Episode 3: How we got to here — the historical context of micromobility’s emergence
Link to the show: http://5by5.tv/micromobility
Welcome to MicroMobility, a podcast exploring the disruption that comes from new lightweight utility vehicles. Using the history of computing as a framework, we unpack what business models and impacts we’re likely to see in transport in cities. The host of the show is Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco, and his cohost is Oliver Bruce.
This podcast is for software and computing professionals who want to understand how the transportation industries will be affected by their work.
In this episode, we refine the micromobility categorisation and unpack why urban infrastructure is a leading indicator to adoption. We run through:
1) Why the development of batteries and small electric motors underpinned the development of micromobility, the importance of off-the-shelf componentry in providing the basis for innovation and why electric will be the dominant powertrain for the coming 10 years.
2) The history of fuel infrastructure in the US, how hard this is to replicate, and why micromobility provides an opportunity to leapfrog this.
3) The history of transit, roading and tramways in major cities globally, and how they provided the conditions for the development of the car.
4) The significance of the standard bike as we know it today, and the impact that it had on society.
5) The emergence of cars in cities, the safety battles fought, and the development of signals, licensing and traffic segmentation, and the implications on that for alternative vehicle types.
6) How the emergence of micromobility will terraform our cities in the same way that the car did.
Hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave comments here or hit us up on Twitter at @asymco or @oliverbruce.
[00:00:00] Oliver: Hi everybody. Welcome back to Micromobility. Today we will be looking at why micromobility represents a real opportunity to change how people get around in cities. And today I have with me as always Horace. How you going Horace?
Horace: Hey Oliver, I’m doing great.
Oliver: Excellent. The bit that I really wanted to kick off with today was picking up from where we left off in Episode 2. Horace, you’d framed up micromobility as having two, or potentially three, key characteristics. Those were the vehicles in this particular form of micromobility were utility focused, they were sub 500 kgs, and then you were sort of open to whether they were electric or not. [00:01:00] And I really wanted to unpack that a little bit more because there’s two things that I really was thinking about as well with this. First, I actually think electric is key. We’ve had motorized petrol scooters and motorbikes for 60, 70, 80, 100 years and I think that electric has a propulsion mechanism actually a really key difference in terms of how to think about these vehicles versus their petrol-powered counterparts. The second was how we think about infrastructure and whether or not the micromobility solutions that are going to emerge in this require different infrastructure — ie fuelling or dedicated lanes?
Horace: Okay, great questions. Firstly, I didn’t want to identify electric drive as a characteristic not because I think that gasoline is viable. Gasoline is actually much more complex for micro vehicles. You have to deal with fluids and thing’s leaking and oils and chemicals and cooling systems and thermal issues and vibration issues. [00:02:00] None of these things are present with electric or electric is much simpler to make more compact.
You can make a motor the size of a peanut, you know their micro motors which are super super small. There’s a motor inside your phone today that causes vibration which is what you feel when you’re switched on vibrate mode. Motors are really scalable. And now, we have batteries are becoming more and more scalable.
The reason I pushed back against electric is that I don’t want to preclude other technologies coming into use, be it hydrogen or something even more exotic coming forward later. I cannot imagine it but I just don’t want to define the category by storage technology. Having said that I expect is that all micromobility for the foreseeable future will be electric for the next 10 years or so. [00:03:00]
We talk about electric now, but it’ll seem redundant because everything will be. So for the time being I think by default we’re thinking electric when we’re thinking of micromobility. That’s the most likely one in the future and it completely obsoletes internal combustion. Internal combustion will become a historic anomaly in the history of transport as a sort of a blip that lasted about a century.
The second question you had was about infrastructure. I love going back to read historical accounts of how transport changed. The interesting story for internal combustion [based transport] is that when it arrived how different it was, and how much infrastructure it required relative to the incumbents. At the time, it was public transit, trains, trams or rail transport within cities that was electric. The gasoline car actually was competing at the time with the bicycle. [00:04:00] There were some cars which are electric, and there were cars that were steam. As a result, this newcomer was the odd one because it made noises, made smoke, had a lot of vibrations, it was tough to repair. It was really not a very elegant product, and this was complicated by the fact that gasoline was not commonly available.
