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Mobility of the Future: The Adoption of New Motor Technologies

By Bob Weed Copper Development Association (CDA) Vice President and OEM

Dr. Peter Phleps of BMW’s Institute for Mobility Research describes himself as an “optimist,” but believes that in industrial countries the period of strong passenger car growth is over.  In addition to economic factors, explanations for this trend point to demographic development or increasing multi-modal mobility patterns of young adults. 

As a futurist, the former aerospace engineer says that despite these trends he remains optimistic for the automotive industry.  Dr. Phleps was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s SAE World Congress, presenting on “Mobility:  Future Market or End of Growth?,” a topic that is of particular interest to the Copper Development Association as it is to our many stakeholders in the automotive industry.   Phleps is a senior researcher and futurist at the Institute for Mobility Research (IFMO), a research facility of BMW Group.

Dr. Peter Phleps, senior researcher and futurist at the Institute for Mobility Research.

A self-described “young guy,” Phleps has an auspicious start in what promises to be an exciting career in transportation.  Before joining IFMO, he worked as a research associate at the TUM Institute of Aircraft Design, where he focused on the combination of scenario analysis and technology evaluation applied for different aspects of air transport systems.  At IFMO he studied future developments and challenges relating to mobility across all modes of transportation.

In a  video interview following his presentation, Phleps talks about his enthusiasm for advancements in automotive engine technology noting,  “We have to convince customers of the benefits of these technologies.”  According to Phleps, there is a more focused interest by customers in sustainability and ecology.  In this climate of social change towards transportation, Phleps says he is “confident alternative engine technologies will get a big push into the next year.”

He is less confident about fast growth opportunity for the autonomous vehicle.  Although Phleps is fascinated with recent technology advancements, he says there are still a lot of regulatory and legal hurdles that companies must work through before self-driving cars are seen regularly on the roads.  Phleps feels that more time is needed to further advance technologies in order to meet new safety and regulatory requirements.

The BMW Group says the aim of the IFMO is to make a contribution toward ensuring sustained mobility in the long-term, in a diverse and demanding environment.  Dr. Phleps’ presentation was not only timely, but provides us with a broader perspective to consider the adaptation of alternative-engine technologies found in the hybrid and full-electric vehicles – especially among Gen Y as traditional car ownership is not as high a priority for this group as it was for earlier generations.

Although it’s possible to take a pessimistic viewpoint about this trend, I agree with Dr. Phleps’ assessment that “it’s nonsense to believe the next generation will not use or buy cars anymore.”  As we consider this idea, it’s important to remember the critical role that technology will continue to play in the development of sustainable mobility.

The Autonomous Vehicle Revolution, a TedX Presentation by Dr. Peter Phleps 

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