DUBAI, UAE, October 23, 2017: Home to more than 51 million people, the GCC is a rapidly developing region that faces growing demands on its infrastructure. Estimates suggest that the population could rise to 65 million by 2030, placing extra pressure not only on natural resources, but also on national infrastructure and governments to lay significant foundation plans for the future.
Along with other stakeholders, Ford recognises that massive changes are coming to the way people and goods move around cities and is working with local governments, companies and citizens on finding solutions to solve these challenges.
This week in Riyadh, The Future Investment Initiative summit will gather together the world's most powerful investors, business leaders, thought leaders and public officials to discuss innovations that are defining the future.
Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, will join a panel discussion on Building the Future – a forum that will discuss ways in which global authorities can prepare for the next wave of global commerce with large scale infrastructure projects.
“I am delighted to be part of the Future of Investment Initiative conference and I am looking forward to participating in the discussion and exploring how mobility services could play a role in Saudi Arabia,” Rao said.
“Saudi Arabia is our largest market in the GCC and the Middle East overall, and our commitment to this key market is absolute. With Saudi Vision 2030, we see a bright future for the Kingdom and we trust that the diversification of its economy will reap positive outcomes for all industries,” he added.
By 2030, the projected population of Saudi Arabia is expected to reach close to 40 million; the UAE could reach 12 million, and each of the remaining GCC countries are also expected to experience significant boosts to their populations.
Fortunately, with the coming convergence of big data, renewable energy, the rise of a sharing economy and unprecedented levels of connectivity, city authorities have an opportunity to explore new opportunities with investment partners. Governments, companies and individuals are embracing new roles as change agents and working together to address the needs of new businesses and start to build the region's next generation of “smart cities.”
There is more disruption happening now than at any time since horses were replaced by cars as the main form of transportation in the early part of the twentieth century. According to the global consulting firm KPMG, 80 percent of auto executives expect the connectivity trend will be disruptive and 83 percent anticipate major disruptions to their business models within the next five years.
At the same time, cities are faced with the challenge of transporting people and goods more efficiently and affordably with a minimal carbon footprint. This has created opportunities for companies like Ford to explore new ideas in smart mobility while expanding their business models to embrace these disruptive technologies.
“Things are developing so quickly in the Middle East. A dimension that is unique here is the rate of change to the infrastructure and all of these economies wanting to be at the forefront of technologies. They are doing a lot to make their cities intelligent. There are many smart city initiatives and a lot of infrastructure that has already been built to make cities operate more efficiently,” said Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC.
How governments, companies and citizens need to work together to find smart mobility solutions
The cities finding the most success in their smart city initiatives are those that have shown an openness to collaborate with private enterprises and involve their citizens in the policy development process. Governments in the region have already made significant steps towards planning for the future.
Saudi Arabia earlier this year announced that it was investing USD500 million into modernising its infrastructure across 285 municipalities. Smart city projects were announced for 10 cities across the Kingdom earlier this year, with the goal of extending that to 17 major cities catering for 75 percent of the population. The Kingdom announced two major developments – Al Faisaliyah, a city almost the size of Moscow to be built west of Makkah by 2050 – and Entertainment City, a project covering 334 square kilometres and that will include a safari area and Six Flags theme park.
Ford's role in the City of Tomorrow
Ford has established its City Solutions team, the only-of-its-kind in the automotive industry, to work directly with governments around the world to determine their mobility needs and to help develop customised, local solutions to address transportation issues. In Middle East, the Ford City Solutions team sees great opportunities with the region's aspirational initiatives and desire to build the world's smartest cities.
“When you think about the city of tomorrow and what residents will expect, you need to think in broader terms than simply from a car manufacturer's point of view. The level of expectation is going to change, and that's going to change how we see car ownership and the services we, as an auto maker and mobility company, are going to have to provide,” added Rao. “It's a huge challenge because as more and more people move to urban areas, we need to keep pace with that growth in order to keep people and their communities moving and thriving.”