Greater Cairo (GC) is the largest urban area in the Middle East and one of the most populated cities in the world. The urban growth patterns of the metropolitan area reveal a fragmented city of heterogeneous parts that developed unplanned over the years. GC public transport network offers a large variety of means of transportation throughout three governorates but its lack of efficiency is forcing more and more people to use private cars. The extreme density of the urban fabric and the widespread congestion on the road network end up making the city’s livability very difficult.
Pamella de Leon, Startup Section Editor, on October 29, 2019, wrote in Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media the following.
Aside from private cars, taxis, and other four-wheeled vehicles, a ubiquitous sight on the streets of Cairo (and in other parts of the MENA, as well as the world at large) are the three-wheeled tuktuks and two-wheeled motorcycles to navigate daily traffic- and taking a bite out of the opportunity in the alternative transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan. The ride-sharing app for tuktuks, motorcycles, and tricycles -a first in the region- was launched in November 2017 in underserved communities in Cairo where roads tend to be too narrow for cars, and provided a cheaper alternative to cars and buses.
It grew across Giza, Alexandria, Minya, Luxor and Qalyubia governorates, and expanded to Sudan in 2018. It also offers on-demand logistics solutions to support large organizations and small businesses alike in their distribution and supply chain. Founded by Mounir Nakhla and Ahmed Mohsen, the former had the lightbulb moment when the idea was proposed to him by one of Gojek’s seed investors.
After meeting Nadiem Makarim, the CEO of Gojek, a startup that has been dubbed Indonesia’s first unicorn venture and has grown as an on-demand tech company for the transport, payment, and food sector, Nakhla was inspired from its success, and saw potential for a similar impact in Egypt. With Egypt’s population of more than 100 million, internet penetration, fast-growing sales of smartphone devices and a growing use of mobile apps, all the elements were positive, he notes.
“Transportation is one of the fastest ways of acquiring customers by solving a real need, and we wanted to be the app of choice for the underserved,” he says. “Egypt has north of 700,000 tuktuks already operating as taxis, and just over 1.5 million two-wheeler vehicles, used for both personal transportation and for delivery services, and this is where Halan comes in.”
As part of the startup’s efforts to organize the market and ensure safety, Nakhla says they also have a meticulous screening process when recruiting drivers. Besides offering convenience to customers, Nakhla says they also provide incremental business for their drivers, and thus increase their incomes.
The founder and CEO is no stranger to working with Egypt’s mobility scene and underserved communities- he co-founded Mashroey, an Egypt-based light transport financing business, and Tasaheel, an Egypt-based micro-financing venture, which Nakhla says, has served more than 1 million customers combined. And the rest of the founding team are veterans in the transport field too: co-founder and CTO Ahmed Mohsen has published several papers in IEEE on AI, was part of the founding team and a shareholder in SecureMisr, a security consultancy company in Egypt, and founded MusicQ and CircleTie.
Plus Mohamed Aboulnaga, Careem’s former Regional Director and Fawry’s Business Development Manager, joined as co-founder and COO. They also have key members who have worked previously with Uber and Ghabbour Auto, which has resulted in a team that is comprised of “technically very competent, passionate, creative, results-driven individuals with a high work ethic. Each one with a unique strength, that when brought together make for an unrivalled team.”
After launching in 2017, Nakhla says that the company was doing around 50,000 rides by March 2018, and they closed their Series A round in the same year in a round co-led by Battery Road Ventures Holdings (BRVH) and Algebra Ventures. As for their funding, Nakhla put in 20% of the seed capital and raised the rest from Raouf Ghabbour, founder of GB Auto, as well as BRVH.
According to Nakhla, Halan has so far raised single-digit millions in total, and are currently in the process of their Series B funding round. The company’s business model involves taking a percentage of the ride fare as commission. Currently serving more than 100,000 customers, Halan has exceeded 10 million rides and operates in around 20-25 cities in Egypt and Sudan. As for its on-demand logistics offering, Halan is currently partnering with prominent names in the fast-food industry, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardees, and many more. The startup has also been recently awarded Fastest-Growing Mobility Solution in the Market during the second edition of the E-Commerce Summit in September this year.
Mark Anthony Karam in an October 21, 2019, article that is a response to his “Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?” elaborates on possibilities of moving around obviously the plush urban centres of the GCC. But only during certain times of the year unless a personalised Air Conditioning apparatus is provided with the ‘cyacle’. The image above is credit to The National.ae .
With the rest of the world continues to see the micro-mobility sector enjoy growing success, could we see a similar success in the GCC?
Micro mobility was an ideal solution to the last-mile issue in countries like China or the US
The GCC might not be as ideal for a replicated success
There are several factors today that pose obstacles impeding its growth
Micro mobility, which involves light-weighted means of transportation like electric scooters and bikes for short trips, usually in urban areas, has continued to grow internationally. Countries like China, the United States and many EU nations are finding great success with this novel sector, which builds on many of the concepts of the sharing economy that innovators like Uber brought into the mainstream.
Lime and Bird, US rivals in the sector, reached unicorn status in a handful of years each since their founding. One of the reasons for their sudden success is that they solved the long-standing last-mile issue, capitalizing on a neglected market gap.
The GCC goes mobile Today in the GCC, some are attempting to solve this last-mile problem as well. Earlier this year, Careem announced that it had acquired Abu Dhabi bikeshare startup Cyacle, which would add a micro-mobility offering to their services. Launched in December 2014, Cyacle is a fully-automated docked bike-share service currently operating in Abu Dhabi. Stations run 24-hours a day via an app, a touch screen kiosk and docking system that releases bikes using a ride code or a member key.
At the time, Careem had also announced that it was partnering with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to install 350 bike docking stations across the Emirates, where citizens would have access to 3,500 bicycles to bike share.
Another firm, Dubai-based Arnab Mobility, is also providing a similar service.