The very first long distance trip in a car was taken by Martha Benz, who was the wife of Karl Benz. She was the one who really encouraged him, and helped drive a lot of the things that happened that made the car possible. She took the first road trip. It was about 100 miles altogether. The story goes that she had to plan her route so that she could stop to get fuel as the only places you could get fuel in 1886/87 were pharmacies. They sold this stuff in one liter bottles that were used either for lighting lamps or cleaning. [00:05:00] So she would have to plan her journey to stop and pick up a few bottles of the stuff and put it in the first car.
That leads you to ask yourself: what happened to gasoline? How did we come to have enough of it? Essentially, how did we end up with million of cars in the United States if there was no stations. There were no refineries that could make it in quantity. They were no pipelines to deliver it or trucks to deliver.
If you were to ask today what would it take to build the gasoline infrastructure, people would say it’s too expensive and too dangerous. I mean you have the trucks filled with thousands of kilograms of the stuff going at high speed and turning over and spilling everything and people dying. That’s exactly what the question would be. Why would we tolerate that?
Another side note to this is that. During World War II the US refining infrastructure was mostly down in Louisiana. [00:06:00] Oil was generally pumped out of Texas. The refineries were fairly nearby in order also to have the resulting product shipped out of Louisiana which is near the Gulf. You would put it on a ship and then take it to other parts of the United States because it was a bulk product. The entire East Coast of the United States depended on the shipments coming in via tankers that would take the gasoline from Louisiana up to Baltimore, New York and Boston.
What happened in World War II was that the US got involved and the German U-boats began to intercept this traffic from Louisiana to the East Coast. They sank a whole bunch of of tankers filled with gasoline. The US was completely unprepared for anti-submarine warfare, especially close to its shoreline and were completely floored. [00:07:00] They lost a huge amount of access to fuel. As a result the US decided to build pipelines, and even today, the pipeline networks originate from those same two refineries in the United States. We don’t realize this, but that’s still in place that still delivers most of the fuel now. If oil comes from abroad it comes to the refinery, it’s still gets processed into gasoline and then piped to distribution centers, and then trucks take it the final mile.
My point here is that this is very expensive and dangerous. Of course pipelines leak and have all kinds of problems and yet the US went through building multiple infrastructures including pipelines and gasoline stations, of which there’s about a hundred thousand in the United States. I should also note that these have underground storage which leaks and cause all kinds of harm. [00:08:00]
Now many countries in the world don’t have these infrastructures. As a result, they depend a lot on refined product coming into the country and very expensively being delivered. This means that they’re very expensive fuels. I’m thinking of Africa, for example where even Nigeria which has its own oil doesn’t have its infrastructure to deliver refined product. As a result, even though oil is abundant, gasoline isn’t. There is a difference between having access to oil and having access to gasoline.
My point is this if you go back in history and ask what we went through to create the gasoline infrastructure, just looking at the simple economics and logistics, you realize how much effort went into that. So when we think about needing to build out electric infrastructure the answer is ‘wow, this is so much easier’. In fact, it’s trivial. Sure, there are a lot of the questions that deal with wiring, storage etc. That’s a problem, but it’s trivial in comparison. [00:09:00]
Oliver: With electric we already have so much more of a head start, which is why on the propulsion side, I’d definitely say electric as being a lot more attractive as an option, especially because you can charge it in any household. You can just plug your vehicle in to charge. It’s a better solution than having petrol because if you have to get a petrol, it’s actually more of a hassle to have to go and collect it rather than just being able to plug it in where you live or work.
