The mobile world of tomorrow
The volume of road traffic is continuing to grow in Germany. In a European comparison we rank fifth in the league of countries with most traffic. This is due partly to the continuously growing fleet of passenger cars, increasing by over 1 per cent a year, and partly to the rise in mileage driven of 2.5 per cent last year alone. In addition, for the first time, since 2007 more people have been living in urban centres than in the country.
As a result of the constant increase in urbanisation and the increasingly popular digital retail trade, the transportation needs for passengers and small-scale merchandise are growing. Goods that are purchased online generally have to be conveyed to the customer in small units, which distinctly increases inner-city freight transport. Given fast delivery times, it is to be expected that the market for online trade with foods and goods in daily use will grow constantly. Transport and mobility are the columns supporting this development. Intelligent technical solutions in freight traffic are needed to master such challengers in future too.
Tomorrow´s world is automated
Since the introduction of the ABS brake system in the year 1978, a steady stream of new driver assistance systems that increasingly automate road traffic has been developed. Systems such as lane departure warning, cruise control and adaptive cruise control (ACC) or the electronic stability programme (ESP) relieve the driver’s workload and make road traffic safer and more comfortable. Ever more driving tasks can gradually be taken over by automated systems. Driver assistance systems have been helping to lower the number of road traffic accidents for years. However, they cannot yet avoid them completely. In order to ensure fast help in the event of an accident, the electronic emergency call system “eCall” has been developed and will be mandatory in all new cars as of 2018. It registers accidents and automatically sends out an emergency call.
A glance at the roads shows how important the workload relief by automated systems is. On average, car drivers in Germany already have to spend 30 hours a year waiting in traffic jams. In 2016 the number of traffic jam hours in Germany increased by around 20 per cent by comparison with the year before. Altogether, in the past year there were 1.3 million kilometres of traffic jams and 419,000 traffic jam hours. In the “2016 Traffic Scorecard”, INRIX* quantifies the costs resulting from traffic jams at EUR 69 billion.
Traffic density will not decrease in future. The German Federal Ministry of Transport reckons that the number of passenger cars will increase by at least 10 per cent by the year 2025. The Ministry even forecasts a plus of 30 per cent for freight traffic. There is a similar trend in the European Union. An increase in freight traffic of up to 80 per cent on Europe’s roads by comparison with the present rate is predicted. On a global scale, the number of passenger cars is expected to almost double by the year 2030.
Relief through networking
Driver assistance systems form only part of the solution for a better traffic situation in Germany. Networked systems are equally important. They ensure that vehicles not only act intelligently and support the driver, but also benefit from communication with other road users and the infrastructure. The increasing networking of vehicles with each other and with the surroundings makes road traffic more efficient and more comfortable – vehicles that communicate with traffic lights can make better use of green phases. Vehicles networked with each other can respond without delay to hazard braking. Intelligent traffic management systems can evaluate vehicle data in real time and suggest alternative routes to drivers in the event of traffic jams, or direct them to free parking spaces. Around one fifth of all traffic jams and a third of the traffic caused by seeking parking spaces could be avoided with the help of networked driving. The technology for this is already waiting in the wings. Various types of networking are being tried out in a number of pilot projects. Both freight traffic and passenger traffic will benefit significantly from networked mobility.
Digitising creates new possibilities every day for the mobile world of tomorrow. The focus is on networking and automation. If more driving functions are taken over by automated systems and if networking between vehicles and infrastructure leads to optimised traffic management, it can be concluded that in future vehicles will be able to manage completely without drivers. This so-called autonomous driving is currently the subject of intense discussion and is being tested by various manufacturers. However, it will still take a few years before these systems reach market maturity for series production. Until then it will be the automated assistance systems and networked systems that support drivers, reduce traffic jams and make road traffic safer.