Automation and the
mobility revolution

Tracking the future

Automation and the mobility revolution

The transportation landscape is changing quickly and drastically. In December 2016, all-time cumulative global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) passed two􀀀million units, of which 38% were sold in 2016. The advent of smart cars and autonomous vehicles will revolutionise global traffic even further. However, to make the most of the opportunities afforded, hurdles need to be overcome in areas such as energy, infrastructure and connectivity.

Powering the transition from fossil fuels to renewables

The transport sector is responsible for more than a quarter of total global energy consumption and a quarter of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions. What’s more, the sector’s energy usage has been increasing by 2% annually over the past two decades.

On a more positive note, progress is being made in the decarbonisation of the transport sector, with carbon intensity of road transportation declining, according to data from However, to achieve the goals set in the Paris Agreement, the uptake of EVs needs to increase significantly. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world will require 600 million electric vehicles by 2040 to limit global warming to less than 2°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Of course, the resulting increased demand for power needs to be fully covered by renewable sources. Fortunately, renewable energy, in particular solar power, is becoming cheaper.

At the end of 2016, there were more than two million passenger EVs on the roads, roughly 1% of all car sales. However, to reach the climate goals, EV uptake will have to be boosted to 20 million by 2020. The Electric Vehicle Initiative, which includes the governments of China, France, Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and five other countries, has set a goal for 30 % market share for battery power cars, buses, trucks and vans by 2030, according to IEA. The Netherlands intends to phase out all fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 2025.Although India, isn’t part of this program, it aims to sell only electric cars by 2030.

Overcoming obstacles to electric vehicle uptake

In spite of the various projects aiming to stimulate EV uptake, there are several obstacles to overcome. For one thing, the range of electric vehicles is still limited compared to that of ‘traditional’ vehicles. Fortunately, battery technology is developing rapidly. The improving energy density of lithium-ion batteries allows greater power storage in lighter batteries. Efficiency is expected to grow by some 5% per year. At Colombia University, a method has been developed that may even improve the energy density by 10-30%. Furthermore, the cost of lithium-ion batteries, which account for about 40% of the cost of an EV cost, has dropped by two-thirds since 2010. Further reductions are expected in the near future.

Charging infrastructure is essential to the uptake of electric vehicles. In the absence of ubiquitous charging, hybrids will remain important as an intermediate solution. Ideally, there should be a recharging possibility in every location where a car might conceivably be parked for any length of time.

Bringing down charging times significantly is essential to the widespread adoption of EVs. In Europe some 1,300 DC ‘fast chargers’ have been introduced, which can repower EVs almost as rapidly as fossil fuel. Norway recently opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.

How can cabling help?

Within vehicles, cabling needs to be as lightweight, durable and efficient as possible to help limit energy usage and enhance any energy savings to the highest degree attainable. Creating a granular grid with the option to freely store and transport energy to any location and allow fast recharging requires reliable high and low voltage cabling solutions as well as advanced monitoring, control and remote diagnostics systems. And, of course, advanced security measures will also be essential, as consumers will be in close proximity to high voltages.


The world will require 600 million electric vehicles by 2040 to limit global warming to less than 2°C
To reach the climate goals, EV uptake will have to be boosted to 20 million by 2020

Prysmian is always searching, across all its businesses,  to achieve more stringent requirements of emission levels and a lower level of fossil-fuel economy.

As a major cable producer for the automotive industry, partner to some of the world’s leading car manufacturers, it contributes to lighter body parts of cars, which means less fuel needed, by reducing the weight of the cable harness. High tensile strength conductor material like copper-magnesium (CuMg) or copper bronze (CuSn) allow a reduction of single core cable cross section from 0,35 mm² down to 0,13 mm².

In addition to the reduction of the cross sections of the wires, lighter conductor materials are another way to reduce the total weight of the cable harness. Especially for bigger cross sections starting at 2,50 mm² the use of aluminum conductors instead of standard copper conductors is a good way of weight reduction.

Currently it is possible to gain a weight reduction of some 20% thanks to the reduction of the cross-sections of the conductor and the use of aluminum instead of copper.