Horace: Absolutely. Gasoline, in terms of its production, distribution, conversion into motive power, is really complicated. It involves chemistry, the efficiency losses are tremendous, they have heat losses to the atmosphere and the machinery necessary wears out much faster. [00:10:00] So from an engineering point of view, it is very suboptimal. What it offered though was again the storage capability whereas electricity needs to be consumed as you generate it, and batteries were really expensive.
This is the real breakthrough that has occurred with lithium-ion batteries. It allows us to get high energy densities and lightweight storage options.
Just a little history there again. I love to get into these things because we don’t realize some of this. There were batteries obviously for over 150 years. The lead acid battery was invented in the 18th century. Lead is very heavy, needs to be bathed in water and as a result sloshes around making it challenging to use in an environment with a lot of vibration. With lead-acid, generally the density of energy per kilogram is also very very low. [00:11:00]
What we saw during the 1990s was the development of new chemistry’s for batteries. That included Nicad which is nickel-cadmium technology, which was used early on in some batteries for consumer electronics. I know my first digital camera had Nicad batteries which were lighter than the lead acid, but still fairly heavy relative to lithium-ion.
What was interesting about this thought was that it created an opportunity for certain devices to deliver power to the user. Next up came lithium. Lithium ion was put into the marketplace by Sony in camcorders because they were squeezing the size of camcorders down to be really tiny. That was the way they were, you know, showing off the Japanese ethos of miniaturization.
Tiny camcorders were coming out and the little battery packs snapped to the back of a camcorder. [00:12:00] Those were the first lithium-ion consumer technologies and by the early 2000s lithium-ion was starting to diffuse into new technologies or new products.
Even now, we’re still just getting further up the adoption curve of lithium-ion. Obviously, it’s in all the phones we use. It’s in the laptops we use. Tesla’s insight early on, before the Elon Musk got involved, was they actually looked at lithium ion in laptops and realised that 18650 standard form factor batteries were being used in laptops. They posited that they could just lots and lots of these batteries and connect them up together to make a huge battery that could power a car. [00:13:00] That was the insight for Tesla. It wasn’t really that much of a breakthrough in chemistry because they were picking off-the-shelf batteries.
To this day, that’s what they’ve done and in the process expanded from 18650 to 2070. So 2070 means it’s 20 millimeters in diameter and 700mm in height. Which actually brings me to another interesting historic point. Elon Musk will say that more or less that they are the ones who came up with the 2070 and that’s it’s their new technology. Although marginally bigger the density of energy is as much as 30% or 50% more than the predecessor, the 18650. But here’s the interesting historic fact: that 2070 battery was actually first marketed in 2015 somewhere in Korea by Samsung. The first product to demo it was an e-bike and it showed how you can pack these into a module that would fit inside of a bike. My point is that this isn’t an innovation in chemistry. [00:14:00] This is just the standardization of the packaging. Just like going from double to triple A batteries or cylindrical form factors to so-called pouch technology.
They have a range of benefits — 2070s don’t short out as much, so you can package this differently for different conditions. It was used for aviation/airplane systems and also for backup systems for power stations. I think they supplied the China Olympics with backup power. The beauty of this packaging and the chemistry within it is that you can actually shoot a bullet through them and they will not short.
Oliver: [00:15:00] I wanted to further discuss a little bit the around infrastructure. So bike lanes, for example in China, all of the major cities have their own dedicated infrastructure. Where you can see the faster and more rapid adoption of bikes and scooters and other things because there’s better infrastructure there.
So how do we think through a cities ability to absorb [micromobility] innovations, and whether infrastructure like this is or isn’t required in order to be able to see proper adoption. What happens if you get a Light Electric Vehicle, but it can’t drive on the road and it has to use bikelanes, but then there’s a big push back on it?
Horace: Yeah, so let me answer it get the with a bit of history, because if you think about cities, especially the older cities that predate the automobile, you can see how the automobile conformed to their infrastructures. [00:16:00] So, let’s take a city street, the Champs de Elysee in France, take Fifth Avenue New York, take London, anywhere really.
