The world's roads will be dramatically more congested in 2050 than today when 2 billion vehicles hit the streets.
"It's really mind-boggling," Kristin Schondorf, Research and Advanced Engineering Project Manager for Future Mobility at Ford Motor Co., said during Tuesday afternoon's session in the AVL Technology Leadership Center.
The group of presenters addressed the theme of "Mobility Smart: Efficient and Convenient City Transportation by Connected Services and Information."
Panelists agreed that it will take planning and cooperation among automakers, governments, suppliers, and consumers to change how people travel.
"Working together is going to be a key element," said Schondorf, who leads Ford's Blueprint for Mobility team.
The topic of smart mobility, a first for an SAE World Congress, had the industry professionals talking about opportunities and challenges.
Session moderator Sandy Stojkovski, President of Scenaria Inc., a strategic consulting firm that is a member of the AVL Group, said, "The challenge is to identify options that can achieve best consumer value propositions and are robust (relative to) extreme uncertainty and complexity."
For Ford planners, the near-term mobility landscape is centered on using 3-D maps, cell-based communications, cameras, and radar. The long-range mobility plan includes leveraging software to plot out the most efficient or enjoyable route.
Christopher Borroni-Bird, Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts as well as the Director of the Electric Networked Vehicle (EN-V) for General Motors, said that by 2030 it is expected that 60% of the world's population will live in urban areas.
"We need to think about right-sizing the vehicle for its intended application," Borroni-Bird said.
One small-sized electrified vehicle is GM's EN-V concept. It is a 500-kg (1102-lb) vehicle built for two with a top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), a propulsion output of 10 kW, and a 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 mi) driving range on a single charge.
In April 2011, GM and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co. Ltd. announced a memorandum of understanding. The plan calls for integrating the next-generation EN-V into the Tianjin Eco-City from a power, communications, and physical infrastructure perspective.
For Borroni-Bird, the reinvented automobile translates to an ultra-small vehicle that is easy to park and maneuver, and uses wireless communications to help avoid collisions.
"For urban use, today's automobile is over-engineered and under-used," said Borroni-Bird.
Takao Asami, Corporate Vice President of Nissan Motor Co Ltd. said congestion prevention is needed.
"The social costs of traffic accidents and congestion are tremendous," said Asami.
Nissan's strategy to deal with traffic tie-ups is addressed in its 'city congestion canceller concept', a multi-step approach that includes traffic forecasting.
Lynn Peterson, Sustainable Communities and Transportation Policy Advisor for Oregon's Office of the Governor, said it is important to have communities that are "built for people to live, work, and play."
Among the ways to put mobility in a sustainable mode are the various programs relating to EVs and charging stations. One example is the West Coast Electric Highway. When complete, a span of 1300 mi (2092 km) from the Canadian border to the California border will have fast charging stations every 25 to 60 mi (40 to 96 km).
The 'electric highway' complements the U.S. Department of Energy's $230 million project to provide EV charging infrastructure in six states, including Washington, Oregon, and California.
Peterson said that Oregon has approximately 800 EVs, with 600 of those being the Nissan Leaf.
"The movement toward EVs in Oregon is real," Peterson said.