Episode 9: Why Micromobility Platforms Matter
Welcome to Micromobility, a podcast exploring the disruptive potential of light weight utility vehicles. Using the history of computing as a framework we examine how these technologies will upend everything we thought we knew about the future of transport.
The host of the show is Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco.com and I’m his co-host Oliver Bruce.
In today’s show, we examine the role of platforms in micromobilities rise, and what role they might play in furthering adoption.
Specifically, we cover:
- What an entry into the micromobility space might look like for Apple, and how their experience in interface stepchanges puts them at a unique advantage
- How autonomous cars are analogous to wormholes vs. a more tactile engaging experience of the world with micromobility.
- What a platform built on a micromobiltiy fleet might look like, and what it might enable, and what names we might give to these experiences in the same way that cars have crusing, drivethrus and cinemas.
- The stage of the market, and the parallels to the Playstation vs Xbox argument
- How the network effects of micromobility sharing platforms are inverse to the traditional car infrastructure
- Horace introduces his new research paper looking at modal shifts with the introduction of e-mobility in a cities transport mix.
[00:00:00] Welcome to Micromobility, a podcast exploring the disruptive potential of lightweight utility vehicles. Using the history of computing as a framework we examine how these technologies will upend everything we thought we knew about the future of urban transport. The host of the show is Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco.com, and I’m his co-host Oliver Bruce.
Oliver: All right, welcome back to Micromobility. How you going Horace?
Horace: I’m doing great Oliver. Thanks for for joining us again. I’d like to tell everyone, we’re in the in the sort of the late summer. It’s been a very hot summer. We’ve had a sort of a record breaker. I’ve been mostly in Europe with a lot of record-breaking heat waves here.
Oliver: Climate change is real Horace.
[00:01:00] Horace: Well, you know, one of the consequences of I suppose of internal combustion, but it also actually leads a lot of people to cycling. I think there’s there’s a silver lining here. I certainly was witness to a lot more people outdoors in especially here in Finland. We see all kind of records every day in terms of cycling and the expansion of the cycling network.
Simultaneously, I’m sure by now people have heard about the great boom in kick scooters being used in the US.
Oliver: It’s amazing to watch the the development there. I mean, I think and the short time that we have been off [00:02:00] between these recordings. There’s been almost a billion dollars of extra funding that’s gone into the sector.
Horace: We should point this out that there are rumors or some some verified data as well of certain pullbacks by some some of the early movers. In particular obike has been pulling out of Europe. Obike is a Singapore-based bike sharing system very similar to Ofo and Mobike and also similar somewhat to early versions of lime. Lime is pivoting toward scooters because of their US focus and what’s interesting is that I’ve kind of always assumed that there isn’t a single solution globally for a single mode of micromobility.
That’s why we don’t talk about bike-sharing as our theme, we talk about micro Mobility. [00:03:00] We’re seeing the emergence of scooters sharing in the US, ebike and particular personal e-bikes in Europe and shared pedal bikes or regular bikes in China and these are evolving in their own ways. We might see we might see a bit more e-bikes in China.
We might see a bit more sharing in Europe of e-bikes and potentially scooters and we might even see some transplants between these cultures, but we’re seeing that one transplant didn’t take off which is the Chinese dockless bikeshare model in Europe. That has seen a lot of pushback and and lack of adoption happening there.
And now this some people are you in the US…
Oliver: Yeah. same with Ofo who just pulled all of its staff out of North America.
Horace: That’s right. There’s overcapacity in China. We see the large piles of the [00:04:00] discarded cycles in China. A lot of this is over oversupply and abundance of capital, too much capital in fact, and therefore too much money chasing not enough supply of rides.
At the same time you one would expect imbalances to occur early in the market and we are very early in the market. We’re only about two years into this micromobility phase. Coupled to this overcapacity we also have a huge abundance of new rides, new consumption of the supply and this is this is where you have to be careful in reading the data.
There’s certainly been a rush of capital. [00:05:00] The capital markets have something to do with that — we’re awash in capital and so there’s a lot of money now chasing what the story might be. Two years ago the story was bike sharing and now the story might be scooter sharing.