It was designed much more than 100 years ago around the existing modality of transport. At the time, that would have been walking and horse-drawn transport. Into that though the first injection of new modalities into cities were not the car, but the trams. The car was much later. So this is this is happening when people were also walking. There were horses pulling large vehicles which were filled with goods — there wasn’t really any horse-drawn personal transport. What you ended up with was either walking as your own personal transport or sharing it in the form of a tram of some kind. [00:17:00]
By the way, it’s a long story, but trams were the innovation. There were tracks before it, but trains were not designed for cities because they were big and bulky and had long turn radius. To adapt the train to the city who had to go underground which is why we have the Underground Railway. London the earliest adopter and that’s why still today it’s called The Underground. So when rail came into cities very late they needed to figure out how to make tunnels on the cities. That’s a very expensive and complicated infrastructure, but it was necessary in London and Paris to handle the huge demand for transport. It was very challenging. [The engineer] Brunel famously worked on this project and many catastrophes occurred, floodings, people dying and so on in order to build these tunnels under the cities to accommodate trains, which were still steam-powered. If you can imagine the steam train underground, that’s what they had initially and over time, became electrified. [00:18:00] Now, the reason I say all this is again, you can see how much trauma was involved moving from one mode to another. From walking, to horse pull trams, to underground railways and then only much later adding cars.
By the way, the bicycle, when it came into cities, was just a crazy revolution. The penny farthing was initially the first bike. That was not very very mass-market because it was so hard to use but it was the only one that gave you some speed because at the time the only option was to sit on the bike and kick. The kick bikes were the original ones that were going back 200 years, but they was never caught on because he couldn’t go much faster than walking and you couldn’t go uphill and had no mechanical leverage.
So the penny farthing had this giant wheel in the front and then a tiny wheel in the back. That gave you a little bit more speed but it was hard to ride and very dangerous. [00:19:00] The first riders of these things were guys showing off basically. But then the safety bicycle emerged. It is two equal sized wheels connected to a double triangle frame, plus a chain which allowed you to create the mechanical leverage through gearing — it’s the classic bicycle design we see even today. That configuration entirely changed the cycling world. It’s still with us today. The safety cycle was what allowed so many more people to ride. In fact women began to ride and it was very liberating for women because they suddenly had the freedom of movement.
They actually had to design new clothing for women in order for them to participate and women who wore this new style clothing were considered rebels. The women’s suffrage movement coincided with this and it’s rather well known among cycling historians how liberating this was to women and how big of a force it was. Susan B Anthony, an American suffragettes early campaigner for women’s rights claimed that the bicycle was the most liberating instrument in the history of humanity. [00:20:00]
It also changed things like the way people were courting each other. It reduced the rate of incest because suddenly people could travel further and so people began ‘dating across villages’. You used to not be able to leave your village so if you want to do courtship, you do it inside of a very small community. Suddenly with a bike a man or a woman could travel to the neighbouring village and meet someone else. That’s such a big deal. It changed the populations of both France and the UK and literally changed the DNA pool.
You can’t underestimate the power of this vehicle because at the time there were no alternatives. This predates the automobile, trains were just not flexible enough to allow this sort of spontaneity and mass consumption. Trains also were scheduled and only went to limited places. Villages didn’t have access to rail unless they traveled long distances to get to a rail station.
[00:21:00] So all this was happening late 19th century. People think that the horse was the victim of the car but horses were really for transporting goods. They were beasts of burden. Only the wealthy could could ride horses for fun. The image we have of people riding horses for transport came from the wild west movies and the Cowboys.
In cities it just never happened. You can see the videos and read the accounts of people complaining about needing to park.
Oliver: It’s like today. You get annoyed and have do go down to the damn parking stable!
