Connected mobility is changing how we interact with our vehicles, facilitated by the rollout of high-speed, low-latency 5G communication networks. That robust connectivity is critical to the next stage of development – the adoption of automated driving systems that can potentially transform transportation.
Connected and automated mobility (CAM) can “create significant economic opportunities for commercial and non-commercial users, the producers of the technology and the corresponding supply chain, as well as deliver substantial welfare impacts for society,” according to the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
What are the potential socio-economic benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles?
How Will Connected Mobility Change the Way We Drive?
Connected mobility integrates digital and communication technologies to create a more interconnected and efficient transportation system. Smart vehicles are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) devices and advanced sensors to collect data from inside vehicles, the road infrastructure, and the environment. These devices enable vehicles to communicate with each other and centralized systems to provide real-time information about traffic, road conditions, vehicle performance, and so on to improve safety and efficiency.
The data the vehicles collect can be analyzed to optimize traffic flow, reduce travel times and fuel consumption from congestion, and improve transportation planning.
Vehicles will increasingly become software-defined, and connected cars will make up 95% of all new vehicles sold by 2030, according to US software provider Salesforce. The company provides an Automotive Cloud platform to help automotive companies use data and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer personalized in-car experiences, manage fleets, and simplify vehicle lending and leasing.
Connected cars are already generating an estimated 25GB of data per hour, which automotive companies must process and analyze.
Connected vehicles can also feature advanced infotainment systems with various capabilities that enhance the driving experience and passenger comfort.
This includes various rear-seat entertainment options, allowing passengers to listen to music, watch videos, or play games during a journey. Connectivity features, including Bluetooth, WiFi, and USB ports, allow passengers to connect their smartphones, tablets, or other devices to the vehicle to access online content and services while on the road.
Integrated navigation systems provide drivers with real-time GPS navigation and voice recognition technology to control various functions without taking their hands off the steering wheel. Infotainment units offer access to a range of real-time information, such as news, weather, and traffic updates, helping drivers make informed decisions during their journey.
Autonomous driving technology takes this one step further by allowing drivers to engage in other tasks on the road, including work. Workers with long commutes could increase their productivity and even shorten the workday, according to an analysis by McKinsey.
Connected vehicle technology is closely tied to electric vehicles (EVs), helping to increase their functionality and efficiency. The ability of connected sensors and data communication to collect and share information about a vehicle’s performance allows real-time monitoring of the battery, energy consumption, and charging status, helping drivers optimize their routes and charging strategies.
Connected technology can also provide data to help charging station operators use data to track usage patterns and plan maintenance. Similarly, fleet operators can monitor EVs in real-time, manage charging schedules, and optimize routes for cost-effective operations.
Additionally, connected EVs can provide electricity grid services, such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) connections, which enable EV batteries to discharge electricity back into the power grid or supply homes with power during peak demand, contributing to grid stability and supporting the integration of renewable energy.
Connectivity to Power Autonomous Driving
Self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles are a vital component of connected mobility. These combine sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate and make decisions without human input. This has the potential to reduce accidents and increase the efficiency of transportation.
There are three main applications for automated vehicles:
Passenger cars fitted with automated driving systems: Drivers can take control of the vehicle whenever they want – or the car requests them to. Features include automated lane keeping, advanced highway pilot, and urban traffic pilot systems.
Automated passenger services: Services run by an operator, likely without a driver, although they could use some form of remote driving. Vehicles such as pods, shuttles, robo-taxis, and buses could run without steering wheels and pedals for on-demand ride-hailing or scheduled services. Off-road services for on-demand ride-hailing or scheduled services could be used in public spaces such as university campuses or private land, including factories and resorts.
Automated delivery, logistics, and industrial vehicles: These can be used with or without a driver — if they do not have a driver, services are likely overseen by an operator and use a form of remote driving. Adapted vans or bespoke light commercial vehicles can be used for deliveries of urban and/or last-mile goods. In contrast, trucks, vans, or adapted heavy-duty vehicles can be used in inter-urban, middle mile, and/or port-to-hub or depot logistics. Specialist off-road logistics and industrial vehicles will likely operate on private land, including construction sites, airports, ports, factories, quarries, mines, and farms.
Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems Hit the Road
Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like automated lane keeping – which was the first internationally approved automated driving feature established under UN Regulation 157 – are now commercially available in some countries. In the UK, a recent government-commissioned study suggested that 40% of new cars in the UK could have automated driving capabilities by 2035.
Many car models now include some ADAS functionality, but the automotive industry is advancing in developing autonomous driving capabilities.
Consumers are willing to pay for access to autonomous driving features, and this growing demand could create billions of dollars in revenue for automotive manufacturers, according to a survey conducted by consulting firm McKinsey.
There are five levels of automated driving functionality based on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) ‘s rating, ranging from Level 1 ADAS assistance with basic steering, braking, and accelerating to more advanced assistance in Levels 2 and 3 and fully autonomous driving in Levels 4 and 5.
Level 2 systems are already available in several vehicle models and contribute to developing initial Level 3 systems. For example, a vehicle could provide Level 2 automated driving functionality on highways and cities and a Level 3 feature that can be activated in traffic jams.
For autonomous driving to become viable, 5G connectivity is key. Patent licensing firm Avanci launched its Avanci 5G Vehicle program in August 2023 and has recently signed up Hyundai Motor and Kia. The program offers licenses for patented technologies to enable 5G connected vehicles, including connected vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies.
The Potential Economic Impact of Connected Automated Mobility
To use one country as an example, assuming that connected automated mobility reaches widespread adoption by 2040, the economic benefit to the UK could be as high as £66 billion, according to the SMMT.
Just over half of this, £34 billion, would be a real economic impact from improved commercial and business outcomes for CAM users, increased output from producers of CAM vehicles and technologies, and an increase in related sectors such as telecom, digital services, insurance, retail, and media.
The remaining £32 billion would have a welfare impact, including for consumers who would benefit from more efficient travel, which could increase economic productivity.
Modeling suggests that the annual economic impact could range from £55 billion to £77 billion, with the actual economic impact between £29 billion and £42 billion.
CAM adoption could create an additional 342,000 jobs in the UK economy by 2040, of which 12,250 would be other jobs in automotive manufacturing, the SMMT states. These figures also imply significant spillover effects thanks to productivity improvements and workers’ greater mobility. Adjacent sectors such as telecom, retail, and creative industries would also generate additional jobs as they serve new markets created by CAM.
More importantly, improvements in on-road and off-road safety could result in fewer fatalities and serious accidents.
“Connected vehicle features that warn of road hazards ahead or a vehicle approaching at speed at a blind intersection could reduce accidents by helping to improve driver decision making, while automated driving technology is likely to result in significant reduction in human errors that lead to accidents.”
This could also have economic effects, such as reducing insurance and welfare payouts. In 2022, 29,742 people were killed or seriously injured in road collisions, and human error is a contributory factor in up to 88% of all road traffic accidents.
CAM adoption could result in an estimated 3,900 fewer fatalities and a reduction of around 60,000 severe accidents over 2023-2040. Passenger vehicle segments – in privately owned cars and transport services – are expected to account for up to 80% and 87% of the reductions in fatalities and serious accidents, respectively, according to the SMMT.
Even in off-road environments, accidents could be reduced by 15-78% because of decreased human errors and reduced time or presence of staff working in hazardous environments.
Consumers with self-driving cars could also benefit from lower insurance premiums thanks to the lower probability of accidents occurring with automated driving systems in control.
This could see new insurance models arise for autonomous travel. Autonomous driving could also improve mobility for the elderly, providing them with transportation options that go beyond public services or car-sharing.
The potential economic and social benefits that CAM could deliver are motivating many countries to develop and deploy the technology, although the gains will only be realized if commercial deployment begins in earnest in the second half of the decade with the support of regulatory reforms. This would bring CAM to a relatively small but meaningful scale by 2030, forming the basis for more substantial growth by 2040.
Connected and autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to transform transportation systems and have a knock-on effect on workforce productivity and industrial processes.
In the UK alone, widespread adoption could benefit the economy to the tune of £66 billion. It could also save lives by limiting injuries and deaths from road accidents.
However, realizing the full socio-economic effects of CAM will depend on regulatory reforms and funding support to stimulate innovation-driven growth.