Nonetheless these unlock an latent amount of demand for these vehicles or these these types of use cases and with freefloat both in scooters and bikes were seeing that this technology of GPS coupled with phones that everybody has with them, that with these technologies, the genie will not go back in the bottle.
We’re definitely going to see plenty more as we go forward. The assumption has been all along that the vehicles themselves will evolve, the business models will evolve, we’re probably going to see monetization and new [00:06:00] dimensions besides actually paying for the utility of the ride itself.
We spoke about this in the past, you know, what is the value of the data? What is the value of presence and location services that you may have as you ride along one thing? I want to point out that what really distinguishes the automotive alternatives to the micromobility alternatives for transport is quite subtle.
I was thinking the other day about Apple. Our focus traditionally has been, at least we’ve assumed, it’s been in the car space. We haven’t heard of interest from them in this new space of micromobility. I kept thinking to myself, ‘well, why would or why wouldn’t Apple be interested in this?’
So let me argue as a, you know, Socratic argument here just both sides of this debate. The thing about Apple that is impressive is their [00:07:00] willingness and focus on the user experience, the willingness to evolve that and to create new experiences.
A lot of these experiences, as you know, have been either through intimate touch or the visual space. You have screens and you have input methods either through an indirect Mouse or touchpad or direct manipulation through touch.
These have been the giant leaps forward the mouse and and the the capacitive screen technologies. They’ve been relying more on improvements in the screen Technologies to deliver information to users.
Now if you think about the car, the car has potential to drive these types of innovations with input methods and output methods because the space in the car is really a [00:08:00] little room. It’s a little room that goes places and it’s a room that that transports its occupants. So that’s a wonderful space for Apple to reengineer and I think this is why they’re attracted to the vehicle.
Now if you were to ask what would be the advantage of UI’s or UX on a vehicle it is much more difficult. On a micro vehicle, you’re not expected to be inside something, you’re on top of it. You’re on a vehicle. The vehicle is going through a space in the space of itself. The cityscape becomes your visual input. And so you might filter that with a helmet with a heads-up display type technology, but fundamentally, it’s a heads-up experience.
It’s an outside experience. It’s not an inside experience and this is important because on one hand you might look at it as a technical person and [00:09:00] say what more I can add to that experience because you know, I’m trying to get inside someone’s retina? I’m not trying to work on their, you know, pedaling skills or on their peripheral vision. I’m trying to just engage them with something other than the outside world. And that’s the important distinction.
I think there is however an opportunity to rethink the user input. So what is entering the brain what is entering the years in the end and the senses when you’re on in microbe ability is the world itself and the question is what can you do to make the world more interesting? What can you do to engage people and have that journey be the most interesting thing about the trip? I’m not being very clear.
Oliver: I’m trying to get it. So when you say [00:10:00] visual input is it, you know, are you thinking about something in the sense of like augmented reality glasses or something that would kind of take in and filter the outside world in a way that allows you to engage in it and then pass through?
Horace: Without being too specific. I would say that’s certainly an instance of that Vision I have, but zooming out a little bit I mean the question is when you’re in the car, I think the Ultimate Experience is to have you be completely oblivious to what’s going on outside the vehicle, right?
The idea would be to be so engaged with the interior that you forget about the journey itself and it becomes it turns into something that that disappears and and so you get in the vehicle you are you’re surrounded [00:11:00] by an escapism and this is this is I think that the ethos, the idea, the core idea of a driverless car is that your experience in the car is so Blissful that the the you don’t need to worry about what’s outside and what’s outside is congestion, pollution, delay, rage and anxiety.
And so, you know in a driverless car you should have pure pleasure in your little box, the room you’re in, and I think that’s what the driving function would be for designers. The opposite of this is the micromobility thesis which is to make that journey be so pleasant that you actually want to extend it. It’s the exact opposite idea.
The idea of the car is to make the journey seem as if you’re not in a journey at all, and you want to take the journey [00:12:00] away. You want to make that time in the car ‘productive’ or ‘entertaining’ therefore there is no Journey. You’re stepping into a space, you have fun, and then you step out of that space and a new location.
It’s essentially a wormhole, you know? You don’t sense that something happened. The difference with micromoblity is the exact opposite. You want to actually make that Journey as long as possible, as engaging as possible, because the world is what is being offered to you. You ought to really drink deeply of it. This is, I think, at the heart of the job to be done here.