Horace: So what’s interesting there? The historians look at the city layout and they look at the streets and they say ‘well, the streets didn’t get any bigger’. The streets we have hundreds of years old. What happened was, that as the automobile came into use, it was just mixing in with all the other modes. [00:22:00]
Back then on the street you had people walking, dogs, horses, kids and there was manure everywhere from the horses. It was literally open sewers. It was a big mess even up until the 1920s. Over time because the delta between the speed of automobiles and everything else was was so high they often had collisions that killed people. And so they began to put rules into effect which segregated the automobile from the other modes, particularly pedestrians.
Pedestrians were segregated to sidewalks and so suddenly you were restricted in what they could do. During the 1920s, the crisis was so severe that there were campaigns by mothers because they had lost their children. They treated the automobile as a plague that it literally killed thousands of people. Think about it. There hadn’t been a trauma of mortality in the United States like this. You go from no one dying in transport incidents to thousands of people dying in transport incidents and this was incredibly traumatic. [00:23:00] There were campaigns, articles written and posters being drawn about the “Menace of the Automobile”, the “Grim Reaper” and all that other stuff. Children were used to just running out in the street playing and here would come a car from nowhere at high speed and it would cut down children.
Of course the vehicles were very very unsafe to begin with and they were driven by people who didn’t have any skill and so the authorities began not restricting the car so much, but putting in place restrictions like driver’s licenses, installing signaling and having some safety systems. But basically they segregated the pedestrians away from the car. And then they introduced things like [00:24:00] lights, cross walks, and started to teach children to look both ways before crossing the street.
Essentially, it was the pedestrian who was made to conform to the automobile, but the size of the street didn’t change. We just ended up to carving it into segments — here’s the segment for you people on foot and here’s the segment for you people on wheels.
By the way, there was potentially some rail in the middle of it as well. The whole was divided up because the real estate of the street could not change. The building’s couldn’t be moved or torn down. If there was a new development, then it was built automatically around these new guidelines. This is why anything built after the 1920s is sort of distinct in architecture and design and layout.
The point is to think that a road is a very finite and very precious piece of real estate. It is tends not to expand once it’s built and if it expands it doesn’t really gain that much capacity. [00:25:00] It’s a tiny little straw through which a city or a community must flow inside of a three-dimensional space and that’s a very tiny amount of space allocated to movement of objects and people.
People think that this is some big deal to ask for infrastructure for bikes or micromobility, but we’ve been asking for infrastructure for new modalities for 200 years. Starting with bicycles, then trams, continuing with trains then with cars. The early cyclists asked for smooth road surfaces because they were forced to ride on dirt or on cobblestones. We ended up with smooth roads before we had the automobile because of the demand of cyclists. We always have had demands on these streets coming from new modes and they’ve been met usually with reluctance, but they’ve been met because you have demand. [00:26:00]
Nowadays, the car is incumbent and we think that the world is always been this way. No, the car made it this way and now it’s time to decide whether the car needs to step aside or at least give up some more real estate on the street.
If you look at how city planners are thinking about street design, they’re saying what’s basically now 90% car and 10% other is eventually going to get to a situation where the car gets about 20 percent. The amount of street real estate is going to end up being one lane in each direction for cars or the street becomes one way with the rest of the space allocated to public transit, cycling lanes, green areas and the like. [00:27:00] People are finding out that if you have trees in the street, if you have street furniture, benches, trash containers and other things that break up the street, it actually improves both the livability but also the traffic and it’s conducive to a much better street design.
All these things are coming and new streets, especially in Europe, are being designed this way and old streets are being converted to this. There are many many examples of it and it’s happening slowly now, but as always, you know it starts out slowly but it gets faster and faster.
Oliver: You had the New York example where they effectively built the giant freeway down the side of Manhattan where they got rid of entire neighborhoods in order to be able to build it. In your mind, what would a hyper optimized set of infrastructure and roading in cities look like for micromobility solutions?
