In Tomorrows Smart Cities, Nobody Will Own a Car

Smart Cities are coming and they will be built on the Blockchain, but how will it affect our lives? We take a look at how smart transport will revolutionize the car industry and your commute to work!

 

Transportation is evolving, already some car manufacturers in the US are offering a different type of lease service where you get a selection of personalized vehicles based on the seasons of the year rather than just driving the same vehicle day in and day out.

While this works great for people living outside of the city or those that have plenty of road to cover and don’t need to deal with loads of traffic, this approach, while suitable for some, will not actually suite people living in cities, especially those living in smart cities of the future.

Smart cities are being formed around sharing economies, powered by blockchain technology and everyday use devices that are accessible through the Internet of Things (IoT) and that are actively making use of their IoT connection to make the lives of their owners easier and more convenient.

Before we go any further in talking about how this will affect transportation, let’s take a closer look at how such a sharing economy operates:

 

Sharing Economies

As is implied in the name, sharing economies are all about communities or even organisations and governments sharing their resources with each other and driving sustainable economies that are both more economical from a financial standpoint but also help reduce the carbon footprint we all leave behind in our daily lives.  One simple example is the production of power, traditionally power has been produced by governments who invest large quantities of resources, time and manpower in the production of electricity through nuclear power plants, coal-driven power plants, hydroelectric dams and more recently through the investment in solar and wind power plants.

Solar power is a great source of free energy, but it requires quite a bit of investment from the consumer in setting up the infrastructure (solar panels, storage facilities, etc.) and has had varying degrees of success depending on whether you live in developed countries or developing countries.  Europe saw a vast increase in the desire to use solar power by individual homes and many governments there have subsidized homeowners, as well as offer them the ability to sell their excess capacity into the public grid.  This has resulted in countries moving towards having a higher than required production from individual homes than what is needed by the entire country; enabling them to sell their excess capacity to other countries.

While a great initiative, this only works in countries where individual homes are able to sell back into the power grid and it doesn’t provide the prosumers with the ability to control the price by which they are selling their production capacity. [1]

This system has evolved in other countries such as Thailand, where selling into the grid currently isn’t an option and where the cost of solar power is still quite high versus the return.  Certain communities in Bangkok have taken matters into their own hands and connected their power supply with blockchain technology, enabling their neighbours and others connected to the decentralised grid (consumers) to buy power on demand from their neighbours (prosumers) at prices agreed between the two parties and allowing the prosumer to sell of their unused power during hours that they don’t require it while earning a steady income. [2]

 

Powering Future Smart Cities

This evolution will gradually see governments and power producers rethink their business model and evolve from a product provider into a management company that helps regulate the distribution of prosumer created power to the entire supply chain, rather than having a need to continue to produce power themselves.

Next to this, sharing economies are starting to evolve themselves, what started with neighbours sharing their excess power to address a very local need is gradually moving into industries looking into sharing their own excess capacity with competitors and prosumers and the creation of marketplaces where prosumers will be able to source equipment and machinery globally, allowing them, through the use of blockchain technology and IoT enabled factories, to take on all aspects of the production and distribution process.

 

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations

This brings us to the topic of Decentralised Autonomous Organisations or DAOs as they are more commonly referred to.  DAOs became a viable option with the emergence of blockchain technology which provides an immutable record of data and the subsequent invention of smart contracts.  A smart contract is a piece of software that reads and reacts to the data that is being entered into a blockchain based on a set of parameters.

Prosumers:

A prospective consumer who is involved in the design, manufacture, or development of a product or service.

For example:

  • A prosumer living in Thailand, wanting to produce T-shirts and have them delivered in the US for his friend’s bachelor party could connect to a factory in Mexico and negotiate a price, quality and quantity directly with the machine that will produce the shirts.
  • A smart contract will be set up and the sowing machine will notify the contract when it completes production.
  • Validation will take place by the prosumer and the smart contract will pay the sowing machine directly.
  • The smart contract will notify a distributor to pick up the goods at the factory and deliver them to the next factory for printing.
  • Once delivered, the printing press will inform the smart contract of receipt of goods and the contract will trigger payment to the distributor.
  • The printing press will print the required logos and notify the prosumer of completion.
  • Validation will take place by the prosumer and the smart contract will pay the printing press directly.
  • The smart contract regulates all this and then notifies the distributor to pick up the goods and have them delivered to the desired address in the US.
  • The recipient will validate the goods and update the smart contract, the contract initiates the final payment to the second distributor and the smart contract will close itself.

Thus enabling factories or any company which has production capable machinery to become either fully or partially autonomous.  Next to this smart contracts can be created to perform:

  • Maintenance on the machine in question (self-diagnostics)
  • Ordering, payment and delivery tracking of spare parts.
  • Ordering, payment and tracking of regular maintenance contracts and specific parts servicing whenever required.
  • Conduct inventory management based on input and output to ensure that the production line remains at optimal efficiency.
  • Arrange for a variety of functions, each specific to its own contract, to enable machines to operate fully automated and autonomously.

So what has all this to do with smart transportation?

 

Smart Transportation

Transportation will evolve from currently everyone owning their own personal vehicle and commuting into the city to DAOs being created that will manage a fleet of vehicles.

