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Roadmap to a Sustainable Future for Personal Transportation

The Global Agenda Council on Automotive  brings together the stakeholders from the automotive industry, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, academia, associations, analysts, and industry experts. The Council has been focusing on the issue of sustainability for three years. After the development and signing of a statement by seven leading automotive CEOs committing to the sustainable development of the industry, the outcome of last year’s Council was a recommendation to develop a roadmap on how to reach a sustainable future for the industry. This challenging task was the starting point of the development of the “roadmap to a sustainable future for personal transportation”.

After a structured approach laying out a framework comprised of all relevant drivers and enablers to such a roadmap, the Council decided to prioritize these enablers based on the need for immediate action, the required level of multi-stakeholder coordination, the necessity for a public-private collaboration and the level of impact on society as a whole. Special attention was given to the enablers that have substantial potential for mid-term impact besides the long-term benefits. The result was to focus on developing a high-level rationale and roadmap to a tailored and coordinated approach to sustainable personal transportation with a focus on two specific drivers:

  1. Vehicle connectivity and full integration in the mobility ecosystem
  2. A cross-boundary harmonized approach to new standards for future energy technologies

The Roadmap

“Expanding population and an increasing world GDP do not guarantee quality growth for the automotive industry in the next thirty to forty years. Systemic imbalances must be eliminated, failing models abandoned and true innovation boosted.”

If the use of cars for personal transportation continues its historical correlation with increases in personal wealth, the global 2030 fleet would grow to almost 1.7 billion light vehicles. This means 2 times more vehicles on today’s roads. Even if one assumes a doubling of fuel efficiency of new vehicles, as is called for in Europe by 2020 and in the US by 2025, CO2 emissions would still be up to 2.5 times higher than the level agreed at the United Nations “Bali” conference,, which was set at a 50% reduction in CO2 from the transport fleet. This scenario would most likely lead to severe regulatory actions, with undesirable consequences for both society in general and the automotive industry in particular. It is therefore important that the automotive industry not take quality long-term growth for granted. To find out more about the future of the automobile, read the blog post by Julia King on the sustainable future of the automobile.

Quality growth for the automotive industry in the next thirty to forty years requires that systemic imbalances be eliminated and business models updated. The focus must be on both business performance and broader societal impacts, delivering marketable performance and wider societal benefits, meeting the changing expectations of all stakeholders. Therefore, a collaborative agenda must be developed and established by 2015 at the latest to start on a successful, ambitious 30-year pathway to low-energy consumption, low emissions, and safe, modern personal vehicles that work in harmony with other forms of individual and collective mobility.

To facilitate this process the Global Agenda Council on Automotive has developed a roadmap for a tailored, multi-stakeholder approach to sustainable personal transportation in 2050. The major goal of this roadmap is to achieve stakeholder alignment. The roadmap urges collaborative efforts to identify the most appropriate forms of urban mobility essential to sustainable transport, related technologies, business models, infrastructure, concurrent technologies and market incentives to progressively enable acceptably low emissions, zero collisions from personal vehicles and connected multimodal transport.

The roadmap recognizes that the existing strategic plans of automakers and the thinking of the regulators and urban planners must be coordinated to bring new technologies to market in the most effective way. The need for action is urgent, as the inertia of the old technology of the in-use-fleet will override the early benefits of innovative technologies. As an example, even if plug-in electric vehicle sales reached 30% by 2030 as the figure shows (a very optimistic scenario), the impact on the overall fleet will remain very limited, accounting for less than 3% of total energy demand. Every delay will negatively multiply the impact in future. Likewise, lower market shares will result in a corresponding reduction in the impact on energy demand.

The Council roadmap indicates that it is imperative that all stakeholders (including all levels in the automotive, energy and telecommunications industries, and governments) coordinate and focus their actions, decade-by-decade, to achieve the desired results in a cost-effective manner. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and stakeholders should adopt a timeline for collaborative efforts such as that indicated by the Council roadmap, with other countries no more than 10 years behind.

The Council roadmap urges collaborative efforts to identify the most appropriate forms of urban mobility essential to sustainable transport, related technologies, business models, infrastructure, concurrent technologies and market incentives to progressively enable acceptably low emissions and zero collisions from personal vehicles and connected multimodal transport. Over time, those performance levels will be achieved through timely focus on the following major objectives:

Decade                 Areas of collaborative focus

2010 – 2020          Technology development and demonstration

2020 – 2030          Development and deployment

2030 – 2040          Decline of legacy systems

2040 – 2050          Decade of upgrading

The detailed multi-stakeholder roadmap with suggested roles for each actor, decade by decade, is available upon request.