“Global cities are currently trying to find solutions to the global warming problems mainly caused by fossil fuel vehicles,” Dr. Dheeraj Bhardwaj, Group CEO of Arnab Mobility, tells Gulf News. He ponders an age-old question: “Also, city inhabitants and visitors struggle with first/last mile transportation, congestion and expenses. How efficient is it for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person two to three miles? Conventional transportation systems are currently insufficient with people dealing daily with traffic, a lack of parking spaces, as well as long walks from bus stops and metro stations.”
Yet, while these solutions offer a service on par with international counterparts, it is important to remember the financial, cultural, and climate situation of the region.
Firstly, it is important to remember that the GCC region is known for its oil-derived wealth, with many nationals owning multiple vehicles and often employing personal drivers to help family members commute. Secondly, travel distances for major outings are already quite short.
“With urbanization on the rise, the majority of trips people take fall within the category of micro-mobility and thus are prime candidates for bike and scooter usage. In the US, for instance, roughly 60% of all trips are 5 miles or less,” CBinsights explains.
One of the reasons micro-mobility solutions are so attractive abroad is because of their perceived value for the service provided. Instead of paying a whopping fee for a taxi get you across 4 city blocks in New York, a US citizen would opt to rent a Lime scooter for a fraction of the cost. In the GCC, with its small-sized nations, large roads and affordable taxi services, this is not yet a problem. The countries in the region, save for Saudi Arabia, are sometimes comparable to entire Western cities in size. Bahrain, for example, has an area of 765.3 km², which is half the size of London (1,572 km²).
Therefore, from a financial and spatial perspective, micro-mobility services might struggle.
Then arises the issue of culture perceptions. While women have been driving for more than a year now in Saudi Arabia for example, breaking gender bias and perception is still an ongoing challenge. The country is certainly moving towards progress, but micro-mobility firms will have to consider this nonetheless. Also, consider that environmental awareness and consideration only just recently began to receive mass attention in the region in the past few years. Getting people to opt for bikes over a more convenient car ride will still prove a struggle.
Finally, and perhaps the most glaring of the issues plaguing micro-mobility companies in the region, is the climate and weather. The GCC is infamous for its scorching desert sun and sweltering heat. While public transportation like the Dubai metro or public buses offer some reprieve from the heat with their AC units, an e-scooter or bike doesn’t. When it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside and you need to just get home after a long day at work, a taxi or Uber, even for the higher fee, will prove the go-to choice. That remains the sector’s greatest obstacle. How it addresses it is still in question.
Mark Anthony Karam has 4 years of experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
AMEinfo on September 5, 2019, came up with this superlative statement article because Dubai remains one of the world’s most visited cities in the world of today. The same media has already covered the same topic last year.
“The impressive visitor numbers are set to increase even further next year, as we welcome 192 nations for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at Expo 2020 Dubai” – Sanjive Khosla, CCO, Expo 2020 Dubai
Dubai welcomed 15.93 million overnight visitors in 2018, retaining its ranking as fourth most popular destination globally
Abu Dhabi is Middle East and Africa’s fastest-growing city with a 2009-2018 CAGR of 16.7%
When looking at the cities by dollar spent, Dubai tops the list with travellers spending USD $553 on average a day
Dubai has retained its position as the fourth most visited city in the world for the fifth year in a row, according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI) 2019. The city welcomed 15.93 million international overnight visitors last year and the city is expected to continue building on its success in 2019.
The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest-growing city in the Middle East and Africa, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.7% between 2009 and 2018 in overnight arrivals.
“Once again, Dubai has earned and maintained its position as the fourth most visited city in the world in Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index. As the most attractive destination in the Middle East and Africa region for international visitors, Dubai connects people from all over the world with a diverse range of offerings for leisure and business travellers alike,” said Girish Nanda, General Manager, UAE & Oman, Mastercard.
Sanjive Khosla, Chief Commercial Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The impressive visitor numbers are set to increase even further next year, as we welcome 192 nations for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at Expo 2020 Dubai. With millions of visitors projected to come from outside the UAE, we anticipate that the region’s first ever World Expo will create short- and long-term benefits for Dubai’s tourism industry while enhancing its reputation as a dynamic and diverse global meeting point.”
Mastercard Global Destination City Index 2019 – Key Findings
Over the past ten years, the world has seen economic ebbs and flows, evolving global competition and partnership, and boundless technological innovation. But, one thing has remained constant: people’s growing desire to travel the world, visit new landscapes and immerse themselves in other cultures. Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, released today, quantifies this desire: since 2009, the number of international overnight visitors grew an astounding 76 per cent.
This year, the Global Destination Cities Index—which ranks 200 cities based on proprietary analysis of publicly available visitor volume and spend data—reveals that Bangkok remains the No. 1 destination, with more than 22 million international overnight visitors. Paris and London, in flipped positions this year, hold the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively both hovering over 19 million. All top ten cities saw more international overnight visitors in 2018 than the prior year, with the exception of London, which decreased nearly 4 per cent. The forecast for 2019 indicates across-the-board growth, with Tokyo expecting the largest uptick in visitors.
When looking at the cities by dollar spent, Dubai tops the list with travellers spending USD $553 on average a day. Makkah, new to the top 10 last year, remains at No. 2 for the second consecutive year, with Bangkok rounding out the top three.
Notably this year, the Global Destination Cities Index offers a decade of insights to consider, with three key trends standing out.
-Consistent & Steady Growth: Over the past decade, the one constant has been continual change. Each year, more people are travelling internationally and spending more in the cities. Between all of the destinations within the Index, arrivals have grown on average 6.5 per cent year-over-year since 2009, with expenditure growing on average 7.4 per cent.