[00:28:00] Horace: I think it’s actually a lot easier to build for micromobility because these vehicles are lighter and smaller and require less space than the predecessor. What I expect will happen is they’ll be more of them. We’ll actually end up with like bike jams and micromobility jams of some kind. Scooters fighting with bikes fighting with quads and all this other stuff and it’ll spur another whole political discussion.
You mentioned New York. I mean the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1880, well before the automobile. That bridge was not used for cars until 1940s. It was used for walking and even today you can walk on the Brooklyn Bridge which is unusual. But also mostly it was used for trains or the New York subway. The number of passengers transported across the Brooklyn Bridge was an order of magnitude higher before it was converted to automobile. [00:29:00] When you switch to cars you actually reduced efficiency. And so when you switch back out of cars, you can get back and whether that’s micromobility or transit.
By the way, we should talk about transit for a minute. The only concern I have with it is that it doesn’t scale as quickly as personal mobility because transit inherently is packetized. It’s very efficient when you everybody shares that same vehicle, but it cannot deliver people everywhere and typically it doesn’t schedule itself as efficiently as what people need and you have to have timetables. Both access points and timetables restrict the accessibility of the mode which is why personal transportation is always going to trump public transportation.
The problem has been that we equate personal transportation in our minds with automobiles. If you say personal transportation is micromobility, then suddenly it looks good relative to transit. [00:30:00] So I think transit is going to do well and you will see that evolve. I think cities are going to plan more of it, but it’s not as possible to disrupt with public transport. Private has a tendency to be disruptive from the evidence of the car and the bicycle before it and so we’ll now see that step forward again.
You also mentioned these giant highways that were built on the side of Manhattan. They replaced a lot of the shipping infrastructure. The west side of Manhattan used to be docking facilities. The Titanic would have docked up at 55th Street, and each of these shipping lines had their own parking spots up and down the entire side of Manhattan. That’s how Manhattan came to be the Hong Kong of its day. All the shipping literally docked right up against the side of the island. Once shipping changed technologically to containerization and moved away from the city, they took that real estate and put highways right over not just the shipping points, but the old warehouses. [00:31:00] In a lot of the East Coast cities that had ports like Baltimore, Boston etc., the seashore was the place where highways were placed because the infrastructure suddenly became available and it was becoming dilapidated. Unfortunately, it ended up replacing them with with no go zones of another kind and that’s what we are stuck with today. This was a very big political discussion occurring in the 1960s and 70s as to whether this was a desirable or not.
There’s a great book I should point out everybody to it’s called Big Roads. It tells the story of the interstate highway system in the United States which took half a century to build. It’s an interesting story because it shows you again how much effort we put into and how much we terraformed our cities, and our lives and our countries in order to accommodate the automobile, a singlular new mode. [00:32:00] Now we’re just asking could we share some of that infrastructure with new modes? It’s about shaping it over time. That’s what’s happening in Europe now.
Oliver: Yeah. To your point around transit you might be able to move tens of thousands of people on a particular line, but if all of a sudden you’ve got a city that’s spread out, with people traveling from one to another node, you’ll find that your throughput becomes clogged very quickly because the size of the vehicle is so large. If you have an increasing number of nodes, the connections between those nodes will increase exponentially with the increasing connections. Traditional transit won’t solve that issue. But where micromobility solutions shine — if you’ve got a small human sized vehicle that’s electric that allows for someone to be able to go and navigate their way through an urban context directly and according to their own time frames that strikes me as incredibly attractive for cities.
[00:33:00] Horace: Absolutely. It makes sense in the first principles in physics. The mathematics of it is so obvious. What is bizarre is how perverse the system that we have today is in terms of efficiency. What the car had originally that made it so disruptive was that it just gave a lot of freedom to individuals at the potential cost for the community. That’s life. Sometimes life is not fair.
With micromobility you can still provide this type of freedom to individuals to travel as they wish while at the same time getting much higher efficiency. The dichotomy between efficacy and efficiency is understated. How do we gain efficiency on private transit or personal mobility while gaining more flexibility? [00:34:00] The other flip side is can we get more flexibility out of public systems which are already efficient, but not as effective along the dimension here? It’s not it’s not one or the other. Can we actually move in the right direction with both?
