Abu Dhabi: Long-haul trucks may turn into autonomous vehicles before public transport buses catching up with this trend, senior executives said here on Tuesday while releasing a report titled ‘The Masdar Report on Technologies for Future Smart City Transit’ at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Autonomous vehicles are widely used in the mining sector and the next sector to adopt them will be long-haul goods movement, said Dr Ali Izadi Najafabadi, head of intelligent mobility at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Passengers’ concerns about safety and regulators’ stringent rules for testing autonomous vehicles on the road may delay their adoption in the public transport sector, he said.

About 1.25 million deaths annually occur due to road accidents, which could be averted by autonomous vehicles, Stephen Severance, head of Programme Management and Marketing at Masdar.

Some major city residents lose 100 hours a month due to traffic congestions. The autonomous vehicles may help avoid this, they said. Air and noise pollution due to a large number of vehicles are also a concern in cities.

Therefore, 58 municipalities across the world, including Dubai, are supporting the concept of autonomous vehicles.

The report also suggests that countries with a relatively new urban transport network, such as the UAE and other Gulf states, may have an advantage over other countries because their transport infrastructure is newer and less sprawling − meaning it is easier to update and integrate with emerging digital technologies.

Cost decline of batteries will further boost the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Between 2010 and 2017, the battery cost declined by 81 per cent.

In the UAE, 20 per cent of the total vehicles will be EVs by 2030, they said.

However, this target may be achieved earlier than 2030.

In Norway, 50 per cent of the total vehicles sold last year were EVs thanks to many incentives such as tax breaks offered by the government. Hong Kong had removed import duty on EVs, which made cost parity in the market.

Masdar is working with the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport to create a regulatory framework for EVs and autonomous vehicles in the emirate.

Developed by Masdar with the support of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the study provides an in-depth analysis of the paradigm shift now under way in the global transportation sector.

“Today, over four billion people — or 54 per cent of the world’s population — live in urban areas. This proportion will rise to 66 per cent by 2050,” the report said.

The transport sector accounts for about 30 per cent of global energy consumption and has the lowest renewable energy share of any sector, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. It accounts for around a quarter of the world’s energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions growth in the transport sector is the highest among all sectors, and is expected to increase by over one-third by 2030.

As cities grow, the infrastructure to keep the city moving often lags behind. Whether high-income or low-income, dense or sprawling, cities suffer from congestion, severe air pollution, traffic deaths, and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and noise pollution. These problems have been exacerbated by insufficient public transportation.

As existing cities evolve and new greenfield cities emerge, it is essential that public transport is improved, along with the management of private transportation, the report said.