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Abu Dhabi: “If you have a car, it may be the last car you own in your life,” predicts a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author, quoting facts about technological advancements in the past few decades.

“It will happen purely due to economic reasons … not because of sustainability or climate change,” Tony Seba (right), author of Rethinking Transportation 2030, said in an interview with Gulf News during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that concluded on Thursday.

Using a driverless electric cab will be up to 10 times cheaper than owning a car in a few years, he predicts.

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As regulators in many countries such as the US are expected to start giving approval to Level 4 autonomous Electric Vehicles [EVs] in 2021, this shift will happen anytime from now, he explained.

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind will generate the electricity for these driverless electric vehicles, reducing 90 per cent of the carbon emission in the energy and transport sector.


When technological advancements in both renewable energy and autonomous EVs reduce their costs several times, new autonomous cab services like the existing ride-hailing apps [like Uber] will emerge to offer transportation services on demand.

“You can order a driverless cab on your mobile phone, which will immediately come and take you anywhere you want. It will be at least ten times cheaper than owning a car,” Seba explained. About 95 per cent of vehicles in 2030 will be on-demand autonomous electric vehicles.

His prediction means renewable energy and autonomous vehicles will be widely adopted in a few years due to very low costs.

However, International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the share of renewables in power generation will reach only 30 per cent in 2022, up from 24 per cent in 2016.


Over two million electric cars on the roads across globe are a minor fraction (0.2 per cent) of all cars in circulation.

Over 750,000 EVs sold worldwide in 2016 show a slowdown in market growth rate compared with the previous year — 40 per cent in 2016 versus 70 per cent in 2015, according to the IEA.

When these IEA figures were pointed out, Seba said: “Technological disruptions do not happen that way but in S-curve … once it hits the tipping point, it accelerates and takes 80 per cent of the market very quickly.

"It is not linear [growth]. For example, mainstream analysts make a mistake of assuming that 500 electric vehicles or PVs [solar photovoltaic panels] were sold last year and you expect ‘x’ per cent rise per year and reach 24 per cent by a particular year.”

He gives the forecast on mobile phones as an example. In 1985, a consultancy firm predicted that 900,000 mobile phones would be sold in the US in 2000. However, the actual number was 109 million.

They not only missed the fact that technology would get better, faster and cheaper but also there is an S-curve. Every technology adoption happened like S-curve, said.


Many developing countries leapfrogged to mobile phone infrastructure without never building land phone systems.

Likewise, emerging economies not having transportation infrastructure can leapfrog into driverless vehicles’ network.

Saba said this technological disruption would reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 80 per cent by 2030.

Governments can stop building new highways and the freed space in the existing road and parking infrastructure can be converted into gardens, playground etc.

People who cannot drive — the elderly, children and economically weaker sections — will get more mobility with driverless vehicles.

Although it would cause job losses, each family in the US will save around $6,000 per year with a total $1 trillion [Dh3.67 trillion] gain to the US economy.

Time savings for not driving can be utilised for productivity with another $1 trillion gain to the economy. This money can be utilised to compensate job losses, he said.