Automotive tech driving new businesses, social change

June 21, 2019


Potential of ACES (automated, connected, electric and shared vehicles)

Members of the British and Swedish chambers of commerce in Japan came together on May 21 for an engaging co-hosted panel discussion featuring experts on automated, connected, electric and shared (ACES) mobility.

With the cutting-edge technology driving the development of these vehicles developing apace, fuelled by demand for greater sustainability and a sharing economy, the automobile industry is undergoing unprecedented change. As the cars of the future become the cars of today, panellists predicted the impact on businesses, society and the environment.       

 

Best practice from the UK

One leader in the field of ACES vehicles is BCCJ Platinum Member Jaguar Land Rover Japan Ltd. This year the brand scooped the Triple World Car Award for its first all-electric performance SUV, the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. With 400PS, acceleration of 0–100km in 4.8 seconds, range of 438–470km and 1,453 litres of space, it won World Car of the Year, World Car Design of the Year and World Green Car.

According to panellist CEO Magnus Hansson, the car’s impressive spec is possible thanks to electrification. An electric motor delivers power straight to the axel resulting in greater torque and travelling range while releasing more space for passengers or luggage.

Following the success of the first electric SUV, he says the firm will continue to “deliver really exciting electric cars that live up to the name of Jaguar.” It currently produces full-electric cars, plug-in-hybrids with full electric capability and mild hybrids that help petrol or diesel engines to lower fuel consumption.

 

Tech to boost safety

As well as their positive environmental impact, ACES vehicles can increase the safety of drivers and pedestrians because cars are connected to each other, the driver and the cloud.

Hansson said this potential is reflected in Jaguar Land Rover’s mission: “Destination zero: in terms of emissions, accidents and congestion. He added that “technology permits it and customers want it.”

Swedish car maker Volvo is also committed to safety, pledging to develop its ACES vehicle technology so that no-one is killed or seriously injured in one of its cars by 2020. According to its research, more than 80% of motor accidents are caused by driver error resulting from excess speed, alcohol consumption or a distraction.

Panellist Takayuki Kimura, CEO of Volvo Cars Japan, said the firm has developed cars equipped with interior and exterior cameras to detect a speeding, intoxicated or distracted driver. If the driver doesn’t respond to the car’s safety support system, the car enters an emergency state and can initiate an emergency stop if deemed necessary.

 

Change to landscapes, lifestyles

Kimura predicted that current industry developments will lead the way for prolific autonomous mobility as a service (MaaS), which could revolutionize how people travel, particularly the “last one mile” to reach their destination. A commuter who finds no buses from his local station to his home late at night, for example, could ride an autonomous taxi. Such a service would make transportation safer and more convenient while allowing passengers to sleep, work or relax.

As the availability of MaaS rises, people might be less inclined to have personally owned vehicles (POVs), which could result in the removal of vehicles from circulation. This, in turn, would ease congestion and free up car parks for other uses. Moreover, if society completely replaces thermal cars with electric cars—as many European countries plan to do by 2050—it could revolutionise the urban environment.

“When cars are fully electric there are no emissions so they could drive indoors. The way cars interplay with cities will be limited only by our imagination. In Tokyo, where there is limited space, future roads could go through buildings,” said Hansson.

Panellist Martin Krantz, founder and CEO of eye-tracking technology firm Smart Eye, said possibilities would open up as autonomous technology is developed. It ranges from level 1, where individual controls such as braking are automated, to level 4, where the car is in total control and there may not even be human-usable controls installed.

As his level 2 car already leaves him “more rested” after a journey, a level 4 would mean “the world is going to shrink,” he said.

What is more, transportation services and logistics firms may find cost savings and business growth opportunities. Krantz pointed out that testing of automated trucks on roads during quiet periods is underway as it is easier to programme them to low speeds. Hansson, meanwhile, predicted that vehicles that follow a set route and timetable, such as buses, would prove useful test cases for autonomous driving.

 

Availability and growth potential

Though level 2 autonomous cars are increasing in number, Krantz predicted that it would be decades before all cars are fully autonomous, resulting in a period of both people- and robot-driven vehicles on the roads. However, Volvo’s Kimura suggested that, if awareness grows of the number of accidents caused by human error, a tipping point may be reached and “human driving may be wiped out quickly” for safety reasons. 

Still, the panellists agreed that complete ACES mobility is a long-term goal. According to Kimura, the automotive industry has yet to catch up with existing AI potential.

“Full autonomous driving is more difficult that anyone thinks. It’s not just about a powerful computer chip. Everyone is now realising the real problems we can solve in the short and medium term while keeping our vision of the level 5 car,” he said.

In terms of infrastructure, the panellists noted that more electric cars, conductive charging lanes, ride shares and MaaS will offer greater opportunities for even those in remote areas to use an ACES car. 

Looking ahead, autonomous vehicles as a go to means of travel may remain a futuristic dream, but Japanese robotics maker ZMP announced this month that it is set to launch a self-driving taxi in Tokyo in time for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