One of the most amazing things about the Digital Age is its “convergence”, that is, how digital technologies and new business models blend together to create new products and services. Sometimes, the change is interesting, but limited in impact, such as Uber combining ride-sharing and food delivery to create UberEats.
Other times, however, the potential impact is dramatic and profound.
An example of a dramatic and profound impact is how our existing modes of transportation are transforming into “Mobility” or “mobility as a service” (MaaS). The result is that, in a Digital Age, mobility becomes a data-centric, connected User Experience (UX). Matt Cole provides an excellent definition of mobility that describes what is happening while also highlighting the primacy of the user experience (UX):
“Mobility is a combination of public and private transportation services
within a given regional environment that provides holistic,
optimal and people-centered travel options.”
I spend a good amount of time in downtown Austin and am always amazed at how quickly the city has exploded in its use of new mobility services. Austin is a great trial location for these new services – the weather is mild, a lot of people live in or on the edges of the city center while the downtown business, government and university area is compact, quite hilly and an open parking space was last spotted in 1973.
Now, almost every corner of downtown has Jump, Bird, Lime and Lyft electric scooters available. Sometimes they are in neat tidy rows; other times they are simply left leaning against a building.
From left to right they are: Jump Scooter (Owned by Uber), Lyft Scooter and Bird Scooter
There are also pedal and electric-assisted bicycles, either as single bikes or lined up in racks.
Electric Bicycles and Credit Card Reader
These options are geared towards short, frequent commutes or casual sightseeing where walking or taxi rides are impractical due to factors involving the distance, traffic tie-ups, wait times, availability and high trip costs.
Access to these scooters is easy through an app whereby a rider taps a button on the scooter and scans the QR code. That’s it. The scooter comes alive and the rider is free to ride off in any direction they choose. Instructions are minimal and common-sense. The bikes are credit card driven, but similar in convenience.
There usually is a startup cost, such as $1, and a time-based charge after that. The user then drops the scooter off at their destination, taps a button on the app and they are done. The next rider can take the same scooter wherever they please.
The scooter companies usually cap the top speed at about 20 mph and braking is carefully calibrated. The key, however, is that one has a sense of great adventure and freedom while easily scooting around a busy city center while pedestrians trudge to their destinations or sit in a car at red light after red light.
While these scooter and electric bikes are sometimes referred to “micro mobility”, a far greater effect is in play. New technologies and business models are coming on the scene and the disruption will be dramatic: Transportation of people and goods will soon revolve around data, connectivity and the user experience (UX), not the steel, rubber and plastic that we associate with today’s automobiles.
While these scooter and electric bikes are sometimes
referred to “micro mobility”, a far greater effect is in play.
Here’s why: Mobility and its associated services will soon far outstrip the profitability potential of traditional car making. Accenture projects that by 2030, revenues from manufacturing and selling vehicles (around $2 trillion) will be only marginally higher than they are today, and that profits from car sales will shrink (from $140 billion to $135 billion). Meanwhile, Accenture also projects that revenues from mobility services are projected to soar to almost $1.4 trillion—with profits reaching as much as $250 billion.
Utilizing 5G connectivity and smartphones, a new ecosystem surrounding mobility is emerging. Here is how it may all come together: The common denominator is a single app for trip planning. The individual Jump, Lyft, Bird and Lime scooter apps go away as a common user platform emerges that links all public and private mobility services: Ride sharing, scooter, bicycles, taxis, buses, trains and subways are all on the system. All of these mobility services are aggregated on a single platform and artificial intelligence guides the rider by making suggestions that incorporate the rider’s needs, preferences and history (after all, a scooter may not be practical in the snow or if the rider carries a briefcase).
The optimal trip is quickly planned, confirmed and then reserved. A single QR code or facial recognition enables all ticketing, payments and switches between modes of travel for the trip. Group travel is handled in the same manner. Four reasonably fit business people may be willing to share the adventure of riding three or four blocks on scooters to travel to a meeting on a reasonably nice day; however, there are times, circumstances and conditions where only a car will do.
Mobility and the associated services will soon far outstrip
the profitability potential of traditional car making.
The concept of a car also begins to change. The two game changers here are ride sharing services and autonomous vehicles. We are transiting from an ownership-centric society to one of a sharing economy. Sharing a ride, sharing a home, and sharing an office is becoming more of the norm.
Think of what happens when ownership of a car is no longer a necessary part of one’s life. As fewer people own cars, we all drive less while using less gas or electricity to power the car… gas or electricity taxes, tolls and license revenues, parking garages, billboard industry, repair shops, car dealerships, auto advertising, car rentals, public road infrastructure, insurance and driving schools are all impacted. New services emerge that converting parking lots, multi-story garages and our home garages into new manufacturing, recreation, work and living areas. Maybe a four-story parking garage becomes a robotic manufacturing center while the three-car garage in our home becomes a new indoor/outdoor pool!
The two game changers here are
ride sharing services and autonomous vehicles.
As autonomous vehicles begin to infiltrate into our lives, the data and design experience of cars changes. Artificial intelligence-driven predictive and optimization analytics optimize regional traffic flows, thereby reducing travel times, pollution and accidents. The result is:
The result is that whatever speed that you are traveling (in an autonomous car) is the fastest speed that will get you where you want to go in the least amount of time.