-The Sustained Dominance of Major Cities: While there has been significant movement in visitors to smaller cities, the top 10 has remained largely consistent. London, Paris and Bangkok have been the top 3 since 2010, with Bangkok as No. 1 six of the past seven years. New York is another top 10 stalwart, with 13.6 million overnight visitors this year.
-The Rise of Asia-Pacific International Travelers: Cities in the Asia-Pacific region have seen the largest increase in international travellers since 2009, growing 9.4 per cent. In comparison, Europe, which saw the second highest growth, was up 5.5 per cent. This is spurred on by the growth in mainland Chinese travellers. Since 2009, mainland China has jumped up six places to be the No. 2 origin country for travellers to the 200 included destinations—behind only the U.S.
Today isWorld Cities Day 2018and it is hosted by the city of Liverpool, UK and the event is being jointly organised with UN-Habitat and the Shanghai People’s Government.
The event is being attended by mayors, national and local government experts, representatives from global partnerships and coalitions and academics from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the USA. Panel sessions and seminars will give cities opportunities to exchange knowledge and best practices and focus international attention on sustainable urbanization.
In the meantime, here is a picture of what is going on in the world.
UN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu Cities in developing countries like Nairobi in Kenya continue to grow rapidly.
The migration of some 1.4 million people every week to cities around the world “can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters’” according to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
In his message for World Cities Day, celebrated annually on 31 October, Mr. Guterres stressed that “hazards do not need to become disasters.”
“The answer is to build resilience – to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises,” he said.
Mr. Guterres explained that cities around the world are doing just that, forging new ways to increase resilience and sustainability.
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods.
In Quito, the capital of Ecuador in South America, local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity.
The UN chief also indicated that the city of Johannesburg in South Africa “is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.”
World Cities Day was established by the UN to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), flagged the importance of investing in resilience or face growing “economic, social, political and human” risks.
“It has been estimated that without action on climate change – which accounts for just one facet of resilience – some 77 million urban residents risk falling into poverty,” she warned, elaborating that human-made and environmental threats ranged from droughts, floods and fires to economic shocks, disease outbreaks, war and migration.
“Investing in resilience is a wise investment,” the UN Habitat chief said.
The theme of this year’s commemoration, Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities, focuses on the need to preserve human life and limit damage and destruction while continuing to provide infrastructure and services after a crisis.
There is no doubt that urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . lifestyle of many had a definite bearing on life on earth generally. The causes could perhaps be attributed to the recent additional availability of high earnings in the developing world’s peoples, and this had a direct impact if only by their sheer numbers on the whole planet. These trends got concentrated as elaborated on in the proposed article of Audrey de Nazelle, Lecturer in air pollution management, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London in certain regions only of the globe.
So, would urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . life generally, have a similar impact on all those ‘left behind’ other regions?
“It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air” Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Air pollution is now the fourth biggest killer in the world after smoking, high blood pressure and diet. It contributes to more than six million deaths every year. The majority of these are in poorer nations. Worryingly, air quality may become increasingly worse with rapidly expanding urbanization.
More than half the world’s population now live in cities. By 2050, this will reach two thirds. As more people move from rural areas to cities, there will be more cars on the roads, more traffic congestion hotspots near homes and workplaces, and less green space.
City dwellers are already suffering from fumes and smog on their daily commutes. It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air.
Why do nations, political leaders, experts and campaigning organisations want to reduce air pollution? The main reason is to improve people’s health. But we can be bolder than simply mitigating this problem by trying to reduce particle concentrations. There is an exciting opportunity to go much further, and fundamentally rethink the way cities work.
Paradoxically, air pollution can spur us to transform public health and infrastructure, and change how we design cities in the future.
We currently spend a lot of time focusing on ways to reduce emissions or develop cleaner and more efficient fuels. Lawmakers apply taxes and levies or ban older cars in cities. The car industry is seeing a boom in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are much more environmentally friendly.
Of course, these solutions play an important role in cleaning up our urban air. But we are missing a huge opportunity to take a more holistic approach to the health and well-being of people living in cities.
For example, what if we rethought the purpose of our streets. Are they really just meant for cars to get from A to B? Or can we see them as a place to walk and cycle, where children play and neighbours meet?
Smog surrounds the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral in London Image: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
By removing cars from cities, you are not just reducing emissions – there are countless other benefits. Researchers in London studied the health impacts of cutting emissions by two different methods. The first scenario used a technology-led policy, while the second promoted walking and cycling instead of driving.
Both scenarios resulted in similar levels of improved air quality. But the method which encouraged people to walk and cycle generated up to 30 times more benefits, due to health improvements from increased physical activity. I have carried out similar research in other cities and reached the same conclusions.
Sadly, current levels of air pollution may be putting people off from enjoying the outdoors and getting regular physical activity. A recent study in London compared the health effects of a walk in Hyde Park against one along Oxford Street. For people over 60, toxic air pollution cancelled out some of the benefits they got from the light physical activity.
And in some of the world’s most polluted cities, such as Delhi and Beijing, cycling for more than an hour every day can do more harm to you than good.
Smog over the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, Thailand Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Some cities have announced car-free or car-less visions, including Milan, Copenhagen, Madrid and Paris. Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city centre permanently by 2019. Chengdu in China is designing a new residential area in which people will be able to walk everywhere easily, reducing the need for cars.
Although it was forgotten for a while, we do have some history of planning cities with public health in mind. The urban sanitarians in the mid-1850s called for new planning strategies that included more green space, better ventilation through streets and increased sunlight into homes, to combat the epidemics of the time – cholera and the plague.
These people made their mark on their respective cities through a conscious effort of planning for better health. We’re hoping to make similar strides again. Imperial’s Network of Excellence in Air Quality aims to identify the next big frontiers in air quality research, collaborating across disciplines to deliver new insights. Scientists and researchers from medicine, engineering, business and other disciplines are coming together to share expertise and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges.
