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Real Automatics

A senior motor industry executive in the UK has described how cars in the near future will become more like automotive robots than the cars we are familiar with today. Speaking at the Urban Mobility conference in London, former Chief Technical Officer at Ford and current chair of the UK Automotive Council, Richard Parry-Jones, said population patterns would drive the change.

A senior motor industry executive in the UK has described how cars in the near future will become more like automotive robots than the cars we are familiar with today. Speaking at the Urban Mobility conference in London, former Chief Technical Officer at Ford and current chair of the UK Automotive Council, Richard Parry-Jones, said population patterns would drive the change. At present, around half of the world's 7 billion population live in cities but by 2050 that population will have grown to 9 billion, with 70% living in cities. Mr Parry-Jones said: "The driver will progressively hand over more control to autonomous systems within the car. There will be high-precision traffic controls, vehicle platooning, more efficient use of infrastructures and zero accidents. Energy use, emissions, productivity, journey times and reliability will all be much better. There will be a shift from fossil fuels to electricity, but I think that battery progress will be slow. The internal combustion engine will change roles to that of a highly efficient range extender."

Conference delegates also heard how car companies will move from being manufacturers to being thought of as 'providers of mobility services.' BMW chief Tony Douglas told the conference how there would be less and less car ownership in the future. Instead, city dwellers would combine walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing to achieve their mobility requirements. That whole mix, he said, would be controlled and managed via smartphones. Daimler CEO of mobility services, Robert Henrich, concurred, he said that their 'car2go' hire on demand service was already operational in 21 European and North American cities. Daimler has also developed an app, 'moovel,' which integrates different forms of transport. The company is also trialling another app in Stuttgart, which informs users of the transport options for their destination.

BMW is also active in this space, with their 'i-ventures' project. This includes car sharing schemes, parking assistance and information on other forms of transport. Head of BMW Mobility Services, Dr Markus Schramm, predicted: "The lines between public and private transport will disappear." Car sharing schemes are predicted to grow rapidly, from 2 million today to 26 million by 2020, running a fleet of 500,000 cars. This rise will be led by 30-something professionals who do not want to own a car but want access to one when they require it. This trend is something the motor industry is going to have to contend with as they strive for growth. It is estimated that each car in a sharing scheme costs the industry ten sales to a private customer, a ratio that does not bode well for increased car production.
 

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