According to the estimates of UN experts, the share of city dwellers will grow from 54 to 66% by 2050. With that, a number of megalopolises with the population over 10 mln people will increase from 28 to 41 by 2030. The increased traffic load will become a natural consequence of this process. If the logic of transport development does not change, the situation that we observe now in London, Moscow or Mexico can become typical of the majority of cities worldwide. The average travel speed in the rush hour in these cities does not exceed 6 km/h, which is only slightly above the walking speed.
Specialists from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the consulting firm McKinsey have studied the transport situation in 50 large cities to try and understand how megalopolises should develop so as not to be paralyzed with traffic jams. According to the experts, the way out of this situation consists in the increase of the electric transport share and the switch to the simultaneous system of using it. In urban formations, where the greater part of people lives in the suburbs, passenger transportation to workplaces will be carried out by means of automated vehicles.
Electromobiles take over internal combustion engines
According to experts from BNEF and McKinsey, a half of all passenger flow can switch to the shared transport in cities of developing countries, such as Delhi and Mumbai, in the nearest 15 years. In cities with a high level of personal income, a number of personal vehicles will continue to grow, however the majority of them will become electric. Thanks to discounts and reduced payment, electric cars will make 60% of the total amount of cars by the year 2030.
The analysis of the possibilities of modernizing urban transport systems existing on the market outlines a concept, which allows to optimize these systems in the future considering the available technological solutions. The use of shared transport and transition to electricity serve as compensatory mechanisms, which will provide the conditions for preserving the existing transport situation, with the number of cars in cities growing. The growth itself is not questioned. It will be preserved both in developing countries, where it will be compensated by the use of shared transport, and in developed countries, where an increase in the number of cars can be compensated by the transition of a significant portion of cars to electricity.
A tendency of the switch to electric transport today is confirmed by quite specific political solutions. The law that every new house built in Europe after 2019 shall have an electric car charging was adopted by the EU in the middle of October 2016. Earlier, the German Bundestag voted for the recommendation to the European Union to ban sales of cars with an internal combustion engine starting from 2030. Meanwhile, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, electric cars already set records in terms of sales in the USA, especially in California. As for the tendency of switching to car-sharing – it is obvious, considering the commercial success of such projects as Zipcar (USA), car2go (EU and USA), Uber (USA and all the world), Lyft (USA), Didi Chuxing (China) and others.
Both tendencies pointed out in the report envisage significant changes on the transport market in the course of their development related to the transition to new models of transport operation and energy supply. In their turn, any changes on the market open up additional niches for the introduction of a new product. These new niches can be to a considerable degree occupied by SkyWay systems, whose logic of operation harmoniously fits into the tendencies of transport development indicated by specialists for the nearest 15 years: automation, shared use, electrification. In addition, the implementation of these tendencies within the framework of SkyWay transport system can be considerably simpler and more efficient, as vehicle movement is carried out on the “second level” above the ground surface.
Traps we should not forget about
According to the BNEF’s Head of Advanced Transport, Colin McKerracher, “Vehicles and the way they are used will change more in the next two decades than they have in the last 100 years. Technologies have an unlimited number of possibilities to improve people’s life by reducing the cost of city transportation, decreasing the environmental impact and making transportation more affordable. However, there are some traps we should not forget about.”
It is about these traps, mentioned by the expert, that Deputy General Director for SkyWay Development Mr. Victor Baburin spoke in his recent speech in front of investors. In his opinion, the major deficiencies equally inherent in personal transport and shared transport are the following:
- Interaction with other drivers on the road.
- Low adaptability to challenging weather conditions.
- Absence of direct synergy between drivers and autopilots.
- Necessity for car movement in the same flat area with other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, etc.
The last of the drawbacks listed above is undoubtedly the most significant and difficult to eliminate. In fact, there is only one way to eliminate it – by locating the track on the “second level” above the ground surface. However, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) does not consider this solution in its analysis due to its high cost and low efficiency of transport systems of the “second level” existing on the market (monorail, maglev, etc.).
Flat area we need to escape from
The fact that practically all movement of people from one place of a city to another is carried out in the same flat area decreases the efficiency of car-sharing systems. Buses, trams, pedestrians, bicycles, taxis, personal cars and trucks – all of them are participants of one and the same movement, which is rather difficult to arrange properly. Therefore, even in case of the mass adoption of car-sharing systems, such as Uber, Lyft or app Waze recently launched by Google in San Francisco, the number of cars in growing cities will just the same be too big, and movement on streets and roads – too complicated and inconvenient.
Considering that vehicles move in one flat area and their number is constantly growing with road infrastructure remaining unchanged, the travel speed in a city will clearly decrease. The location of transport infrastructure on the “second level” can become the only solution here. With that, the SkyWay transport system is able to provide a possibility of moving in a city at a maximum travel speed up to 150 km/h, which is practically unachievable for conventional transport means, including the metro.
The shared personal transport will be particularly functional if a vehicle is equipped with an automated control system. In this case, the dependence of the transport travel time on a driver disappears – transport will not stand idle in parking lots and will operate almost 24/7. This advantage in an urban environment can be easily ensured within the concept of SkyWay transport systems, and not even close to possible with cars, where an autopilot is only effective when moving on tracks. What concerns car electrification, it can have a real impact on the environmental condition only in case of a simultaneous reduction of energy consumption by each car, which is also next to impossible with cars moving on the ground. However, it can be implemented using SkyWay systems.
Despite the fact that the transition to electricity use allows to significantly reduce the amount of hazardous substances released into the atmosphere, it fails to solve the problem on a global scale. The amount of energy consumed by electric transport will on the whole remain unchanged for each of cars separately and will grow together with the increase of their total amount. However, electricity is to be produced, for doing which electric stations are required. And although the BNEF’s report says nothing about it, it is quite likely that in most cases it will be heat power-stations, considering that despite all success in the area of developing renewable energy sources it is still too soon to speak about a possibility of full transition to using them in the nearest 15 years. It means the total amount of environmental pollution will continue to grow.
SkyWay is the required element for filling the market niche
Automation, shared use, switch to the electric drive and reduced energy consumption – these are the tendencies that will set the pace for transport market development in cities in the nearest 15 years. The market will be bound to get significantly transformed, which means that niches will appear for new participants with the high added value potential; those who have managed to capture the existing trends and offer new business models to satisfy the needs of inhabitants of large cities. In this situation, SkyWay can become a new strong player who will create a separate segment on the transport market of megalopolises, similar to how an American company Southwest Airlines created a whole segment for low-cost air transportation several decades ago, which has now become a part of our everyday life.
Automated vehicles of shared use possessing all the main characteristics of a personal car and consuming ten times less electric energy compared to a traditional car is something that is already implemented today in the concept of unibikes. These vehicles include all the tendencies indicated in the report by the American experts, turn them into reality and literally lift to a new level. The implementation of SkyWay unibuses and unibikes into the urban transport infrastructure will allow cities to grow, reducing the number of cars on roads and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Specialist in economics, business planning and strategic management for international group of companies SkyWay