The Evolution of Mobility


the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. synonyms: ability to move, movability

Looking back over the last two decades and the advent of the internet, we can see significant changes taking place within the mobility landscape. How many of us get from place to place is being altered. Given the relatively short time increment, these changes have been pretty remarkable. But while these recent inflection points and advances seem disruptive or transformational, it’s critical to remember that “mobility” is an ongoing evolution. This is especially true when approaching the space in terms of innovation.

Take smartphones for example. Ubiquitous wireless connectivity, miniaturization of computing, and rising sophistication of mobile apps are not only shifting how we get around, but also how we think about it. However, as impactful as smartphones have been within mobility, when we consider things like driverless cars and autonomous vehicles, smartphones are revealed to be yet another springboard into “the next thing.” But what is that next thing? That’s the underlying question. While we can never know for sure, we can develop capabilities to anticipate it.

Like anything else, there are dynamic forces at work that will continue to drive innovations and transformation within the mobility space. But what are those forces, and what are their trajectories? One of the keys to innovating successfully in mobility is being able to identify, map, and consider these forces (e.g. trends, cycles, plans, projections, events, ideas, issues) in order to anticipate potential changes in future. This analytical and imaginative focus on what is shaping the ecosystem (rather than fixating on the things being generated) raises critical questions and perspectives that we may not be thinking about. It shifts our thinking and perspective away from “entrenched certainties” of today to the critical uncertainties of tomorrow that should inform our approach to innovation.

While technology is obviously playing a significant role in the evolution of mobility, it is also important to consider the forces at work related to people and our shifting identities, attitudes, and behaviors. As urban populations and lifestyles strain the built environment and transportation infrastructure of cities, more and more people are experiencing dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire for better options. When combined with the rise of social media, the “internet of things,” and emerging automation/machine learning technologies, this demand is creating new kinds of opportunity spaces within mobility for innovation.

These and other “people related” forces at work can spark radically divergent trajectories of change that we are not able to predict. A prime example of this is the advent of ride-sharing solutions, which have found an especially rich nich within increasingly interconnected and “collaborative” urban ecosystems. With high levels of individual ownership, deeply trenched taxi services, extensive public transit, and the rich heritage of driving in America, who would have predicted the emergence of a service like Uber? Yet, looking back, if we examine the forces at work, the signs and market potential were there, ripe with opportunity.

While still fledgling, these early iterations of novel mobility services are fueling the emergence of a dynamic new market, one where not only unknown, but entirely unforeseen kinds of forces are reshaping the landscape. It’s an exciting time. As a result, I’ve payed special attention to where and how mobility ecosystems are evolving – specifically in the automotive sector. While not comprehensive, here’s a short summary of changes I see as being related to the evolution of mobility. As always, this emanates from my focus on the customer, and their point of view:

  • With the advent of the internet and growing power of “users,” customer-centric business models are making a comeback.

  • As automation and global economics collide, they way people make money is being disrupted.

  • Collaborative connections between people are sparking new relationships with ownership and how people they use “assets.”

  • With declining costs and rising efficiency of electric powertrain technologies, electrification is moving beyond the emotional appeal of sustainability.

  • As the economic and political influence of our urban regions increase, they are behaving more and more like “customers”

  • With the expansion of IoT (internet of things), people expect infrastructure to be more dynamic and responsive.

  • With the emergence of connected, intelligent, and autonomous vehicles, more than ever, data is a double edged sword that is now everywhere.

As always, if you have thoughts, please share them. I’m also always happy to connect in person and generate some creative friction around new perspectives and ideas related to this post.

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