Oliver: I want to ask about licences. I’ve been thinking about the fact that I got an electric bike after I had got a moped. I got a moped because it didn’t require motorcycle license which in New Zealand’s quite challenging to get, but the thing was a death trap and then I thought, ‘well I can go get an ebike and use the bike lanes’. No country I know requires a license for an e-bike but it strikes me as one of the opportunities there to keep the barriers to entry as low as possible for private transport to scale.
Horace: Yeah, in fact, the driver’s license is a byproduct of the carnage that occurred with automobile. You had to invent the driver’s license. [00:35:00] It didn’t exist. I think that one of the things that I also talked about in terms of boundary markings or categorisation is the driver’s license. The thing between micromobility and personal motorized mobility is in your wallet: that card that says you have to have a license for one but not the other. When you’re thinking about it as an entrepreneur you always want to draw a line and try and ensure that the modality or innovation does not require licensing. You want to try to always stay below that line.
That’s one way to define your space — to categorize anything that doesn’t require license as desirable for the purpose of getting started because it’s easier to get the ball rolling and when you have limited capital that’s very important. That’s not to say that over time, we won’t bring some degree of licensing. I think there are going to be safety concerns arising when these motors become perhaps more powerful. [00:36:00] Already, they’re regulated in terms of limits on power, torque or speed and these are somewhat arbitrary right now and nobody quite knows what the right boundary is. We can talk at length and people debate a great deal about e-bikes and scooters and other new modes as to who allows them, why are they banned in places and not in others and so on.
The Segway is a classic kind of poster child for this problem because here was a new mode invented probably way ahead of its time which never found a way to succeed because it didn’t have infrastructure. It didn’t fit in anything that was pre-existing, so it couldn’t go on the sidewalks and they couldn’t go in the street and so it was orphaned because it just had no natural habitat. The thing about e-cycling and shared cycling is that you could think of it as the introduction of an electric motor into an existing fabric of infrastructure, which is the road system, and that electric motor finds a habitat because the bicycle fits into the infrastructure. [00:37:00]
But over time, the expectation is, that it will terraform — reform and reshape the Earth — so that the electric motor fits and rebuilds the world around it and it’s optimized for it. We don’t quite know how that’s going to look. The thing about the historic example of the Segway is that, here was an electric motor with some technology, batteries and and gyroscopes which allowed it to really revolutionize personal transport and yet because it couldn’t find a compatible conformable infrastructure for itself, and couldn’t build it, it died. And now it’s being reborn as a scooter or hoverboard. But hoverboard is also fad and it dies because it doesn’t have the acceptable entry point.
The electric bike may be that one thing that succeeds because we have something called bike lanes and because we’ve had bikes for 100 years. [00:38:00] We have them already accepted on the streets, although admittedly very unsafe as a condition, but the streets were initially designed for these things. So, you know, you see how that happens and you’re at this point in time when the universe is changing.
By the way this whole thing feels deja vu to anyone with kind of lived through the early cell phone era and early personal computer era. If you remember the early networking, we had to piggyback on top of these archaic technologies. So the way I talk about infrastructure is that it’s very frustrating. I don’t have an answer other to simply say that time solves this. You have to have a foothold market, it has to have a way to enter, it has to have the ability to evolve. Once it has a foothold and can move forward the rate of change is unpredictable, but inexorably this will happen because it is so much better. [00:39:00] That’s where we are. I think I think we’re at that moment right now where, we’re realizing the potential of this thing. We’re realizing how powerful it is to have a miniature motor plus a battery and it has a foothold. It has proven to stick to something. It has found a niche and that niche is not trivial. It’s in the millions and millions of people using it.
So now the question is, how do we move beyond this niche? How does it evolve? How does it impact everything else? And how long it’ll take which is I think the most difficult question.