The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

In light of the upcoming Autonomous e-Mobility Forum in Qatar, where do we stand today, and what challenges lie ahead?

As we approach the upcoming Autonomous e-Mobility Forum in Qatar, it’s timely to assess our current status in smart mobility and the hurdles that await us.

The connected, autonomous, shared, and electric vehicles (CASE) mobility framework has been our guidepost for over a decade, providing insights into the most significant opportunities and predicting developments within these domains. With the Autonomous e-Mobility Forum on the horizon, what is our progress report, and what challenges remain unresolved in these critical areas of mobility?

Vehicle connectivity has been a bright spot in the mobility landscape, largely delivering on its promise since the inception of the CASE framework. Tesla blazed the trail by demonstrating that vehicular driving dynamics could be enhanced with software updates deployed wirelessly.

Other established automakers quickly followed suit, attracted not only by the potential to save billions on warranty and recall costs but also by the prospect of a future where consumers could activate additional vehicle features—like full-self-driving capabilities, increased range, and power—through a subscription-based revenue model. The vision of a ‘connected city’ may appear more distant, yet significant strides are being made through both vehicular connectivity and the development of intelligent urban infrastructures.

Back in 2014, leading consultancies predicted that by today, half of the new vehicles sold would be fully autonomous. This level of autonomy has not materialized for passenger cars, as achieving it has proven more challenging than anticipated a decade earlier. However, full autonomy in commercial, agricultural, and industrial settings, particularly in predefined route environments without human passengers, has been a more attainable goal.

Similarly, it was expected that car ownership would decline sharply, with most people preferring to summon rides via mobile applications. The anticipated affordability of autonomous ride-hailing services—ushered in by companies like Uber—was predicted to drive widespread adoption.

Even without autonomy, ride-hailing has emerged as a valuable complement to traditional car ownership. Nevertheless, the anticipated transition to a predominately shared mobility model has not yet occurred, a trend observable in various regions including the United States, Europe, Qatar, and the broader Gulf region.

Tesla’s success illustrated the consumer appetite for electric vehicles (EVs), while China’s strategic investments in the EV battery supply chain and consumer incentives have positioned it as a global leader in EV sales, infrastructure, and technology.

Despite emerging challenges in countries like the United States, the global transition from internal combustion engines to EVs seems inexorable at this juncture.

The Autonomous e-Mobility Forum will be hosted by Qatar’s Ministry of Transport in April. Qatar has been diligently fostering its role as a nexus for international dialogue on issues of both regional and worldwide significance.

In alignment with Qatar’s National Vision 2030—and support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)—the nation is focused on technology and policy-driven solutions for pressing sustainability challenges.

Nations across the globe are striving to diminish greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation systems being pivotal in the shift towards renewable energy sources. Qatar’s role as the host of the Forum underscores its dedication to pioneering transportation solutions and its strategic initiatives for smart, autonomous vehicle infrastructure.

Additionally, Qatar and its rapidly developing neighbors are characterized by swift population growth and the emergence of new urban landscapes. These burgeoning communities offer unparalleled real-life laboratories for mobility innovations, a scenario scarcely replicated elsewhere in the world.

Steve Greenfield is General Partner of Automotive Ventures, an early-stage automotive technology and mobility VC fund based in Atlanta, Georgia. He will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Autonomous e-Mobility Forum in Doha. For fun, Steve likes to ride his three motorcycles on the racetrack (his personal land speed record is 180 mph on a Yamaha R1 at Road Atlanta) and hang out with his ten rescue cats.