From First Gear to Fifth Gear: What Must Be Done to Drive the Future of Mobility?

Posted on 18th November 2019

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The mobility sector is rapidly transforming, underpinned by shifts towards electric vehicles, new mobility as a service (MaaS) business models and the application of cutting-edge technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). This transformation is significant and could influence everything from our daily commute, to the design of our cities. Policy-makers and companies alike must take positive actions to ensure the mobility revolution delivers on its potential for our societies.

What Do Policy-Makers Need To Do?

Support the shift to electric vehicles

With climate change concerns firmly on the political agenda, electronic vehicles are sure to grow their share of the market, despite an expected decline in car ownership overall. Some operators are leading the way; Uber is establishing a clean air fund in London to encourage its drivers switch to using electric vehicles. The fund will raise £200 million to support drivers in making the change. Uber’s aim is for all cars using its service in London to be electric by 2025, with ambitions to roll this out globally in due course. However, drivers have expressed two key concerns over this transition: the price of electric vehicles and the availability of charging points. National and local governments need to take steps to ensure that charging points are available and accessible to eliminate these concerns, otherwise the electric vehicle revolution will quickly run out of energy.

Ensure connectivity for autonomous driving

While the publicity surrounding level 5 autonomous vehicles has died down somewhat, companies such as Waymo, FiveAI and Lyft are moving towards deployment of level 4 autonomous vehicles in a bid to reach level 5 (see here an explanation of the different levels of automation). However, the roll-out of autonomous vehicles at such a scale requires ubiquitous, reliable connectivity. While the first deployments of 5G networks – with the associated increase in speed and capacity – are welcome, full 4G and LTE coverage will be crucial in the short-to-medium term to get these vehicles on the roads.

Enable MaaS companies to scale

Disruptive new companies like Uber and Citymapper have emerged as leading innovative MaaS providers, and traditional manufacturers such as Bosch and Ford are also beginning to shift part of their business models over to MaaS. However, many of these new entrants are struggling to achieve profitability or scale their operations without substantial venture-capital backing. Policy-makers should adopt strategies to support these businesses and improve urban mobility, such as considering how companies and cities can share anonymised travel data to identify the gaps and emerging trends in local mobility.

What Do Companies Need To Do?

Understand what shifting to a service-based business model means

Many companies are transitioning to a MaaS model. Most notably, automotive manufacturers are deliberately shifting their business towards providing connected mobility. While this seems a natural step to deal with decreasing car sales, companies entering this space need to be aware of different regulations which may apply around personal data gathering and sharing. As vehicles become platforms which generate large amounts of data, vehicle manufacturers and their technology partners must be aware of rules on privacy, cybersecurity, and liability.

Apply new technologies responsibly and explain how they work

Vehicles are becoming mobile hotspots of innovation, with drivers now able to benefit from automated emergency calling and parking assistance technology. Companies are embedding new technologies in their products and services, such as AI, including the use of neural networks. With growing public and political concerns surrounding emerging technologies, developers must be prepared to work alongside regulators and policy-makers to explain how these technologies are applied responsibly and develop rules and frameworks for their use in connected mobility. As always, safety remains a key consideration.

Author: Tiernan Kenny, Public Policy Manager, Access Partnership

Access Partnership’s global team of technology policy experts can help you and your organisation navigate the transforming mobility sector, understand existing regulation, and shape future regulatory trends. Request a consultation here.

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