These vehicles will not be your traditional car, but rather, Autonomous, Self-Driving Vehicles (ASDVs), fit for one passenger, that can be ordered through IoT and Blockchain technology, powered through smart contracts from the DAO on a needs basis.

cars of future smart cities will be driverless

Autonomous, Self-Driving Vehicles (ASDVs)

They will be solar power driven and/or operate on a hybrid of solar, wireless charging and electricity; they will likely have a limited maximum speed of 25-40 KMPH; which is more than sufficient to operate in any city centre and central business district.

To get from point A to B will simply mean ordering an ASDV to arrive at your point of origin by a certain time and letting it drive you to your destination, while you can continue to work while driving, browse the internet or simply enjoy the scenery.

Once you arrive at your destination, the ASDV will be paid through the smart contract and both you and the ASDV will be on your merry way, without having to worry about parking space.  The ASDV will either move on to its next passenger, run a service diagnostic, go to a cleaning station, go to a charging station or will return to the DAO’s parking lot; all regulated through smart contracts.

I imagine such vehicles being limited in size, 2×1 meter, with an electric engine and full IoT connectivity for its self-regulation and internet access for the passenger, whereas usage will be regulated through smart contracts.  It will be possible to combine multiple ASDVs into a more traditional car by attaching them to each other and completely opening the inner windows so that people can still travel together.  Similar ASDVs will exist with a small cargo extension so that groceries, luggage, etc. can be carried along with the passenger and full cargo vehicles will exist purely to transport goods around the city from point A to B.

Credits: IDEO Automobility

Autonomous, Self-Driving Vehicles (ASDVs) In Storage

For those with longer commutes, living in suburban areas of the city, the principle will remain the same, they will use the same vehicles but to travel longer distances, ASDVs will attach themselves to an Autonomous Self Driving Train (ASDT) that can carry a large number of ASDVs all at once, at a much higher speed and thus making the commute effortless and speedy.  The ASDT will follow the same environmental principles as the ASDVs but will likely be permanently connected to the grid or operate on a rail system taking ASDVs from one drop on/off point to another, recharging the ASDVs during the commute.

 

Benefits For Smart Cities

What are the benefits of such a system:

  • Autonomous Self Driving Vehicles can be much smaller than conventional cars (1/4 in general size); as such they occupy a lot less road space.
  • ASDVs do not need to keep the same distance from other ASDVs as regular cars do, significantly reducing the amount of space vehicles will use up on the road.
  • ASDVs will follow different traffic rules, for example they do not require traffic regulation using road side signals, traffic lights or manual traffic regulation. Thanks to their IoT connection they also know what the fastest route is and will get there in minimal time, avoiding each other along the way. An example of this can already be seen in Amazon’s warehouses which are almost entirely managed by semi-autonomous smart vehicles that operate in concert with each other. [3]
  • Regular inner-city roads can be greatly reduced in size to single lane, bi-directional roads, freeing up space for pedestrians and cyclists or other alternative means of transportation.
  • Parking even for bicycles will move underground and will become automated and stacked. [4]
  • Inner city pollution will be greatly reduced, there are already cities that have banned vehicles from the city centre and saw a radical reduction in pollution over time.
  • ASDVs can use the same sharing economies as communities, recharging themselves at any point in between journeys or even moving into complete wireless charging.

 

Conclusion

Does this mean cars will disappear completely?  No, it won’t, cars will still be used for leisure activities and at times to travel in between cities, but inner-city traffic will change dramatically with cars being replaced by ASDVs, supported by existing public transport networks of monorails, elevated train systems, subway systems and mechanical sidewalks.

So cars won’t disappear from daily life but the move to car-free cities, sharing economies and ASDV concepts is already happening today; there are 3 cities whose city centre has been made car free for more than a decade (Ljubljana in Slovenia, Pontevedra in Spain and Copenhagen in Denmark [5]) which has led to a reduction in air pollution of up to 61% and another 12 cities are working on either introducing or increasing car-free zones or pedestrian only zones. [6]

At the same time various countries are working on the concept and introduction of smart cities, as an example the government in Thailand has introduced a concept of Thailand 4.0, has established an association [7] to help educate its government agencies in the concepts of smart cities and is working on developing 3 of its current cities into smart(er) cities with plans to transform 100 cities in the next 20 years. [8] [9]

It is also important to note that while this technology is not all available to date, the groundwork for self-driving cars is well underway.  Various car manufacturers and other companies such as Tesla, Volkswagen and Google, to name a few, are actively pursuing the dream of self-driving vehicles, and why they may still be based on the traditional car model known to people today, this will soon start moving into the exploration of ASDVs and ASDTs. Combine this with Amazon’s robotics warehouse, various stacked parking solutions readily available and blockchain and IoT technology and this future reality isn’t anywhere near as far off as it seems.

So yes, in the smart cities of tomorrow, nobody will own a car.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-energy-consumption-and-power-mix-charts

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/in-a-posh-bangkok-neighbourhood-residents-trade-energy-with-blockchain/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSA5Bq-1fU4

[4] https://web.facebook.com/innovationneozone/videos/giken-eco-cycle/2070630776535115/

[5] https://web.facebook.com/worldeconomicforum/videos/here-are-3-cities-that-have-banned-cars-with-amazing-results/1785743858190412/

[6] https://www.businessinsider.com/cities-going-car-free-ban-2017-8

[7] http://scta.or.th/en/

[8] https://theaseanpost.com/article/thailands-smart-cities-herald-thailand-40

[9] http://investvine.com/thailand-dreams-100-smart-cities/

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