The job to be done of the autonomous car is to eliminate the outside world whereas the job to be done of someone on the [00:13:00] micro vehicle would be to make the journey as exciting and interesting as possible.
You partake of the world more and this is this is I think at the heart of what a designer would sit and ponder, you know, what do you want to build into this thing?
And it’s not so much the vehicle at that point, but rather that how does the vehicle engage with the world? And when you talked to city planners they also say things like cars are isolating other modes are integrating. So in other words when you Traverse a city through through other modes than the car you can gauge more with it.
So you want to make the spaces as engaging as possible. You want to have new opportunities for commerce, new opportunities to socialize, new opportunities to even you know, slow down. Because there’s something to see and [00:14:00] this is the root of the problem. And so when you have generations of people brought up on the notion that the car is there to make the trip as bearable as possible.
You have to flip that on its head and said, how can we make the trip as enjoyable as possible? I think we’re talking possibly a few years down the road that this realization will come to designers, but I think this is where the core distinction is not just about the vehicle weight in the vehicle specifications, but more about what is a job to be done of the journey itself.
Oliver: Yeah. Absolutely. I love that question. And I think that’s where we kind of got to in our last episode. It does beg the question a little bit for me about what will these vehicles look like?
What will a vehicle that is really enjoyable to have spent all this time on and that you really want it you hop out of it be lik so that you’re like wow, that was so amazing I just want to [00:15:00] keep on going?
Horace: Or next time like the next time I may want to take a different trip because it was so much fun with what I explored, what I discovered. We ought to think more that the engineer or design of the vehicle is really about engineering and designing and experience around the whole space that that vehicle resides in and that becomes actually a very difficult challenge because you’d have to say, you know, I don’t have a brief.
Designing a let’s say bicycle and I have a brief to design the space that the bicycle rides through. Not even in the point of having lanes for it, but rather the shops in the places you might pass by when you go on your on your trip. I think what will happen, the same way that the designers of the iPhone did not anticipate the apps that would appear on it, but they created a platform upon which apps eventually came by the imagination of millions of people who [00:16:00] designed new experiences on top of that and that’s how the actual platform grew.
So the question of the platform of a micromobility device will be what can people build on top? And what Builds on top is not just the vehicle itself, but rather the environment it sits in and so the transformation of the space around us will happen because people will see millions of bikes traversing streets and then we’ll the redesign them to entice those people to stop and enjoy something along the way. That’s the heart of the problem.
The question is only one of how long that might take and so to follow this thread further. I would say that you know, you winning in micromobility will not be when there are certain number of bikes. Certainly that will happen, but we have certain number of phones before we had iPhone but rather when the experiences that people who use these vehicles will be actually so new that no one has actually had a word for that [00:17:00] before.
We didn’t have apps that we didn’t have social media in you know in mass use until after phones came became smart. Now, when when these vehicles will come about here’s what I expect would happen is that we would have trips that people would take perhaps together with other people it to locations they would have never gone before and they’ll have a name for these types of trips.
And these are not trips that we take today. So for example, when the car came along we invented something called cruising. The idea would be you’d stay in your car and actually go nowhere but in a circle or sort of go back and forth down and an avenue and and sort of use that experience of cruising to to look at other people and have them look at you.
I think that was that was the essence of that of that experience, but. We ended up with [00:18:00] cruising we ended up with with. Drive-in theaters we’d end up with drive-thru restaurant. So people eat in their cars people watch movies people then also socialize in cars and then you have all this all of these engagement opportunities if you will in in the vehicle because it was that space, it was that room that moved. Now on a vehicle that isn’t a space, potentially many people can participate many people can kind of create crowds, who knows what we might emerge in terms of social behaviors.
You might have parties where everybody gets on a bike and goes to another place and that place could not have been reached by car before because either it’s in a location without parking or it’s in the location that was you know, let’s say not even with a road in front of it.
And so people might get there and enjoy certain [00:19:00] things. I’m not very imaginative obviously, but I’m just thinking about what might people do if the Ingenuity and creativity comes into play and those software developers who will enable these experiences.