My colleagues, Dr Marc Stettler, Dr Laure de Preux and I will be exploring some of these issues with peers and global leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin in China later this year.
Like the urban sanitarians of nearly 200 years ago, we again have the opportunity to design our cities to improve public health. I have no doubt that we will get there, and that we will realize this new vision of what streets and neighbourhoods are for – a place for people to live in, not just cars. Why not start now, and start reaping the benefits
Encouraging bicycles and investing in public transport are just some of the ways Chinese cities are trying to minimise car use Photo credit: chuyu. But can Chinese cities leave the car behind? Let us read Liu Shaokun.
For years, Chinese city planners have prioritised cars, but they’re now taking a different route, writes Liu Shaokun.
Plagued by congestion and air pollution, China’s cities are exploring models of transportation that are more sustainable in terms of their social, environmental and climate impacts. Some have emerged as global leaders, such as Hangzhou, south-west of Shanghai, which in 2017 won an international award for its municipal bike sharing scheme. More recently Shenzhen, a major city north of Hong Kong, electrified its entire fleet of public buses, gaining worldwide recognition.
Over the past 40 years, China has undergone rapid urbanisation. In the 1980s, the one-time “kingdom of the bicycle” saw economic reforms and the transition to motorised transportation. The country is now shifting again, this time towards modern, sustainable transportation. Today, you can use your mobile phone to unlock a shared bike, ride it along with a dedicated cycle path to the nearest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station, park the bike and ride on to your next destination. Such journeys are already an everyday occurrence in many Chinese cities.
As the world’s largest developing nation, China’s experience of large-scale experiments with transport and implementation are of huge value to other developing countries.
Urban rail and bus rapid transit: A response to rapid motorisation
China started large-scale construction of urban rail and bus rapid transit options in 2004. By the third quarter of 2017, 29 Chinese cities had some form of urban rail (defined as subways, light-rail, monorail and automated people movers, or APMs), with 118 lines stretching a total of 3,862 kilometres and carrying 17.68 billion passengers per year.
Urban rail systems in Shanghai and Beijing are longer than London’s and busier than those of New York and Paris. Urban rail in some Chinese cities accounts for about half of all public transport journeys.
But rail transit is expensive. The World Bank recommends developing nations adopt the medium-capacity and bus-based BRT model – an approach also welcomed by China’s city bosses. The design of Beijing’s BRT system, launched in 2005, drew on the experiences of Latin American countries such as Brazil’s dedicated “corridors”, separate lanes specifically for BRT buses; enclosed stations; fast and frequent services; off-board fare collection; and good information for passengers. As of early 2018, 32 Chinese cities have BRT systems, with over ten more cities planning, designing or building them. The BRT system in Curitiba, southern Brazil, was a major influence on the early designs of China’s own BRT systems.
In the early days, China’s application of Latin American BRT systems experienced some problems around integration with existing bus routes, and designs had to be adjusted to make them more appropriate for the specific structural needs of Chinese cities. China had a larger number of existing bus routes running along BRT corridors, meaning the impacts of the new lanes was limited. Whereas in Curitiba, the dedicated system only allowed a small number of routes to run along the corridor.
In 2009, Guangzhou province implemented a “dedicated corridor and flexible routes” model, allowing non-BRT buses to use the corridor, and BRT routes to operate outside it, which improved travel times.
Guangzhou’s BRT system also has a transport corridor, which fully combines different forms of transport. The corridor can handle 28,000 passengers per hour in peak direction – more than most subways and more than any light rail system worldwide. In 2011 the Guangzhou BRT system won the Sustainable Transport Award and the UN Lighthouse Award.
A BRT station in Jiangsu province, China. Photo credit: Conny Hetting 2012.
A people-centred street revolution
In response to the damage done by motorised transport to urban mobility, air quality and health, Chinese cities have started remoulding urban spaces. When it comes to design, there is a greater focus on how people interact and live.
When it comes to design, there is a greater focus on how people interact and live .
In 2016, Shanghai published the seminal Shanghai Street Design Guide, which signalled a shift in core urban design values away from cars and towards people. The guide emphasised walking and cycling – a previously overlooked consideration – and a reduction of space for vehicles. This aimed to prioritise slower forms of transport, providing space for pedestrians and ensuring the free flow of bicycles, in order to create a more pleasant and convenient environment.
Alongside Shanghai and Guangzhou, dozens of other cities including Wuhan and Nanjing began working on their own guides to urban street design. More and more cities are joining the revolution.
The Guangzhou Comprehensive Street Design Handbook tested turns of 4m, 5m, 8m, 10m and 12m radius with cars, 9-metre buses and 12-metre buses. Photo credit: Guangzhou City Planning Design and Research Institute.
Embracing innovation: the electric bicycle and shared bike schemes
As China continues to urbanise, commuters need new forms of transport. Electric bicycles and the more recent shared bike schemes, pioneered by brands including Ofo and Mobike, have swept the nation. They have met the public need for both speed and convenience. But the influx of bikes has also been blamed for clogging up pavements and roadsides and causing a public nuisance.
By 2014, China had over 200 million electric bicycles, which represented the main form of transport for countless households. As of May 2015, over 10 million bikes had been placed around Chinese cities as part of shared bike schemes, with over 100 million registered users making over one billion trips. This has saved large amounts of carbon emissions, private companies and governments claim.
Electric bicycles do not directly produce any pollutants, they take up little space on roads and are suitable for short and medium-length journeys. They are faster than conventional bicycles, less tiring to ride, and reasonably cheap. The ability to rent and park shared bikes with few restrictions has encouraged their use in cities. The electric bicycle is an excellent option in cities with underdeveloped public transport systems, while shared bikes can help cover the “last mile” problem – the last leg of a journey, between a transport hub or connecting stop, and home – in instances where public transport is insufficient, replacing short-distance car journeys.
