- 9 million deaths per year worldwide due to air pollution.
2.5 billion increase in the world’s urban population by 2050
- 1.3 million people are killed and between 20 and 50 million injured on the world’s roads each year. The 1.3 billion cars in the world are used only 5% of the time ; costs of road congestion : € 120 billion p.a. in Europe.
The smart city concept is already partially implemented. Data sensor technologies (Internet of Things IoT) and analysis tools can now be deployed on a large scale to collect data on traffic and transportation systems, power plants, utilities, water supply networks, waste, crime detection, information systems and hospitals for example.
In the future, autonomous driving systems will be safer than drivers and will save lives. Electric propulsion with lithium batteries or hydrogen fuel cells will reduce air pollution and noise in cities. Industrial fleets will be centrally managed and optimized to make better use of urban space. Autonomous cab cars, which are practical to use (on-demand, point-to-point, 24-hour service) and inexpensive (very high occupancy rate in a logic of economy of sharing), may replace many under-utilized bus or regional train lines. The degree of automation will therefore become an essential factor in a country’s competitiveness.
Strenghts & Weaknesses
Switzerland is known for its high-quality infrastructure in transport (SBB/CFF), telecommunications (Sunrise/UPC, Swisscom) and buildings (Schindler, dormakaba). It also has a strong culture of data protection and citizens’ rights. This capital of trust, combined with a robust legal framework, should make it possible to set up intelligent systems that are compatible with Western standards of democracy. There are many start-ups in the field of multimodal mobility (UNIMOBILITY, FAIRTIQ), intelligent housing (Tayo, DomoSafety), real estate resource management (Locatee, Allthings), personal safety (GEOSATIS, Morphean) and E-governance (PROCIVIS) for example.
As far as autonomous driving is concerned, Switzerland does not have the critical mass to develop a global consumer car or aircraft manufacturer. But it does have leading edge skills in the industry of high-precision components (sensors, lidar, engines) and software for autonomous systems applied to small machines, such as drones (Flyability) and robots (ANYbotics). Other start-ups offer navigation systems (INVOLI) or embedded systems (Fast 3D, LIGENTEC) and decision software (Daedalean, embotech). Even if it is lagging Sweden, for example, in autonomous car range tests, it can perfectly well catch up with a proactive policy on a national scale, i.e., involving the authorities, large and small companies. The consultation procedure, which ended in January 2021, to revise the Federal Road Traffic Act (RTA), is moving in the right direction. The Federal Council wants to move quickly because vehicle assistance systems are continually being improved. “ In order to be able to react quickly to such developments, the Federal Council will now be empowered under the Road Traffic Act to enact the relevant provisions by means of rulling, ” the government said.
Smart cities : in addition to the technological and operational complexities of setting up information collection and processing systems, cities must also ensure that citizens’ rights are respected. Indeed, there can be serious ethical problems if the information leads to biased political decisions, greater inequality or active discrimination.
Autonomous vehicles : even if partial autonomy is already available, such as semi-autonomous convoys in platooning (first truck with driver, following without), car driving assistance systems or shuttles on closed courses, it will still take decades to achieve full autonomy across the board. Social and union resistance will be strong because of the driver’s jobs threatened. Entire sectors are in danger of disappearing, e.g. parking lots. Legal and ethical issues will be subject to lively political debate.
- Technology cluster in the top five worldwide
- Three companies valued at more than CHF 1 billion
- Switzerland must ambition of being the first country in the world to have implemented full level five autonomy. This is a critical infrastructure for the country’s security, sovereignty and competitiveness.