EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc sees innovative car tech helping less able people become mobile again
AS HUMANS we make our decisions in relation to freedom. Mobility helps us address this need for freedom – boats and horses in the beginning, more sophisticated solutions in the 21st century.
> WHEN CARS became widespread, they have shaped our world, given us freedom of movement and expression.
> I HAVE 21- and 19-year-old children. They couldn’t care less for driving licences. They want mobility, but they don’t want to own. ‘It’s a waste of time that I have to drive – I want to use this time to talk to my friends.’
> IF CONVENIENCE is reduced, the shift won’t happen. Some people will still want to own a car, but the total number of vehicles will fall by half. New uses of cars will evolve. It’s fun! For many, owning a car is a source of pride and achievement
> ALL THIS will be challenged by the ability of people to adapt and absorb. When are we willing to switch, to give up on our investment? Regulators and manufacturers have a huge task to help people understand this can be a big change to the quality of life.
> THE CAR will stay, but public trans- port will come back. We need the car to be one module in the solution – not at the centre of everything. Copenhagen is multi-modal: car, bike, motorbike are all part of a sharing economy.
> AUTONOMOUS MOBILITY can bring elderly and disa- bled people fully back into society – a much more active, posi- tive, healthy society. They will be able to move for themselves. The future of the car is in the development of public transport. It’s almost paradoxical.
> EUROPE HAS the world’s safest roads, but 25,000-plus people die every year on Europe’s roads. Do we agree that it’s socially acceptable that transport kills? Are the benefits so high that they’re worth it? Technology can help us move in the right direction.
> CYBER SECURITY is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. People are afraid. ‘No steering wheel? No driver? I am vulner- able – I could be kidnapped.’ These concerns are normal. We can overcome them. I’m pretty sure some technology will give us a solution – we just need to use it smart.
> I DO believe that by 2030 we can do some very important steps. Let’s be bold and drive the change that is necessary.
> LITTLE BY little, introduce and monitor green and auton- omous technology, to see what’s needed to get its acceptance. By 2030 a mix of automated and classical traffic. Maybe an- other 10-15 years before you can lose the steering wheel. We’re seeing it in campuses, airports, controlled areas. Step-by-step testing, slowly integrating.
Conquering the self-driving fear factor
People won’t trust robocars until they’ve tried them
It’s making good progress, with some well-publicised disasters en route. But there’s another challenge, according to robotics expert Karl Iagnemma: perceived safety. His autonomous driving software company, nuTonomy, has found that there’s no substitute for bums on seats.
What, so you just give people demo rides?
‘When people get in our cars they’re initially very excited, but when it starts moving and the steering wheel is turning itself they’re terrified,’ says Iagnemma, ‘but in minutes people feel comfortable. When individuals actually experience the tech, they get comfortable very quickly.’
So advantage nuTonomy, then…
Not so. ‘Safety transcends competition,’ says Iagnemma. ‘As an industry we’re highly competitive – the last thing you want to do is enable a competitor. But whenever there’s an accident with an AV it reflects back on the whole industry.’ So they’re sharing test data with rivals, to help hasten safer roads.