Data from bike-sharing firm Mobike shows that 81% of Beijing’s shared bikes are used around public transportation stops. The figure rises to 90% in Shanghai.
A first-quarter 2017 transportation report from mapping firm AutoNavi found the number of car journeys of five kilometres or less falling since shared bikes became available. Both Shanghai and Beijing saw drops of 5%.
Chinese cities have had to adapt quickly to the boom in shared bikes, including careless parking and dumping. Photo credit: Slices of Light.
But these rapidly developing forms of transport present city planners with challenges. Electric bikes are relatively fast and their numbers are rapidly increasing but they have become a major cause of traffic accidents. Between 2013 and 2017 there were 56,200 accidents caused by electric bicycles resulting in death or injury in China, with 8,431 people killed and 63,500 injured. The biggest issue with shared bikes, meanwhile, is inconsiderate parking, the underlying cause of which is a lack of infrastructure and a long-standing failure to legislate for bicycle use.
So these new forms of transport often come into conflict with city managers. However, the government is gaining valuable experience as it attempts to design policies for their use. For example, China initially limited the speed and weight of electric bicycles, a controversial move with the public. Some local governments simply banned or limited their use.
These attempts eventually led to the “Nanning model”, named after the city in the southern Guangxi province near the border with Vietnam, which abandoned outright bans in favour of optimising traffic signals, improving signage and road safety education. This enabled the city and the electric bicycle to co-exist.
Similarly, the central government has issued regulations to guide the rapid uptake of shared bike schemes in an effort to steer, rather than stop, their growth. Some cities have also started to improve and expand infrastructure such as bike lanes to boost “bike-friendliness.”
ZAWYA of October 30th, 2017 published this piece of information on the GCC rail network development completion postponement in the countries and its current progress status. The planned network per the local media was already hampered by not only financial difficulties as State budgets were tightened because of low oil prices but to also technical and bureaucratic obstacles prior to the 5 months old political crisis within the Gulf countries.
Train tracks. The planned 2,100 km (1,300 mile) passenger and cargo network connecting the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states was pushed back at least three years to 2021.
Alexander Cornwell, Reuters News
DUBAI – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) infrastructure minister said on Monday he expected a delayed rail project connecting nations across the Gulf to be operational by 2021, despite a regional political crisis that has divided some countries involved. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, including transport links, in June, accusing their neighbour of backing terrorism, a charge Doha denies. Two other Gulf Arab states, Kuwait and Oman, have remained neutral. Infrastructure Development Minister Abdullah Belhaif al-Nuaimi told Reuters that Gulf nations involved in the railway project were still aiming to complete the network by 2021.
“That is still the date,” he said. The planned 2,100 km (1,300 mile) passenger and cargo network connecting the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states was pushed back at least three years to 2021 before the political crisis erupted.
The UAE suspended construction of its portion of the network in 2016, while Oman said it would shift its focus to building its domestic network. “It’s going forward. We still have small hiccups here and there but the project, hopefully, is going forward,” Al-Nuaimi said without giving details on whether construction has resumed. Several projects across the region have been put on hold as Gulf oil producers struggle with low crude prices and rising budget deficits. The UAE network will span the country’s seven emirates from the Gulf of Oman to the Saudi and Omani borders. It would connect to Qatar through Saudi Arabia’s network. (Editing by Edmund Blair) ((Alexander.Cornwell@thomsonreuters.com;))
Following our article “The end of ever-rising consumption of Oil is in sight” here is something that is close and related to that, e.g. Self-driving cars. It is about when will robotics be applied to our transportation modes and be made accessible to the public at large.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence that are obviously required in any self-driving vehicle have been in and out of our life for so many years that I personally cannot recall anytime without it either hearing and / or being talked about it, disserted on, etc. As a matter of fact, there has never been in the technological world as much change as there is now and still is.
The prevalence of the combustion engine car has never been as much under question as it is now because of its direct impact on the environment.
There is still strong belief however (as per confirmed forecasts) that the number of this type of cars worldwide will increase from less of today’s billion to something short of 2 billion by 2035 whilst that of the electric car would be from 0.1% to 6% of that figure.
McKinsey Automotive & Assembly in an article covering their insights produced an enlightening review of the on-going work in progress. Here it is with our compliments to the team of authors.
Self-driving car technology: When will the robots hit the road?
By Kersten Heineke, Philipp Kampshoff, Armen Mkrtchyan, and Emily Shao
As cars achieve initial self-driving thresholds, some supporters insist that fully autonomous cars are around the corner. But the technology tells a (somewhat) different story.
The most recent people targeted for replacement by robots? Car drivers—one of the most common occupations around the world. Automotive players face a self-driving-car disruption driven largely by the tech industry, and the associated buzz has many consumers expecting their next cars to be fully autonomous. But a close examination of the technologies required to achieve advanced levels of autonomous driving suggests a significantly longer timeline; such vehicles are perhaps five to ten years away.
Around the world, the number of ADAS systems (for instance, those for night vision and blind-spot vehicle detection) rose from 90 million units in 2014 to about 140 million in 2016—a 50 percent increase in just two years. Some ADAS features have greater uptake than others. The adoption rate of surround-view parking systems, for example, increased by more than 150 percent from 2014 to 2016, while the number of adaptive front-lighting systems rose by around 20 percent in the same time frame (Exhibit 1).
Both the customer’s willingness to pay and declining prices have contributed to the technology’s proliferation. A recent McKinsey survey finds that drivers, on average, would spend an extra $500 to $2,500 per vehicle for different ADAS features. Although at first they could be found only in luxury vehicles, many original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) now offer them in cars in the $20,000 range. Many higher-end vehicles not only autonomously steer, accelerate, and brake in highway conditions but also act to avoid vehicle crashes and reduce the impact of imminent collisions. Some commercial passenger vehicles driving limited distances can even park themselves in extremely tight spots.
