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Autonomous car future predicted at urban mobility conference

Car drivers of the future will hand over more and more control to autonomous systems as a result of population migrations to large cities and the impact this will have on driving patterns, according to former Ford chief technical officer Richard Parry-Jones, who now co-chairs the UK Automotive Council.

Parry-Jones spoke at Frost & Sullivan Urban Mobility conference, he said: “There will be high-precision traffic controls, vehicle platooning, more efficient use of infrastructures and zero accidents.

"Energy use, emissions, productivity, journey times and reliability will all be much better."

On the power systems likely to dominate in future, he said: "There will be a shift from fossil fuels to electricity, but I think that battery progress will be slow. The internal combustion engine will change roles to that of a highly efficient range extender."

At the moment, half the world's seven billion people live in vast urban areas - but by 2050 the population will have grown to nine billion, 70% of whom will be crammed into cities, delegates at the conference were told.

Car companies will need to stop thinking of themselves as vehicle manufacturers and instead become providers of mobility services in response to this.

"There will be no need to own a vehicle," said Tony Douglas, the man responsible for the sales and marketing of the new BMW i sub-brand.

Douglas believes people living in cities of the future will rely on a mixture of public transport, cycling, walking and car-sharing schemes for their mobility.

Robert Henrich, the CEO of Daimler Mobility Services, said: “The smartphone is the key to tomorrow's mobility.”

Daimler now has its car2go on-demand hire system up and running in 21 European and North American cities, and has developed a smartphone app, called moovel, integrating alternative forms of transport.

In Stuttgart it is trialling another app which tells users all the options they have to get to where they want to go.

BMW has spent €100 million on what it calls i ventures, which include car sharing schemes, help for drivers looking for somewhere to park and access to other forms of transport.

Dr Markus Schramm, head of BMW mobility services, said: “The lines between public and private transport will disappear.”

The number of people in global car-sharing schemes is expected to grow from two million today to more than 26 million by 2020, which will involve a fleet of 500,000 cars.

It will be fuelled by 30-something professionals who have no desire to own a car, but who want access to one when they need it. Each car involved in a sharing scheme is reckoned to cost the car industry 10 sales to private customers.

Volvo wants to be known as an autonomous technology pioneer

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