So now for example when you are. Using cycling for recreational purposes and you have a smart phone in an app, you know, you have people doing virtual challenges like, you know King of the Hill or you’re cycling in competition with others, even though you’re not in the same place.
These are obvious things you might do with an app and the fact that you have a bike but what about you do with the fact that everybody’s on a bicycle and everybody has a vehicle that can go almost anywhere and is very conformable. I think this is where the design and the interesting opportunities will arise [00:20:00] in.
In this micromobility, it’s not just utility. We think about utility function which is cost per mile or speed or distance or reduction in congestion or reduction in CO2. These are things that micromobility supposedly will benefit the world by, but I think the true benefits will come further down the road when we redefine certain types.
Social norms in certain types of behaviors that these vehicles only and only these vehicles can enable.
we’re still so early in this story that a lot of the propositions that are being made on the value of the new modalities these micro modalities are utility based and yet I’m certain that we’re going to emerge with more than utility and value defined in terms of how people use these [00:21:00] things and and the real the really big.
Big breakthroughs in terms of either business models that are sustainable business models that are defensible. In other words, a lot of people can put bikes on the street, a lot of people can put scooters on the street and maybe the competition becomes one of who can raise the most money and do it quicker and somehow capture users. The same thing with Uber but at some point you have to ask what are the switching costs for people to switch out of that and is muscle alone sufficient to create a sustainable business?
I think that as we saw with phones and other compute technologies, the real magic comes in network effects related to to platforms and how the application sitting on top of the very device those applications are a collaboration between the platform itself and the developer. [00:22:00] The collaborative way of innovating that happens in platforms means that developers are dependent on the platform and the platform is dependent on the developer and as they work together, they actually unlock tremendous value in create new experiences.
This has been story of Windows and story of the iPhone and story of Android. It tends to consolidate into several platforms that are competing but not too many platforms because then the developers are not going to be able to support very many at once but that’s really the story of how money is made of computers. It’s not made of the hardware. It’s not even made with operating system. It’s made with the platforms and one has to wonder that these vehicles that become intelligent at the micro level with their rapid replacement rates and [00:23:00] with their with their cycle time of development that are very similar to the to the to the phone cycle times.
I’m sure that the emergence of platforms is the way to think about this in the longer term at this point. However, we’re so early on it’s like arguing about iOS versus Android and it’s 1995. In 1995, not only do the IOS and Android not exist, but everybody was wondering whether cell phones cause cancer or whether cell phone’s battery lives could be more than a few hours and whether these things you stuck in your car as a portable phone or whether you could actually make something that fits in your pocket.
That’s where we were in 1995 and you know, it still took a couple of generations of innovations both of the hardware and the software side before we got to the platform debates of the mid-2000s. [00:24:00] Even then, the debates were about platforms that eventually went extinct which included Blackberry and and Windows Mobile and Symbian and finally we saw the emergence of the more sustainable IOS and Android ecosystems that came about 2008/09.
So again, it’s a question. Are those cell phones? Yes. Were cell phones invented in 2008? No. they were invented in my many decades earlier and they were millions of users, hundreds of millions of users for decades before we ended up with that particular business model for smartphones.
So again, what I’m wondering mostly is as we see this transition happening in transportation, is are the cycle times going to be closer to the phone cycle times or the PC cycle times or even slower? The PC took about 20 [00:25:00] years between like let’s say 1976 and 1996 when we had the emergence of Windows as the sort of the the clear leader in platforms.
We have 20 year evolution in the PC. We arguably had a 10-year evolution in the smartphone. So things are getting a little faster, but is mobility given the fact that it’s so infrastructre based and so regulatory constrained that will that take longer or shorter? The exciting thing about micromobility is that it’s flying under the radar of regulation mostly and rightly so, but it’s also more device oriented rather than the very complex value chain that is the car business.
So anyway, that’s that’s kind of like another perhaps hopelessly early view of the of [00:26:00] space. It’s so frustrating.
Oliver: No, it’s it’s it’s amazing to hear you talk about this and I’m not a fan boy for a second here, but just to give that context to it I think is really interesting. I think in some ways to your point around debating between Android and iOS and 1995, I think the devices that we’re seeing today when you have the scooters and stuff are not really that intelligent right? They’re dumb but connected to some intelligence.
