At a recent Further With Ford event their futurist, Sheryl Connelly, talked about the growth of our world’s mega-cities. She used Beijing China as an example. Beijing has 20 million people living in its metropolitan area. A typical driving commute is 5 hours! They have one highway with 50 lanes. This 50 lane highway experienced a traffic jam that lasted for TWELVE DAYS!
Ford’s research confirms how mega-cities and urbanization are reshaping the 21st century:
- There are 25 mega-cities today with populations of at least 10 million people
- 20 of these 25 mega-cities are located in developing countries
- 67% of the US population and 54% of the world’s population are projected to live in cities.
- Over the next few decades the number of mega-cities will DOUBLE to 50 cities
What these mega-cities have in common is unsustainable levels of pollution, landfill waste and congestion. Their success will choke on this lack of sustainability. Recognizing this as opportunity, companies from Ford to Uber to Google are driving an urban technology revolution.
AI, clean tech and IoT driving sustainable solutions
Ford has a new vision for our future in cities. It is based on mobility, connectivity and artificial intelligence. Ford is not alone. Uber, Lyft, GM, Apple and Google are all focused on commercializing urban focused technologies that use less energy, use more renewable energy, are cleaner and reduce congestion.
The breakout solutions being pursued by these companies are focused on two key technologies:
- Autonomous vehicles. The breakout solution is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create driverless autonomous machines. Autonomous vehicles are projected to cost abut a third less to operate than human driven vehicles. Ford estimates that autonomous vechilcles can cost $2 per vehicle mile less to operate by removing the driver and from increased operating efficiency. Reducing fuel consumption will also reduce vehicle emissions. This holds the potential of saving more money as governments increasing explore taxing vehicle air emissions.
- Electrification. Electric vehicles eliminate tailpipe emissions. This is huge for mega-cities chocking on pollution. Electric vehicles’ zero emissions will improve quality of life and lower health care costs. Unlike lower emissions natural gas or hydrogen vehicles, an electric car has the potential to be fueled with zero emissions renewable energy. Today, recharging an electric car with utility supplied electricity is at a 75 cents per gallon gasoline equivalent. This cost advantage will grow as wind and solar achieve even lower prices from a global manufacturing economies of scale plus technology innovation. Electric vehicles are on a path of costing less to operate plus delivering zero emissions.
Sustainability will drive 21st century urban economic development
Our cities are in crisis. They are increasingly being defined by congestion and pollution. Building more roads no longer relieves congestion. Mandating increased fossil fueled vehicle air pollution controls is still effective. But the real urban solution is electric vehicles that can deliver zero tail pipe emissions. Especially so if they are recharged with renewable energy.
Technologies that can solve problems tied to pollution, congestion and cost are now the path to urban economic growth. This is a smart and clean technology wave focused on delivering less. Less cost. Less congestion. Less pollution.
On major implementation path will be in our cities’s buildings. AI, batteries, IoT and renewable energy will combine to create Net Zero Energy buildings that cost less to operate, increase human productivity and have reduced emissions.
IoT plus AI technologies fueled with renewable electricity will be the mobility technology solution that ever wider highways were in the 20th century. These 21st century technologies will combined to deliver a shared vehicle economy. Our mobility costs will be less because we will rent mobility in real time rather than own, operate and maintain a vehicle. This mobility solution will pollute less because it will be more efficient in terms of fuel consumption and because it will be electric.
Sustainability, clean tech and smart tech are emerging as the 21st century’s urban economic drivers. The question for every city, large or small, is how will they harvest this opportunity? The cities that answer that question successfully will win competitive advantage. They will realize more jobs, better jobs and healthier citizens. Their businesses will be able to compete on the global stage.
21st century technologies on now on the cusp of reengineering our cities into sustainable cities that deliver triple bottom results.
About the author
Bill Roth is the author of The Boomer Generation Diet, now on sale at Amazon! Here’s what Jen Boynton, Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit says about the book: ”Written in Bill Roth’s lovable, relatable tone. The Boomer Generation Diet is a must-read for any Boomer who is looking to jumpstart their health and have fun at the same time. I hope my parents read it!” Follow Bill on Twitter and Facebook.