The trends driving transport innovation

Driverless cars, green fuels and personalised infotainment systems are just some of the developments set to change the ways we get about and the places where we live, as the recent EcoMotion conference in Tel Aviv showed.

Giulia Rhodes


Innovation in the transportation sector is changing how we travel – be it a brief commute or a long-haul trip – as well as the cities in which we live. From connected cars and alternative fuels to shared rides and driverless vehicles, all promise to be common before long.

For many of Intesa Sanpaolo’s clients and also start-ups supported by its Innovation Centre, this sector offers exciting opportunities for growth. Recently the bank accompanied several such clients to EcoMotion 2017, the annual international knowledge-sharing and networking event in the fast-growing – and strongly government supported – fintech centre of Tel Aviv.

“Israel is our closest ‘silicon valley”

Vincenzo Antonetti, head of the International HUB Network Office at Intesa Sanpaolo’s Innovation Centre

More than 1,500 international visitors and 300 start-ups were in attendance and enjoyed input from industry leaders such as Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens and Bosch. Vincenzo Antonetti, head of the International HUB Network Office at Intesa Sanpaolo’s Innovation Centre was impressed by the engineering skills and business opportunities on offer in this “thriving innovative ecosystem”.

“Less than four hours’ flying time from Italy we have a high concentration of research centres – including autonomous vehicle bases for Google and Intel – incubators and accelerators backed by major players such as Apple, Microsoft, Hertz, Volvo and Honda, start-ups, venture-capital funds and all the major banks.”

As a launch supporter of Tel Aviv’s hi-tech hub The Floor, Intesa Sanpaolo has well-established links with the Israeli fintech sector. The transportation field, says Antonetti, has relevance for Italian manufacturing.

Companies such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he explains, see research and development opportunities in sustainable developments such as alternative fuels and vehicle weight reduction.

Also impressive, he adds, are developments in in-car cyber-security and AI. “Ever more connected technological and communication systems in cars, assisted driving and route optimisation are just some of trends which will have significant impact both for producers and consumers.”

Basic functions, such as the ability to recognise driver gestures or vocal commands, are predicted to generate $9bn by 2025; for integrated infotainment systems and advanced AI capability – completely autonomous vehicles – that figure stands at $25bn. “Striking figures for a single trend,” says Antonetti.

The purpose of this trip was to help explore possibilities for innovation, facilitate networking and collaboration and encourage an increasingly international perspective. “We have a responsibility to oversee new trends and analyse their impact on society and on business,” says Antonetti.

“To innovate is to simplify and create new services for our clients, but also to find new opportunities for them.”

Abinsula, a creator of enabling technology for connected cars, was one of the companies selected. The event, says Antonio Solinas, R&D&I Director of Abinsula, afforded “a privileged window on the forthcoming technologies in this sector”.

The strength of investment in the field, if continued, promises to “create a system in which these technologies – cyber-security, smartphone integration, GPS, over-the-air upgrades, entertainment, electric vehicles and car sharing – will facilitate connected and autonomous cars, providing the perfect financial and technological conditions for growth of such businesses,” adds Solinas.

Italian industry, he believes, is well placed to meet the future challenges of the smart transportation industry.

“We must tackle the digital-transformation process systematically and continuously and then we will maintain our markets and win new ones on the international stage."

Team Abinsula with Antonio Solinas, R&D&I Director of Abinsula, first from right.


“The car industry has transformed itself in recent years. This remains vital for reducing congestion, reducing pollution and making our cities smart and liveable, but it is also driven by consumer expectation of modern feature enablers – a smartphone connection for Spotify or a map showing car parks, for instance.”

The possibilities for a sustainable future in transport are exciting.

“A connected car is a digital car that can optimise its consumptions and maintenance; it is an ecological car that uses new fuels such as electricity and plans optimal routes; and it is a safe car that eliminates human error.”

CLN Group, a leading international player in the processing, stamping and assembly of metal components for the automotive business, also attended EcoMotion with Intesa Sanpaolo. The event proved to be an “extremely useful opportunity to benefit from the bank’s introductions and participate in Israel’s dynamic, interactive, positive and innovation-friendly environment among the industry’s biggest players,” says Maurizio Raviola, the company’s chief strategy officer. The firm has subsequently chosen to develop links with two start-ups identified during the trip.

Intesa Sanpaolo’s strength in communication – “simple and direct” – and in-depth understanding of its client’s needs and business were, he adds, key to CLN taking full advantage of the opportunities at EcoMotion.

For CLN, like Abinsula, the need to pursue innovation in the field is key both to understanding the demands of clients and identifying business opportunities, but also for playing its role in “ensuring a sustainable urban life in the near future”. Smart transportation, it seems, will help improve all our lives.

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