ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN THE MEDIA
Professor of the School of Engineering - Tecnun
Science fiction has often attempted to recreate the mobility of the future. Some films such as Back to the Future II featured flying cars as early as 2015. Seven years later, in 2022, the closest thing is drones with passengers, with legal difficulties for them to become a reality.
However, others, such as Blade Runner which, filmed in 1982, imagined the mobility of 2019, are much closer to today's reality: crowded cities, roads often collapsed with pedestrians, cars of different sizes, machines and even some cyclists.
However, the only flying vehicles represented by Ridley Scott were the spinners, police cars with a high level of technology, screens, and connection and communication systems, which allowed them to reach their destination with ease, as well as to communicate with other vehicles.
The resemblance to the current reality in Blade Runner, unfortunately, is quite reasonable. And the future in this way, unsustainable.
Therefore, advances in this field are leading us towards a paradigm shift: the future of mobility will be electric, connected, cooperative and autonomous or it will not be.
The must-haves for automation
Experts already envision a near future where human-driven vehicles coexist with these autonomous vehicles. It is inevitable to think about them when talking about the future and automation is one of the key bets of manufacturers.
However, this reality of mixed traffic significantly increases the complexity of our roads. It forces mobility to be cooperative, so that information of interest is shared between the different vehicles: maneuvers to be performed (overtaking, changes of direction, etc.), approach of emergency vehicles, perception of the environment, etc.
In turn, cooperativity requires that this mobility must also be connected. There must be several communication flows of vehicles with the infrastructure, with other vehicles, with pedestrians and with any other element of the environment.
Therefore, cooperativity and connectivity are imperative to pave the way for autonomous mobility.
The impact of new mobility
This transformational change in mobility will have a huge impact on all road, traffic and driving situations.
The development of Connected, Cooperative and Autonomous Mobility (CCAM) is expected to benefit the whole society in some key points such as:
Road safety: road information will be shared by the different users and will enable both humans and autonomous cars to anticipate critical situations that jeopardize road safety (low visibility, accidents, road works, poor asphalt conditions, etc.). This will reduce traffic accidents caused by human failure.
Efficiency: this anticipation in turn will allow us to adjust our driving mode with more time, avoiding abrupt maneuvers. It will help us make better decisions and traffic flow will improve.
Sustainability: in addition, all this information will help in the optimization of road capacity and route optimization, so the emissions generated from transportation will be reduced as well.
These three aspects are of vital importance to achieve some of the major challenges set by the European Union (EU) in terms of safety and sustainability. Although the EU has made enormous progress in improving road safety and has halved the number of fatalities on European roads since 2000, progress has stalled and 25,000 people are still killed on the road each year and more than 135,000 are seriously injured. The EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030 aims to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 50% by 2030 and to make them disappear by 2050(vision zero).
In addition, emissions from the various modes of road transport have currently increased in recent years and account for around 25% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. The European Green Pact set the objective of being climate neutral by 2050 and achieving a 90 % reduction of these transport-related greenhouse emissions by 2050.
Last but not least, this new paradigm also aims to achieve a more inclusive scenario where access to mobility and goods is guaranteed for all people, regardless of their geographic location, digital experience and individual characteristics such as age, income level, functional capacity or gender.
Challenges and enabling technologies
To achieve this reality, researchers in this field are working to solve some of the biggest technological challenges that exist today in connected, cooperative and autonomous driving.
Reliable detection of the vehicle's environment using different sensors, localization solutions so that the autonomous car knows exactly where it is, development of safe driving strategies in the face of unexpected situations, data security, validation and verification of systems.
However, none of this will work without the close collaboration of the public and private sectors. It is urgent to set regulatory policies so that all these technologies can see the light of day and re-establish the chaos before reality overcomes fiction.