New infrastructure and technology are making cars attractive again

Cars will continue to be an important feature of our city traffic – if they run on electricity. Investment in infrastructure and new technology are necessary. These were the conclusions at a seminar looking at whether cars will be needed in good cities of the future. The seminar was arranged by IVA’s Good Cities of the Future project in cooperation with the Academy’s Mechanical Engineering division.

The car is still relevant as a mode of transport. But in the not-too-distant future, it will not have all that much in common with today’s vehicles. It will probably still have four wheels, but the steering wheel might be gone.

The Government is incentivising the use of new technology in the cities of the future. “We need to think in several dimensions,” said Minister for Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth.

If this is to be possible, infrastructure all across the board needs to be renewed. In the transition to a fossil-free society the railway is a prioritised mode of transport.

“But roads also need to be able to handle significantly heavier vehicles than those we have today.”

Electrified roads for lorries outside Sandviken are an example of how Sweden can be a world leader and preferably a permanent sustainable and fossil-free example. Close partnerships between academia, industry and policy-makers are essential in order to reach that goal.

“Our imagination is the only limit to how far we can go with logistics,” said Tomas Eneroth, admitting that he is basically a car nerd.

“Being online, self-driving and electrification are three megatrends for smart vehicles of the future,” said Håkan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Cars.

He thinks the company needs to clearly communicate what it believes in. For Volvo, electricity is the future.

In 2019 all Volvo cars leaving the plant will be electric-powered in some form or other. Customers will be able to choose from clean electric cars, hybrids or more traditional variations where batteries are charged using braking energy.

Volvos will also be more autonomous. The most extreme variation – without a steering wheel – is already being tested by Uber in the USA.

“One of the criteria for this is knowing how people and technology work together. A Volva must be a car that understands you.”

But if the self-driving cars are to be online, multiple manufacturers need to be involved. An open, standardised platform is therefore a prerequisite. Otherwise it is not a viable option.

Physical cars are not the only things that will change in the foreseeable future. The way cars are sold will also be different, according to Håkan Samuelsson. It will no doubt be possible to still purchase a car in the traditional way. But other alternatives to ownership will take over eventually.

“It’s possible to subscribe for a car online. Insurance is included and after two years you get a new model. This is a good option for people who always want to have access to a vehicle.

For those who only need a car now and then, car pools will be an attractive option.”

Håkan Samuelsson also pointed out the link between efficient infrastructure and the possibility of introducing new smart vehicles.

“If the white lines on roads are not properly painted and maintained, autonomous cars will not work,” he said.

Technology development is moving extremely quickly. This is making it hard to predict the future. The human brain’s unique capacity needs to be used in the best possible way. This is according to Mouna Esmaeilzadeh who, among other things, is a physician and brain researcher.

“The brain is really good at fantasizing and dreaming. We beat artificial intelligence at that,” she said.

This ability can be used to create visions, such as a city of the future.

“Then it’s of course important for us, as decision-makers, to set goals while also being pragmatic and open to change,” she said.

Contact information

Staffan Eriksson
Director Technology in Society
Phone +46 8-791 29 53