By Joanne Taaffe

Automotive giants target
connected cities

Car companies BMW and Daimler said in yesterday’s opening keynote they want to change and shape the urban environment with a new €1 billion venture, while the director general of Smart Dubai opened up on how the city is combining new technologies to become more sustainable.

The German car makers are investing the sum to make it easier for customers to get around cities without needing to own a car.

Currently the venture combines Reach Now, a route management and booking service; Charge Now, which provides electric car charging; Free Now, a car-hailing service; Park Now for parking, and Share Now for car-sharing.

Dubai, meanwhile, is combining connectivity, AI and blockchain technologies to become more sustainable while simplifying how people use the city’s services.

The government has set itself the goal of moving from making 1 billion paper based transactions with its citizens to none by the end of 2021, said Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai during the session.

“The government will not issue or request paper documents. We have two years. We started last year and in less than six months we cut down 57 per cent of paper documents.”

Dubai aims to go from providing 1,600 services to offering 30 online journeys, one of which might be giving people the ability to own a car.

Bin Bishr explained that there are several steps involved in procuring a car, including getting a licence, searching for a vehicle and buying insurance. Via the online service, Dubai will provide all the steps in a one-stop-shop.

“The government and the private sector [will be] under one umbrella,” she added.

The new venture between Daimler and BMW will also depend on building a platform that takes a holistic view of the needs of customers.

“Everything we do is about network density. If you want people to stop buying cars you need a massive dense network,” said Mark Berg, CEO of Free Now.

Longer term, the companies are targeting the market for autonomous electric cars.