Making a CASE for the future of Mobility
“We are closer than ever to electric cars and self-driving vehicles kicking off the mobility evolution, but there are still a few roadblocks to navigate,” writes Ben Volkow, CEO & Co-Founder at Otonomo.
As 2021 comes to a close, it seems like a good time to look back and review some of the many predictions made about the future of mobility. It was as far back as the 1939 World’s Fair in New York that an exhibitor first predicted that our highways and cities would be filled with cars radio-controlled by a central tower. That was 82 years ago, while technologies have advanced, the vision is still the same: cars that can be connected and autonomously driven. We are closer than ever before to electric cars and self-driving vehicles kicking off the mobility evolution envisioned by these innovators. Yet, excuse the pun, there are still a few roadblocks to navigate.
With just a few days to go before 2022 chimes in, let’s take a few moments to do a reality check on the mobility ecosystem. To put a framework on our discussion, we can use the CASE model (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electrified), used by many analysts and enterprises covering the Mobility space.
Ben Volkow, CEO & Co-Founder at Otonomo. Photo: Otonomo
The Vision - Connectivity is a key element to the design for vehicles of the future. It is connectivity that will enable V2V, or vehicle-to-vehicle, which can prevent accidents; V2I, or vehicle-to-infrastructure, so that cars can communicate with infrastructure; and V2X, or vehicle-to-any smart device. Automotive manufacturers see “connected cars” as a major force in the success of their forward-thinking business models. Connectivity and the value-added services associated with it will drive a big part in their revenues and customer satisfaction.
The Reality - The current silicon chip shortage, data security, and privacy regulation developments are causing delays in the adoption of connectivity technologies. Despite these challenges, a clear majority of new vehicles rolling out of the factories in North America and Europe are connected and already have an expanding ecosystem of services. Having said that, the rollout and adoption are lagging behind analysts’ predictions.
The Vision – A self-driving car capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input. This technology, relying upon vehicle sensors such as cameras, lasers, and radars has the power to impact a diverse array of industries.
The Reality - Some semi-autonomous capabilities are already widespread, truly autonomous vehicles like those described by Elon Musk in which we can relax in the back seat while being driven to work are not close to rolling off the production line. A combination of technical challenges, complex regulations, increasing costs, and partisan politics are delaying autonomous vehicles from becoming the norm for the next decade.
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The Vision – Across the globe, cities are looking for shared mobility, a transportation system where travelers share a means of transportation (cars, scooters, bikes). As a result, there is a potential for the reduction of pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, urban density, and cost to the traveler.
The Reality - The potential upside for shared mobility seems unlimited but there are several challenges among them financial sustainability. Uber and Lyft have seen their valuations fluctuate and many shared mobility providers have begun to consolidate as this segment matures. Along with this maturity, numerous more logistically sound business cases are emerging. We are seeing two-wheel vehicle last-mile services, like scooters, e-bikes, and bikes, starting to better align with rider demand and streamlined operations.
The Vision – In the U.S, transportation accounts for almost 70% of oil consumption and about 30% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Electrification of the transportation industry is potentially the highest impact strategy for change and reduction of pollution.
The Reality – I believe that here is where we see the vision most realized and aligned with reality. There are daily advancements in this area that bring us close to the predicted adoption rates. Europe is leading the charge and North America is a close second. A combination of supporting regulations, technical maturity, cost reduction, and customer demand supports the increased adoption of electric vehicles. Many manufactures have announced plans for full electrification and the phasing out of internal combustion engines vehicles. There are still many challenges. Among them are comprehensive charging infrastructure, clean and economical battery technology, and the economic impact on the OEM value chain. With huge investments, those gaps are quickly narrowing.
On the whole, I believe we are seeing the mobility vision turning into reality. Some elements may lag behind others, but this is to be expected when such a massive transformation is taking place across multiple sectors, geographies, and societies. Daily we are seeing headlines detailing new technologies and public/private partnerships pushing the vision forward. It is naïve to think that the journey from whiteboard to showroom floor and across cities and towns far and wide will not be marred by skepticism, budget delays, supply chain shortages, customer concerns, data privacy issues, and numerous other concerns that have yet to be imaged. Having said that, I am confident that the current momentum behind the mobility movement will take us towards an exciting future. A cleaner, safer, and better future.
I look forward to driving forward together in 2022 and beyond.
Ben Volkow is the CEO & Co-Founder at Otonomo.