As alternative for expensive and complicated waterproofed sealing applications, Prysmian Group also provides T3(125°C/3.000h) and T4 (150°C/3.000h) anti-capillary single core wires.

The copper strands of the conductor are covered with a special material which prevents fluids penetrating the copper conductor.

With this special conductor electronics and sensors on the ends of the cables are protected against damage.

Autonomous cars: less fuel, greater safety

The growth of digitalisation, deep learning and artificial intelligence is resulting in autonomous driving and efficiencies that allow vehicles to cover ever-greater distances. A wide variety of companies have entered the autonomous vehicle/AI market, ranging from small start-ups to tech leaders such as Uber, Google, Tesla and Apple. ‘Traditional’ automotive companies are working towards positioning themselves in the market for self-driving cars. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has described creating autonomous vehicles as the mother of all Artificial Intelligence projects.

A self-driving car will be equipped with a variety of sensors, a GPS Unit and an inertial navigation system. The car creates a map of its surroundings based on sensor input and positional information from GPS and navigation system. This allows it to determine the best possible route. However, the connectivity inherent to autonomous vehicles brings a wide range of additional benefits. Machine learning will introduce optimization opportunities, which means reduced fuel consumption – thereby increasing distances that may be travelled - and lower maintenance costs through preventive diagnostics.

Benefits and barriers

In a report entitled ‘IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems’,  University of California, Riverside, researchers Xuewei Qi and Matthew Barth report that applying AI simulations to fuel  consumption can bring a 10.7% energy usage efficiency increase compared to a traditional system. If the control system knows in advance when it needs to stop to recharge, battery potential can be optimally used during each segment of a journey, increasing average fuel savings to as much as 31.5%. Software can learn from past journeys and driving habits to optimize power consumption in ways that humans simply can’t.

Connecting vehicles to the Internet of Things and 5G networks also makes a broad variety of Smart City applications possible. This ranges from adaptive street lighting to smart parking management, route optimization and safety enhancements. For fleet owners and transport companies, the optimization benefits are huge.

Safety is another important area in which machine learning, connectivity and artificial intelligence can bring vast improvements. A report from US consulting firm, McKinsey & Company claims that U.S. road deaths could be reduced by 90% thanks to autonomous vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even claims that self-driving technology will become so advanced that lawmakers will have to consider outlawing manual driving. Chris Gerdes, professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, and director of the Center for Automotive Research (CARS) and the Revs program, stated he is confident that cars will soon have skills on par with the very best human drivers - and possibly even better. Together, all vehicles in Waymo, formerly known as Google’s Self Driving Car program, travelled more than two million miles on U.S. streets and only once had fault in an accident. That’s ten times safer than the safest category of drivers in the US, and 40 times safer than new drivers.

National and international legislation is a hot topic: there need to be regional and global standards governing not only traffic participation and safety standards, but also responsibilities of autonomous vehicle owners, manufacturers and other stakeholders.

Naturally, the cabling used to transmit and receive data over wireless networks, as well as GPS and other location information, needs to meet the highest standards. In traffic applications, downtime is simply unimaginable. In addition, counter-hacking measures are essential. Of course, people everywhere are still a little uncomfortable about self-driving cars – but then again, that was also true of the first aircraft. As with many new technologies, unfamiliarity is just a temporary barrier to adoption.

Tesla’s Model 3 electric car (around US $35,000, excluding any subsidies or rebates) aims to bring electric cars to the mass market.
Volkswagen aims to sell one million fully electric cars per year by 2025.
Tesla Model S + Nissan LEAF were the best-selling electric cars in 2016 worldwide.
Volvo has stated that every new car it produces will have an electric power train from 2019 onward.
Nissan is currently offering two 100pc electric vehicles.
Toyota plans to offer next-generation vehicles (hybrid/plug-in petrol-electric, EV and fuel cell) with very low or zero CO2 emissions, by 2050.
BYD is China’s leading plug-in vehicle maker (nearly 30% share of plug-in sales) and the world’s largest OEM for plug-in passenger cars and SUVs.
Subaru is working on the introduction of alternative fuel power trains into its range.