But while headway has been made, the industry hasn’t yet determined the optimum technology archetype for semiautonomous vehicles (for example, those at SAE level 3) and consequently remains in the test-and-refine mode. So far, three technology solutions have emerged:
Camera over radar relies predominantly on camera systems, supplementing them with radar data.
Radar over camera relies primarily on radar sensors, supplementing them with information from cameras.
The hybrid approach combines light detection and ranging (lidar), radar, camera systems, and sensor-fusion algorithms to understand the environment at a more granular level.
The cost of these systems differs; the hybrid approach is the most expensive one. However, no clear winner is yet apparent. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. The radar-over-camera approach, for example, can work well in highway settings, where the flow of traffic is relatively predictable and the granularity levels required to map the environment are less strict. The combined approach, on the other hand, works better in heavily populated urban areas, where accurate measurements and granularity can help vehicles navigate narrow streets and identify smaller objects of interest.
According to Wikipedia, Tesla, Inc. (formerly named Tesla Motors) is an American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. The company was initially founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, although the company also considers Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright amongst its co-founders. With Tesla to market its electric cars in the MENA region, the reactions did not take time to come out into the open as per the proposed articles of the local media.
Tesla Model X in Dubai
In the current conjecture, SME Advisor Middle East, a consulting firm aimed at business owners and senior executives across the GCC came up with an article on Tesla’s ambitious promotional campaign in the Gulf reproduced here.
Elon Musk’s announcement officially introducing Tesla’s zero-emission e-car Models S and X to Dubai is all the rage this week.
But why all the hoopla? The Tesla is by no means an easy buy at an estimated price tag of AED 275,000 for the sedan version and AED 344,000 for the SUV. But this is the UAE. Looks matter, and so does 0 to 60. This is where people can drive and own vehicles that are considered a dream elsewhere. Truth be told, the Tesla is probably just going to be another expensive car on UAE roads.
Sustainability has been the UAE Government’s favourite buzzword for a few years now. In 2015, the government linked domestic petrol and diesel prices to the global market; removing subsidies that had cost US$1bn a year over the last decade. Besides the positive fiscal impact, the move was part of a wider realignment of the energy policy geared to minimising the UAE’s carbon footprint. Just last month, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE), the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced new targets to cut down carbon emissions by increasing the green mobility share; aiming for one in every ten cars on Dubai roads to be either a hybrid or fully electric. A major UAE bank has just announced a special loan to allow residents to buy and drive electric and hybrid cars of their choice. And the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) has just ordered 200 Tesla e-cars for its fleet.
Is the trend evident yet?
The shift to sustainability is happening now, and not a moment too soon. The transition from being a petro-economy to one based on a mix of predominantly clean energy sources won’t happen overnight; but it ishappening. Implications will be far-reaching – affecting purchase choices, carmakers, energy companies, insurers, health care, government funding, and more. Value shifts as a new ecosystem of mobility emerges.
Which is why Musk’s announcement has echoed so loudly. The Tesla founder didn’t just announce the introduction of his cars in the UAE; he promised to aid the setting up of a whole e-car ecosystem. Pledging tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructure is not just a huge challenge; it could perhaps be the catalyst the country needs to start buying electric. With Tesla, sustainable personal transport has finally arrived.
The UAE has had a long-standing love affair with cars, and has been a lot slower in introducing electric vehicles on its roads. The good news is that it is still ahead of other countries in the region. Fossil fuel is only going to get scarcer, and prices are only going to go higher. The introduction of the e-car might not spark a tsunami transition in buying habits. But what it will begin is a rising tide of sorts that will expedite the UAE Government’s efforts to shift its dependence on oil – to clean, renewable energy sources. And will Tesla be the car that drives us into a sustainable future? If Elon Musk has his way, it will.
Tesla’s drive was also reviewed by AMEinfo and the following article was posted on 16 February 2017.
Tesla announced a regional debut, but are we ready for it?. (Image: Alamy)
Large parts of MENA region are still struggling with basics
Many countries in region don’t have the necessary infrastructure
High cost of such vehicles may be another hindrance
Tesla, the manufacturer of autonomous electric vehicles, made headlines this week when it announced a market debut for the Middle East region, through Dubai.
And buying has already started. The emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) signed on Monday an agreement on the sidelines of the World Government Summit to buy 200 Tesla vehicles. The vehicles would be fitted with multiple autonomous driving technologies.
Tesla also started accepting online orders through its website, with initial deliveries expected this summer.
The company also opened a pop-up store in Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping centre, allowing potential buyers to experience Tesla and learn about benefits of ownership. In addition to its Dubai activities, the automaker plans to open a store and a service centre in Abu Dhabi by 2018.
These moves seem to signal the major advent of autonomous vehicles in the UAE and the wider MENA region, but are we really ready?
No room for growth
Tesla’s announced activities are currently limited to the emirate of Dubai and near-future plans include the UAE as a whole, but it has not yet announced any plans for other countries in Middle East, or the larger MENA region. While Musk said there are plans to expand to other Gulf countries, nothing has been officially announced.
However, the UAE is relatively small market in size compared with the larger MENA region. Apart from a few neighbouring countries still benefitting from oil dollars, many other nations in the MENA region is still struggling with basics; either picking up the pieces from political uprisings, or embroiled in civil war and terror threats, making them not the greatest markets in terms of opportunity.
This could well be the reason why Musk kept the MENA region as a stop after China, as the latter was more of a priority.
Tesla also brought its sophisticated Supercharger and Destination charging network to the emirate. It opened two Supercharging locations at The Last Exit in Jebel Ali and in Masdar City, allowing drivers to recharge their vehicles in minutes rather than hours. UAE is already home to a number of Tesla’s Destination chargers, which are available at 26 locations across the UAE, including hotels and shopping malls.
