Few inventions have changed our lives as much as the automobile, which gave large segments of society personal mobility at an affordable price for the first time in history. However, the drawbacks of a world with some 1.2 billion vehicles are now becoming increasingly apparent, especially in cities, where cars and trucks take up a lot of space that could be used for other modes of transport, not to mention the construction of housing, commercial buildings, and green spaces. The huge number of vehicles in cities also leads to traffic jams that do a great deal of economic damage – after all, time is money. In London alone, the economic losses associated with traffic congestion are estimated to reach US $180 billion during the period 2014–2030. In addition to this they cause emissions, smog, and noise that urban residents have to deal with, and which they are beginning to protest against more and more frequently. Then there’s the fact that 1.25 million people die every year as a result of traffic accidents, many of which occur in cities and most of which are caused by human error.
This situation is not going to improve by itself. On the contrary, the trend toward urbanization continues unabated, which indicates that demand for personal mobility will increase significantly in major cities. What’s needed here are new traffic and transport concepts in which connected autonomous vehicles (CAV) could play a key role. CAVs operate without a human driver (see information box) and remain continually networked with one another and their environments. The Siemens study “Cities in the Driving Seat – Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in Urban Development” examines the potential benefits offered by CAVs, and the influence they might have on mobility in the future.