The design of cars also changes as to facilitate rider productivity and recreation. People can face each other and place tables amongst themselves. Cars can become mobile conference and entertainment centers that pick people up, facilitate a task, experience or entertainment and then drop them off.
Connectivity and payments will become as much a part of this new car as the tires. Voice services like Alexa will enable the user to accomplish pretty much anything in a car that they could at home. Food, gas or electricity, Netflix, conferencing, shopping and other personnel expenditures are handled by the rider in an easily automated manner. New mobile payment technologies, such as facial recognition, are incorporated into the car itself.
Cars may be purchased, leased, time-shared, rate-based, subscription-based or used through some other form of payments. Flexible micro payments will emerge as one leases a car for 30 minutes or 30 miles. If one does own a car, it may well be as an investment: Your car may drive you to work in the morning and then produce income for you as a ride share until it is time to take you home. Or, maybe your car is too busy providing rides and sends another car to take you home!
Connectivity and payments will become as
much a part of this new car as the tires.
Given this new vision of a data-centric, connected and UX driven mobility, the auto manufacturers are not standing by waiting to become the 21st century version of horse and buggy manufacturers. They are responding by developing technologies, forming strategic consortiums, developing partnerships and investing in startups.
For example, Ford jumped into the car sharing business with a pilot launch in London, is turning F-150s into drone launch pads, launched an on-demand bus sharing service with startup Bridj, launched a pilot for a lease-sharing service among friends in Austin and spun out Ford Smart Mobility as a separate entity to “do more faster”.
Meanwhile, GM is moving fast with some major moves as it launched its car sharing service Maven after acquiring Sidecar, invested $500M into ride sharing service Lyft and bought Cruise for nearly $1 billion.
BMW and Daimler merged their mobility operations under a single umbrella in early 2018, with each company taking a 50% stake in the joint venture. They have launched car-sharing (Car2Go and Drivenow), ride-hailing (myTaxi, Chauffeur Privé, and Clever Taxi), parking (ParkNow and Parkmobile), electric vehicle charging (ChargeNow and Digital Charging Solutions), and on-demand mobility (moovel and ReachNow).
Not to be outdone, nearly every day brings a similar announcement by Tesla, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Porsche, Chrysler-Fiat, Volvo and the other major auto manufacturers. The theme of these announcements always runs along the same lines: Finding the magic elixirs in a data-centric, user experience (UX) mobility world powered by connectivity and payments.
The auto manufacturers, however, are not alone in this endeavor. Google’s self-driving Waymo unit is the first autonomous vehicle developer to deploy a commercial fleet. Waymo is widely recognized as the industry leader in autonomous driving technology. In October 2018, the company reported its vehicles had driven 10 million miles—an unprecedented number—on public roads in the US. This enormous driver data helps develop and enhance Waymo’s self-driving software, especially when it’s collected on public roads instead of test sites.
Waymo is also able to leverage Alphabet’s key technologies. Most notably, it trains its neural networks using Google’s open source artificial intelligence TensorFlow platform and its Tensor Processing Units (TPUs). Artificial intelligence thrives on analyzing huge data sets and Waymo’s 10 million miles of autonomous driving data represents an incredibly valuable resource.
Google has also integrated its Android mobile platform into vehicles through Android Auto. This allows Android users to view their mobile OS in their car’s infotainment center, making it easier to access contacts and stream music, among other functionalities. Android Auto is now available in more than 400 car models from brands such as GM, Hyundai, and Volvo.
Waymo is widely recognized as the industry leader
in autonomous driving technology.
Amazon, Apple and Microsoft also have major connected car initiatives that are beginning deployment. For example, Volvo, Nissan, and Toyota have partnered with Microsoft to utilize its connected car platform. Microsoft has also partnered with automakers including Nissan and BMW to enable its digital voice assistant Cortana in certain vehicles.
Microsoft also announced a strategic partnership with Volkswagen to create the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, which will utilize Azure and the IoT Edge platform. This technology is slated to connect over 5 million new Volkswagen vehicles per year beginning in 2020.
Safety will, of course, always be a primary concern. The data-centric, connected car and other forms of transportation become self-aware safety zones for cars with human drivers as well as autonomous cars. They will not only take emergency evasive maneuvers but also anticipate potential hazards and dangers to riders, pedestrians and other vehicles. These systems feature new capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, traffic and lane departure warnings, and other alerts and automated responses.
Amazon, Apple and Microsoft also
have major connected car initiatives.
Other forms of transportation will experience the same disruption. Trucks, trains, subways, airplanes and ships will become autonomous in their operation. The data-centric and connected world will know where every one of these vehicles is located along with the path, direction, speed, fuel levels, engine condition, safety parameters, travel conditions and time of arrival.
Mobility as a Data-Centric, Connected, User Experience (UX).
The future of mobility is exciting and unpredictable. Surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, will occur as we travel along this path. Only one thing is for sure: The day of the family car and family garage may someday go the way of the fax machine and iPod. Our mobility experience will change as it becomes data-centric, connected and user experience focused. This is an exciting time and we are just beginning this journey!