Developed countries have built the required infrastructure in most of the various sectors, including ports, railways, energy and sanitation. There is a sector that has been consistently growing in recent years, one which is in constant evolution and which continues to advance in leaps and bounds: the technology sector.
We have witnessed the proliferation of technology in the transportation sector, with new projects like the hyperloop – a fast, vacuum-filled, tube-based, transportation system that theoretically zips passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes; or, an underground high-speed transit network through which magnetic sleds shuttling cars travel at speeds of 200 km per hour.
The Dubai-based 'flying taxis' (also called passenger drones), China's straddling bus that can circulate above the cars on the roads, and various other kinds of autonomous vehicles, are further examples of this revolution.
There are five levels of autonomy classification as regards these autonomous vehicles, depending on the degree of human control involved. This classification serves as a general guideline for how technologically advanced a vehicle is. Level 5 is a fully autonomous system that expects a vehicle's performance to equal that of a human driver.
Only a few years ago, autonomous or unmanned vehicles in the air, on land and at sea were considered science fiction. However, at the last Geneva Motor Show, stand-alone level 5 cars were on show, and these vehicles are expected to be in circulation in the very near future.
The inevitable question to be posed is whether the various countries' infrastructures are prepared for this type of technology revolution that will shape cities in the future.
The EU has funded different programmes like the V-Charge Consortium (about €5.6 million, equivalent to $6.3 million) which is developing a fully automated parking and charging system for electric cars in public car parks; and, the European CityMobil2 which will implement fully automated road transport systems.
The high cost of infrastructure projects requires sustainable funding to be undertaken.
Traditionally, infrastructure projects have been financed through project finance, project bonds or even a combination of both. Nevertheless, the tycoons and entrepreneurs behind this tech revolution are bringing all sorts of innovations to the industry, including the development of new and unusual ways of financing. In this regard, a well-known solar company has tried to pursue individual investors through its website offering 'solar bonds'. However, at this stage, it seems difficult to believe that these innovative types of financing could actually replace the traditional financing systems.
Looking to the future, it is crystal clear that tech projects with a direct impact on the infrastructure network will be conducted. Those projects will entail not only a total re-shaping of the infrastructure of major cities, but also numerous legislative amendments. Overall, this will lead to a peak in a new kind of project finance – one which we dare to call 'tech project finance'.
|Manuel Follía and Levón Grigorián|
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