By the end of the year, Tesla will open five additional Supercharger locations, enabling long distance travel across every route into and out of the country.
As we have the UAE’s sophisticated infrastructure, including smooth roads and services needed for maintaining and operating the charging centres, such luxuries don’t exist in other MENA countries.
Some countries are just now looking to overhaul their infrastructure, such as Kuwait which announced projects worth $15.6 billion for financial year 2017-2018, or Lebanon, which just received $200 million from the World Bank Group for road repairs.
Other countries also suffer from deadly infrastructural roadblocks that cannot be solved through a few projects, but rather need a comprehensive urban development plan and time for execution, such as Egypt, with its traffic clogs and overpopulation.
Tesla made its regional debut with two flagship cars, Model S and Model X, priced at AED287,000 and AED356,700 for the basic models, excluding taxes and government fees, according to Tesla’s website.
While the UAE has one of the highest GDPs in the Arab world, estimated by the World Bank at $370bn in 2015, other countries lag behind as they struggle with political and economic instability.
For instance, Lebanon’s GDP stands at $47bn, Jordan’s is at $37bn and in North Africa, there are higher GDPs but much larger populations, such as Algeria, whose GDP stands at $166bn, but the country had a population of 39m, as of 2013.
However, Tesla seems to be aware of this factor, which is why its plans for the foreseeable future are limited to the UAE.
I note with satisfaction in this month of February 2017 that the respective Departments of Energy and Transport will be taking actions as recommended alas ten years earlier, by an audit carried out under my direction and assisted by the then leaders and managers of State Oil Company ‘SONATRACH’, independent experts and world-renowned Ernst Young consultants (1). As it is never too late for a realistic industrial policy, it is an encouraging message to all to see and appreciate.
Having been interviewed by the economic commission of the Algerian National Congress to which I presented the main conclusions, I drew the attention of the Government of the day on the urgency of a new fuel policy, and focus on the LPG, the “Bupro” for all heavy vehicles, (positive effect on the environment), the majority of cars and trucks running on diesel or gasoline including those of administration and public enterprises. History, with strong imports between 2009 / 2015 Bill gave us reason.
Here is yet again my view on the said subject.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the National Automobile Parc (NAP) of Algeria totalled 5,683,156 vehicles as at end of 2015, an increase of 4.75% or 250,000 units if compared to year 2014.)
By category of vehicles, the NAP in 2014 is made of individual cars with 3,483,047 units (64.2% of the total), of pickups with 1,083,990 (near 20%), of trucks with 396,377 (5.4%), of farming tractors with 146,041 (2.7%), of trailers with 134,019 (2.47%), of coaches and buses with 82,376 (1.52%), motorcycles with 20,380 (0.38%) and special vehicles with 4,756 (0.1%).
The distribution of the NAP for year 2014, according to ages of vehicles showed that the number of under 5 years had reached 1,253,731 units (23.11%), from 5 to 9 years to 933,006 vehicles (17.2%), 346,788 (6.4%) of 10 to 14 years, 15-19 years with 214,287 units (3.95%), 20 and more with 2,677,746 (49,35%). This increase in the NAP was explained by the increase in registrations of new vehicles in 2015 compared to 2014 of more than 900,000 units, or 7.72%.
For 2015, the distribution by age showed that the number of under 5 years had reached 1,368,549 units, (24.08%), from 5 to 9 years 892,196 units (15.70%), 10 – 14 years of 508,815 units (8.95%), from 15 – 19 years 187,067 (3.29%) and more than 20 years 2,726,529 (47.98%).
By spatial distribution, Algiers was top with 1,496,561 units (26.33%), Blida with 311,024 (5.47%), Oran 293,156 (5.16%), Constantine with 204,843 (3.60%) and Tizi-Ouzou with 199,507 (3.51%).
As for the imported quantities, these fell 73.74% with 53,356 vehicles imported between early January and late July 2016, against 203,174 units during the same period in 2015, or 149,818 vehicles less, according to the National Center for Statistics (CNIS) of the Customs. As a reminder, vehicles import licences awarded, were in May 2016, granted to 40 dealers of 80 applicants. Initially set to 152,000 units for year 2016, the vehicles import quota was finally reduced to 83,000 units. According to the Ministry of Trade, import to 2016 Bill does not exceed a billion Dollars up from $3.14 billion in 2015 (265,523 units) and $5.7 billion in 2014 (417,913 units).
But important note regarding all parts and accessories of all motor vehicles; these are expected to increase during the coming years if the rate of integration does not exceed 40 / 50% and if all scheduled units were assembled, it would mean a return to the old import bill, since these accessories costs decreased between 2015/2016 by only 4% without these units being still operational.
For the type of fuel used, in 2014, gasoline represented 65% and the Diesel 34%, the use of LPG being marginal, less than 2% and for 2015, gasoline represented 65,67% and Diesel 34.33% so no significant change. From January to end of May 2016, certainly because of the rising prices, Normal gasoline sales declined by 2% between the same period of 2015 to 2016, that of the Super fell 11%, an increase of 2% for Diesel, consumption rose by 2% and the LPG quantities marketed during the period from January to May 2016 experienced an increase of 14%, all according to the National Society of Marketing and Distribution of petroleum products (NAFTAL); information covered by the APS.
Thus according to NAFTAL, the aggregate of sales of fuels in the first five months of the year 2016 (figures in brackets are those of the same period of 2015). These are:
So is a new model of energy consumption as I had recommended previously, see note (1) that Algeria had to change its model of energy consumption, to review its policy of subsidies which need to be targeted (as per lesson learned from a mission to Malaysia experience), to focus on the GPL and the GNW for all big carriers; the BUPRO to be reserved for all impoverished areas in the Highlands and the South because it does not require the separation of propane and butane, and thus save huge investments of refining complexes.