Horace: In 1995 a very important thing happened in the phone space, but in sort of like the what you might call the embryonic PDA. That was the year that the the Palm Pilot was launched and Palm Pilot was you know, a stylus based organizer. We didn’t have a good name for it at the time, but you know, you’d have all your contacts there, you’d have your [00:27:00] calendar there in sync with your desktop. This thing docked to a USB port and it was really quite a revelation. Everybody wanted to have this pocket sized screen device and and that was 1995 and Palm did very well for a couple of years and Microsoft chased quickly after them with Windows CE.
At the time I was looking at this and I said, well the future is going to be a computer in your pocket with a screen about the size of a phone or a smartphone that we have today. It was so clear to me in ’98 or so that that was the future of media internet communications and computing, but I just had to wait 20 years after that moment when you know indeed we have a ubiquity and we have a saturation and we need have billions of people doing it.
[00:28:00] So it just a question of when. What I’m asking myself is, is it 20 years for transportation to undergo a similar transition or is it possibly even faster? The exciting thing with micromobility has been that like we talked about, it’s been two years with with the launch of shared bikes in China and then now we have one year under our belt since Bird launched this shared scooter model in Santa Monica and already we have potentially millions of users. I mean the data from China suggest that there are 400 million registered users a few months ago and 70 million active per day.
I don’t have scooter data in terms of how many actives there are amongst all of the sharing businesses. They’re out there. It seems like the big ones are our Lime and Bird. Lime pivoted to this [00:29:00] following Bird and now we have a few other entrants. I think there are five or six companies vying for licenses in San Francisco alone.
Skip comes to mind because I happen to know the founder of Skip as well and so these great ideas are only a year old. I think Skip is six months old. I think Lime also pivoted only about six months ago. So all of this is happening even faster than the phone space did. We talk about how long Motorola flip phones took in their evolution to the Razr and how long it took for Blackberry. It took for some of these guys at least it was 5 to 10 years to get established.
So now we’re looking at months versus years. Now, we might go through many more revolutions on the way there but I think this is where we’re headed. So that’s just one thought I wanted to complete since our [00:30:00] last conversation because I wanted to dig into this platform idea.
I think as we go forward with the show to kind of think through who might be the players? The puzzle is again if you were to live in 1995 and asked what was going on in people’s minds about what what the true competitive battles would be, most people were arguing about how Microsoft would dominate the PDA Market or not, and how they would be entering into the device space.
They certainly had a strategy for doing so with phone business as early as 1999. They had a phone on the development. The role of various other incumbents at the time from Adobe looking at their efforts with with PDF you know, [00:31:00] no one really anticipated Android or iOS.
Oliver: Google was founded in 95. You wouldn’t have picked it as being one of the two companies that are gonna dominate in 20 years.
Horace: Yeah. I was there and I was trying to. I was remembering some of these these political arguments being made about who would dominate even though some people foresaw the emergence.
The debate was on Xbox vs. PlayStation. The debate was on, you know, are we going to have a large screen tablet? There were some tablet prototypes out already and so our ability to really anticipate or you predict this future was very very limited and even 10 years later people were still counting [00:32:00] on players other than the ones that actually succeeded.
So one of the interesting debates in transportation might be how do we get from the Waymo’s and the Ubers and the Lyft’s and the contenders today in transportation? Who are they? We have the OEMs, we have car oriented startups, we have car oriented incumbents, we have geo-political orientations, we have Tesla, we have China, we have all these. We have the electric Revolution. Potentially, we have the sharing and ride hailing revolution, and we have the autonomous vector.
Into this steps micromobility which looks like this weird weird one and yet most people are not considering that as a real contender for how this might play out. But a lot [00:33:00] of the analysts in the 90s were predicting that compute wasn’t going to be PC forever, but that it might move to the game and set-top box.
The whole debate was, who’s going to own the living room? The computer was not in the living room. The computer was in the office and maybe in the bedroom, but it you know, in order to see the future of computing you have to enter the living room. So the debate was is going to be a set-top box or is it going to be a game console?
In order to have a role in this companies were buying up cable companies and they were worrying about fiber optics and all these other things that you see how how distant that appears.
Oliver: It appears to be completely irrelevant right?
