made mobility solutions based on their individual needs. MaaS is the integration of various forms of transport modes into a single mobility service accessible on demand. It combines all possible transport modes, enabling users to access services through a single application and single purchase.
MaaS systems aim to integrate local transport (e.g. buses, rail, shared cars, and shared bikes) and intercity transport (e.g. planes, high-speed rail, and long-distance coaches) and provide useful local information like dining, accommodation, shopping, and local tourist attractions. These systems will build on the intelligent scheduling functions of public transport systems, and identify passenger travel models while prioritizing green transport. With online payment functions integrated, MaaS systems can offer travel booking, one-tap itinerary planning, seamless connections between different transport modes, and one-tap payments. MaaS will improve satisfaction with transport services while providing green transport options.
MaaS can bring tangible benefits:
- Individuals can cut their transport costs while enjoying better safety and a better experience.
- Governments can optimize their investment in transport infrastructure for more sustainable urban management and higher citizen satisfaction.
- MaaS will create more opportunities for transport service providers, as they can cut service costs and expand their services.
Connected vehicles for safer, faster, and larger-scale autonomous driving
Snapshot from the future: Safer, more efficient dispatch services
In the past decade, pioneers have begun exploring the use of elevated rails to transport containers in busy ports. Containers are sent to rails similar to cable railways. The railway system dispatches the containers based on their destination and sends them to railway stations, truck warehouses, or even waterless ports in inland cities. This makes container transportation much faster at a very low cost. In the future, space-air-ground integrated networks will support the dispatching of unmanned vehicles and drones, providing safer and more efficient dispatching services for each vehicle and aircraft, and making large-scale autonomous driving a reality.
Snapshot from the future: Broadband in the air, just as at home
Moving forward, broadband coverage will extend beyond the ground into the air and beyond. Broadband connections will be available to devices at various heights, such as drones less than 1 kilometer above the ground, aerial vehicles 10 kilometers above the ground, and low-orbit spacecraft hundreds of kilometers above the ground. The integrated network will consist of small cells covering hotspots with a radius of 100 meters, macro cells with a radius of 1 to 10 kilometers, and low-orbit satellites with coverage over a radius of 300 to 400 kilometers, providing users with unbroken access to broadband of up to 10 Gbit/s, 1 Gbit/s, and 100 Mbit/s, respectively.