Because of the extrapolation of internal demand on growth, before a declining supply, the report predicted massive import of diesel and unleaded gasoline by 2010 / 2014. The report stressed the importance of an active policy of storage for a balanced and supportive space to avoid supply disruptions. Unfortunately, the recommendations have not been implemented. According to the report of the World Bank to 2014, fuel subsidies in 2014 have exceeded $20 billion, one third of the State’s annual budget, while the wealthy 10% of the population consumes more fuel than the remaining 90%.
Moreover, Algeria remains one of the few African countries that still uses leaded gasoline and by the way does partly import it. According to a report by the UN program for the environment (UNEP) published in April 2014 where the sulphur content in Algerian gas was found to be between 500 and 2000 ppm must conform to international standards by generalizing unleaded gasoline. Algeria should therefore put an end to the production of leaded gasoline and produce the two well-known types of the 90 and 95 unleaded gasoline.
For this and because it is appropriate to avoid any supply disruption that poses a threat to national security, I recall that the Minister of Energy at the time announced on April 16, 2015 before MPs that storage capacity are reduced by 7 to 10 days and that an amount of $200 million would be unlocked to make that to 30 days by 2020. This is strategic management which should take into account the specificity of each region, to deal with the consequences of a shortage that can paralyze strategic sectors.
Thus, strategic inventories, distinguishing three main complementary systems, private stocks, State stocks prevailing in the USA, Japan, Germany, France and agency (public or private) stocks, are the result of Government policies established to meet a serious break in supply, related to an international oil crisis, a strike of navigation, a political boycott, a natural disaster, or even to a lack of foresight on behalf of the management of exports of some countries.
For example, for France, it is required that oil stocks for 90 days of average daily net imports or 61 days of daily domestic consumption are available. In the majority of countries, the safety stock exceeds two months.
But the most important is to have a strategic vision. Following the official statement of the Council of Ministers of 2014; reserves of natural gas were 2700 billion m³ for traditional gas and 12 billion barrels for oil, that both with the strong domestic consumption would lead towards exhaustion by 2030. Furthermore, that the Algerian economy feeds on the hydrocarbons revenues has to be taken into account.
The evolution of prices would basically determine the purchasing power of the Algerians for inflation which is back led to the deterioration of their purchasing power. The total income must be corrected to take account of the distribution of income and consumption model, for an overall aggregate would have little meaning. Several questions need to be answered for any coherent economic policy.
-First, what will happen with the inevitable exhaustion of oil in economic terms and not in profitability of physical discoveries, on the purchasing power of the average citizen? In this case compared to the real purchasing power (housing, food, clothing including health, etc.) and with the dumbing down of the middle strata, would any purchasing power suffice to say buy a car?
-Secondly, the absence of any specialised industrial units, referring to the knowledge-based economy in order to promote integrated subcontracts, what will be the currency balance of the projected units? Especially when the majority of inputs (costlier with the slippage of the Dinar) will almost be imported and must include labour, transport, training adapted to new technologies costs.
-Thirdly, by international standards, the threshold of capacity are between 300,000 and 500,000 units per year for individual cars, about 100,000 for trucks / buses and scalable with large concentrations since 2009. Accounting costs are fixed and variable; what is the break-even point for a competitive costing if compared to international standards and the new mutations of this sector? Would producing between 1000 and 10.000 cars projects be competitive?
At what before-tax costs would Algeria produce this car and which trend will be applied when the tariff relief going to zero according to the agreement with the European Union and in this case what is the internal added value created with respect to the international price vector (balance currency taking into account depreciation and imported inputs both in hard currencies)? The hardware representing less than 20 / 30% of the total cost which like a computer, the cost is not the carcass (mechanical vision of the past), it is the software that represent 70 / 80%. And not being able to ban importation, these mini projects will they competitive in terms of cost/quality as part of the logic of international values?
-Fourthly, do we actually build a factory to make cars for a local market while the objective of the strategic management of any enterprise, would it not be either regional or global in order to ensure the financial profitability in the face of international competition and this sector is it not internationalized with sub-segments nesting at the global level?
-Fifth, the automotive industry becoming capital orientated, (digital programming eliminating all intermediate jobs) what is the number of direct and indirect jobs to be created, referring to the necessary qualification, taking into account new technologies applied to the automobile?
-Sixthly, what will be the cost and strategy of distribution networks so as to adapt to these technological changes?
-Seventh, will these cars use gasoline, Diesel, LPG, Bupro, will they be hybrid or solar. Whilst attending to the emergence of cars using new technologies, including ‘smart’ cars at horizon 2020 putting old conventional cars off the international market; in this case what will be the future of going for all these units of low capacity and using old technological methods, impossible to export in the face of fierce international competition?
In conclusion, I will never repeat enough that the engine of any development process lies in research and development, that capital money is only a means and that without a knowledge economy no project has a future.
In this twenty-first century, before a turbulent and unstable world where technological innovations are in perpetual evolution, Algeria should rethink its model of development in general and its model of energy consumption in particular; energy being at the heart of its national security, the move towards a new energy MIX would be a must.
Algeria to take only the example of transport, being similar to the majority of other economic sectors and households as a whole, will it go for solar and encourage renewable energies however delayed, and for fuels such as gasoline, Diesel, LPG, on the GNW (for all heavy vehicles), or for hybrid or solar with the technological revolution that looms upon us?
Which mode of transportation as based on the stratification of the household incomes and including all road accidents? What will be the price of these fuels and which strategy of distribution networks to adapt to these technological changes?
In fact all these objectives cannot be achieved without a strategic vision, adding that all technical models would be inefficient, were it not carried by “reformist” responsible for its social and political forces.
(1) – Reference to a study “For a new policy of fuel” – Department of Energy Algiers (8 volumes) 2006/2007 – Audit performed under the direction of Dr A. Mebtoul, Professor and International Expert
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