Written by Vivek Kumar

The world today is seeing a rapid growth in urbanization, attracting a multitude of people to make the urban shift. In fact, a McKinsey report predicts that by 2030, nearly 60% of the global populace will reside in cities, with over two billion people entering the middle class. As the standard of living improves, people are more inclined to buy personal cars. According to a report by The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the number of cars will increase from to 1.7 billion from the present figure of 900 million by 2035.

All of this is likely to put tremendous pressure on the existing urban infrastructures. Roads will get congested; the levels of greenhouse gases in the air will rise exponentially, and gridlocks may occur causing a complete breaking down of the traffic system, among other things. The increased number of vehicles on the road will not only threaten cities with the growing levels of air pollution, but it will also adversely impact the quality of life in cities, as congestion can bring life in cities to a temporary halt. For instance, in Sao Paulo, people often witness over 300 kilometers of rush hour traffic jams on peak days!

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So, how can we overcome this challenge posed by rapid urbanization?

The only way out is to adopt the concept of sustainable urban mobility. The social infrastructure and the transportation system of cities need to be planned and integrated in a manner that promotes a sustainable and all-inclusive growth of the society. The sustainable mobility concept integrates public transport, privately-owned vehicles, and non-motorised transport – all tailor-made to suit the needs of both the affluent and the poor alike. The aim is to make metropolitan cities eco-friendly, healthy, prosperous, and safe. Today, enhancing and improving urban mobility to keep up with the rapidly expanding cities has become more important than ever because mobility constitutes the prerequisite for steady economic growth, innovation, trade, and of course, personal wellbeing of the citizens. Time is of the essence now, and hence, if we wish to make the most of now, we need to be able to move quickly in and around cities that bear promises of a good life.

Innovations Transforming Urban Mobility

As governments around the world are realizing the severity of rapid urbanization, efforts are being made to innovate pioneering vehicles that have begun transforming the urban mobility scenario. Australia now has hybrid cars exclusively designed for water transport. These hybrid boats are powered by wind, solar, and marine energy. Volkswagen has already begun developing ‘Hover Cars’ that can float in the air. Leveraging the unique properties of Chengdu’s subsoil, Volkswagen is combining it with maglev technology that on reacting with the underground minerals, can make the car float. One-of-a-kind, Shweeb is a monorail circuit project with human-powered pods – users can lie back and work the pedals to reach a speed of 45 km/h easily. The first prototype with a 200-meter circuit (funded by Google) has been implemented in Agroventures Adventure Park in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Although these projects are work in progress, they hold immense potential for the future of the world. Powered by clean and green technologies, these groundbreaking innovations are paving the pathway for a more eco-friendly environment. And with the help of innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), these machines can be optimized significantly to reduce congestion and accidents on the road while simultaneously minimizing the air pollution levels.

Impact on the Job Market

The incorporation of AI and ML technology across various industries is promoting numerous exciting job opportunities. Companies are constantly on the hunt for talented data professionals who can skillfully handle AI and ML tech to foster innovation to improve the socio-economic state of a nation. Moreover, international communities have been highly supportive of pro-environment innovations. As a result almost every country’s government is providing aid for better technological advances.

We are in an age, in which there is a positive demand-supply gap that exists for professionals who are skilled in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. As a result there lies a scope for budding specialists in the field. More companies are eager to develop automobiles which are energy saving and environment-friendly. Hence it is an ideal time for youngsters to choose this path. Although there are not too many universities that offer a comprehensive course in these fields, many online platforms are now offering specialized Artificial Intelligence courses and Machine Learning courses. By enrolling in these courses, it is possible to start a successful career in this field.

Where Does The Government Stand In This Scenario?

Since the issue of urban mobility is a major challenge involving the entire economic and social infrastructure of a nation, it needs a significant amount of government aid and intervention. To overcome this challenge, both the government and the private sector have to come together to promote large-scale commercialization and foster technological innovation with adequate infrastructure, smart policies, and funding. Governments should promote vocational programs to train individuals how to leverage smart and emerging technologies like ML and AI. While the urban mobility revolution has already begun as nations are adopting the concept of ‘shareconomy,’ real change can only come when joint and integrated efforts will be made from both the public and the private front.

Vivek is the President of Consumer Revenue at UpGrad, an online education platform providing industry oriented courses like Artificial Intelligence in collaboration with world-class institutes, some of which are MICA, IIIT Bangalore, and BITS.

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