Mobility is the buzzword encompassing the merging worlds of automotive and technology. Buzzwords are generally bad and should be banished from your emails and decks. We are all pulling for your stealth-mode startup’s bootstrapped cloud platform that’s going to leverage new synergies among mobile, brick & mortar, and fintech to unlock hockey-stick growth in BRICS markets.
Mobility is the exception that proves the rule. We really do need a new word to describe the transformation we are already undertaking in the world of transportation. Consumer demand is already shifting from personal car ownership to transportation as a service. This change will be as drastic as the shift from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles 100 years ago.
At its core: what is transportation? At the simplest level, humans use transportation to move themselves and goods from point A to point B. From this necessity, the world has seen: crawling, walking, running, horses, canoes, the wheel, carriages, hoverboards, trains, planes and automobiles. Now, we have the Transportation Network Companies (TNCs: buzzwords for Lyft and Uber). The fragmented world of transportation that is here and accelerating is “Mobility.”
Ask a modern human with some disposable income, or a human who is about to come into their first batch of said income, what durable good they most desire, and there is a good chance it is still a car. Auto sales have grown steadily both in the U.S. and abroad since the 2008 recession, but talk of “Peak Auto” — the maximum global sales volume of automobiles — is heating up. (Peak Auto is a misnomer: “Auto Plateau” is a more accurate, if less catchy description.) People are probably going to buy fewer cars as they rely more on carsharing. You may have already bought your last or second-to-last car.
Having worked with both TNCs, various OEMs, car enthusiasts across the globe, and with tech people here in California, I see two distinct groups of consumers for mobility:
- Mobility as a utility (utilitarians)
- Mobility as a passion (enthusiasts)
Group 1 blows group 2 out of the water. I don’t think this will surprise too many people. I am a nominal enthusiast. I’ve been reading Car & Driver since age 7, spun up a car buying website in high school, and have been in and around automotive since. But I am a utilitarian 95% of the time: commuting in my electric FIAT to work, riding the Expo Line train to downtown, or flying on a jet to Asia. Most importantly: taking Lyft or Uber to activities with alcohol, without parking, or both.
I am an enthusiast intellectually, but as a consumer, I’m strictly utilitarian.
The respective unicorn and decacorn (buzzwords!) statuses of the two TNCs exhibit not only the brilliance of their models, but the demand for transportation as a service rather than car ownership. People are using TNCs to achieve the same goal that personal car ownership and horses once served. Looking ahead, what will Mobility look like? Who will the players be? Will the automakers or tech guys win? When can I order a Lyft, get in, pass out, and arrive at the Bellagio? Stay tuned.
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