 Vehicle Connectivity

There are six key benefits of integrating the vehicle into the evolving mobility ecosystem, as vehicle connectivity can:

  1. Reduce congestion, emissions and energy use
  2. Support decarbonization and the take-up of electric vehicles
  3. Decrease wasted time and thus improve productivity
  4. Better accommodate the aging population and the physically handicapped
  5. Improve driver and passenger comfort and convenience
  6. Increase the car’s compatibility with other modes of transport (from car sharing to public transit)
  7. Improve vehicle safety.

The Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Automotive encourages the global auto industry to further push the following near-and long-term actions and to intensively cooperate to implement connectivity technology to realize these goals:

 Nearer term

  • Taking leadership in defining the “rules of the road” for mobile devices in the car to assure safe and seamless integration in cooperation. Solutions must be supported by the car industry, traffic management, road builders and urban planners.
  • Equipping cars now with standardized technology to enable communication among each OEM’s customers, among all vehicles (and longer term the infrastructure)
  • Integrating vehicle-to-vehicle communication into the cloud to enable a wide range of capabilities
  • Educate society on connected mobility systems and build trust

Longer term

  • Commercializing sophisticated accident avoidance technologies (through vehicle-to-vehicle communication, smart roads and the cloud)
  • Enabling intermodal coordination between the car and other forms of transport in order to promote valid and frequent usability
  • Achieving commercialization of practical autonomously guided vehicles

To demonstrate progress in implementing these initiatives, the Council suggests:

  • Pilot projects under controlled conditions, of which the SimTD project in Germany is one example
  • International coordination and/or sharing knowledge of these projects.

 A Cross-boundary Harmonized Approach to new Standards for Future Energy Technologies

The biggest challenges for global harmonized standards are different national interests, a lack of communication between international, national and regional standardization bodies, and differing infrastructure standards (e.g. safety, voltage). While there are big obstacles to harmonizing global standards, early cooperation could significantly improve industry performance by:

  • Providing a mechanism to identify the most suitable technologies and practices around the globe in the earliest possible time frame
  • Accelerating technology acceptance
  • Reducing time-to-market
  • Eliminating system inefficiencies.

To overcome resultant market inefficiencies and improve the state of the world, the Council recommends:

  • Increased dialogue among automakers, suppliers and key stakeholders and their cooperation within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Their efforts should highlight key action plans and identify involvement in standardization projects for advancing standards for EVs and smart grids as requested by the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) or the IEC
  • Expanding these standardization activities through the international network of auto manufacturers and their suppliers to include other regions such as Asia Pacific (especially Japan and China)
  • Promoting the establishment of appropriate international joint ISO and IEC working groups for early standardization solutions for new technologies in the timeframe suggested by the roadmap.


In order to promote the outcomes of the Council and increase their impact, the Council presented its recommendations to the CEOs of the automotive community at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2012 and urged action. The reaction was a mandate to develop a project that holistically analyses the impact of connectivity and consumer behavioural changes on the transportation ecosystem and to derive indications of how this could transform the industry.

Further, the Council has sent a letter to the Transatlantic Economic Council, the organization that initiated efforts on the standardization of technology between the US and Europe, in order to urge it to intensify these efforts and widen them to include the Pacific regions (especially Japan and China).

 The New Council on Personal Transportation Systems

The increased blurring of industry lines and their confluence through new technology, new market players and changing consumer behaviour, due to increased congestion, limited space and a new environmental consciousness as well as the roadmap discussed above has lead to the proposal to widen the focus of the Global Agenda Council on Automotive to look at the future of personal transportation systems. A personal transportation systems is defined as a framework for new models of individual travel, the interdependency of personal and mass transportation and the required environment for these new models.

The Council strives to address the above challenges by integrating new players that will shape this transformation by researching and developing new models of personal transportation and by facilitating a dialogue among the different stakeholders. Thereby it will address the following dimensions:

  1. The future of personal transportation systems and the role of the car in this system
  2. Shifting consumer behaviour and evolving trends on personal transportation usage
  3. Infrastructure and policy requirements.


The opinions expressed here are those of the individual Members of the Council and not of the World Economic Forum or any institutions to which they are affiliated.