Autonomous vehicles? Not in my lifetime.

room44 Ltd

23rd October 2018

Ask most people when they expect to be taken to work by an autonomous car and the answer’s likely to be, ‘not in my lifetime.’ That’s the consumer condition today. The established context is so firmly in place that radical change is beyond comprehension. The siren songs of what we know are familiar, safe, tangible. New music is harder to get into, and it takes some effort.

In the background, though, things are shifting. New business models are being put into place and new inventions are becoming innovations. The emerging forces in personal mobility have begun to collaborate in new and interesting ways. Now that communication and ambition are shared across competitors, this makes sense

Mobility principles

One such example is SHARED MOBILITY PRINCIPLES FOR LIVABLE CITIES. Robin Chase, of Zipcar fame, created this concept with some like-minded people, and have developed ten shared mobility principles. Briefly, they are:

  1. We plan cities and mobility together
  2. We prioritise people over vehicles
  3. We support the shared and efficient use of vehicles, lanes, curbs, and land
  4. We engage with stakeholders
  5. We promote equity
  6. We lead the transition towards a zero-emission future and renewable energy
  7. We support fair user fees across all modes
  8. We aim for public benefits via open data
  9. We work towards integration and seamless connectivity
  10. We support autonomous vehicles in dense urban areas operating only in shared fleets

Now, have a look at this page, (and image below) then ask the average driver how many of the service providers signed up to this pledge they’ve heard of. Chances are they won’t be able to tell you what most of the 33 brands here do.

Logos. autonomous vehicle logos

But there they are: working at building a business based around new mobility models, adopting technology as it becomes available, and selling to the market now. Selling, in fact, to early adopters who are already on the street, and converting more users simply by being there.

For more evidence that the shift is well underway, data from Crunchbase tell us that the biggest players in the ride-sharing economy are performing well:

Uber:

  • H1’18 revenue: $5.4 billion.
  • H1’18 revenue growth from H1’17: 66.6 percent.
  • H1’18 net loss: $1.375 billion.
  • Net margin: -25.5 percent.

Lyft:

  • H1’18 revenue: $909 million.
  • H1’18 revenue growth from H1’17: 120.6 percent.
  • H1’18 net loss: $373 million.
  • Net margin: -41.4 percent.

This business isn’t being conjured out of fresh air: somebody is using the services. Break it down – $5.4bn is a lot of $10 rides.

Back to our average driver. The idea of sharing a ride is only alien to the people who don’t ride-share yet. And the idea of autonomous ride-sharing is only alien because…? You’ve got it. It might not be here yet, but it’s coming, and it will be adopted and grow and expand and eventually come to a high street/bus stop/car park/street corner in your town.

With the change in available modes of transport, the way that consumers buy everything else will shift too. Not owning a car won’t be the physical barrier to market access that it is today. Look down the timeline a couple of years, and these issues will have gone away, and not simply to be replaced by the virtual alternative of online shopping.

Personal mobility, community and relationships go hand-in-hand. The connection between how we move around, and how accessible the ability to move around is, has real impact on our society.

Electrification of vehicles

Electrification of vehicles is a done deal at the conceptual level. The thinking has been done and the logistics of production is the next step. Then comes autonomy. We’re still at the thinking stage of this transformation but, when the brains switch their attention from EVs to AVs, the pace will pick up. When it does and as we’ve seen here, the market infrastructure to distribute the autonomous technology is already in place, and the juggernaut is ready to roll.

Happily, if you’re in its way, it’ll know and will steer around you. But it won’t stop, and you may be left behind.

If your business is in ‘not in my lifetime’ mode, you have time to rethink. But not much.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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