Horace: I mean, it’s like set-top boxes who cares? I mean nobody. Now we have streaming [00:34:00] boxes and we have we have smart speakers in the living room, but even those are not that interesting compared to what phones already established themselves. Now we have wearables and we have tablets and we have computers all around us. We have Internet of things, we have a smart appliances potentially as well but the big story was turned out to be iOS versus Android and both of those players came again quite late in the game in 2008–09.
The question for for micromobility is we’re probably arguing the wrong question when thinking about big cars and and sort of thinking how that those technologies will sustain or perhaps slightly alter the economics of big vehicles.
But really the interesting question, I’d say, what the focus of this whole show is that let’s put attention on the microvehicles and see [00:35:00] how much dynamism is there. And then once we agree on that, then step two steps forward in the chess game and think about what that means for platforms and who might actually pick up and run with that.
Here’s the thing is like okay, I could say Google’s misapplying their resources looking at at autonomy in cars. I mean, it’s a good thing to do autonomy in cars, but it’s not going to be the platform of choice in my opinion for the vehicles of the future.
I think cars are too slow literally in terms of evolving themselves to be appropriate for the future. Micromobility vehicles are going to come from below and disrupt them. Now could Waymo / Google / Alphabet pivot?
Three years from now, they’ll realize, ‘Wow, there’s a hundred million of these things on the streets and we’re still trying to get like [00:36:00] thousands of cars in using our intelligence. We should be refocusing on these hundreds of millions instead.’
That could happen. The same thing could happen with Apple when they’ll realize, ‘hang on a second, we spent 10 years and 10 billion dollars trying to make a great living room on wheels. Maybe people don’t want to sit in their living room anymore when they’re traveling’
That again could cause a pivot and maybe the future platforms of mobility will be still iOS and Android but that’s again asking a similar question. Why would Microsoft win in smartphones when you know, they couldn’t make the pivot happen from PC’s? You know, they carried on in new ways and certainly that doesn’t mean they disappear but it’s like they missed that transition.
So again, this is the debate going forward will the [00:37:00] platform’s of mobility really be from the incumbents in in the phone space or world will we see new entrance coming?
Oliver: Cool, excellent. We’ll look I’m aware we kind of got a bit sidetracked on what we were originally going to discuss. But did you want to do want to head back over and look at the modal competition?
Horace: I’m co author on a paper that was submitted together with ETH, which is a Swiss University. We wrote this paper to describe the potential competition between shared e-bikes [00:38:00] and public transit. It’s a very narrowly defined paper in terms of showing how to measure the potential substitution of one mode versus another.
That got me to think about what happens when micromobility modes begin to compete with existing modes. Here’s where I want to step back a bit. Imagine a world that existed before we had all this choice and transportation where we only really have either walking or maybe you know an animal that we could write on top of.
This would be lets say 200 years ago where really your choices where maybe writing in the wagon on top of a horse or walking. There were really no other choices for transportation. And then the railroad came and it introduced the first mode of transport and that was very big [00:39:00] revolution.
I’m forgetting of course a sea-based transport, but let’s stick to the land for now. So you had the introduction of a new mode with a train, you don’t think I’m going to substitute walking for it because maybe some people did walk journeys for 20–30 miles and they were glad to see a train take that take that role but mostly people didn’t walk 20–30 miles.
This new possibility emerged. They created a new demand for transport long distance, and so people traveled more, and traveled further.
When you look at a new mode introduction into a space into let’s say a country like France or England and suddenly this new mode is expanding the market. I think the option of a train did not really compete with walking.
Now [00:40:00] we’re talking about 1830s, 40s and 50s when rail began to take off worldwide. The automobile starts to really take off in the 20th century and suddenly you have this new mode introduced yet again into the middle of this.
I should say that cycling also came in before the car and that also kind of prompted the car in many ways but let’s say this city that was built around rail transport and walking suddenly gets a new thing in the middle of it. That’s the car and suddenly you have to rethink how and what journeys people make.
You have an infrastructure question, but you also have how people live, and the housing question, where are the suburbs are created and many other things as well.
The vehicle changes its landscape as a result. [00:41:00] Transportation makes the topography of cities. But what I’m thinking now is, you know, what happens after the car? They created motor motorized personal transport, but into this comes yet another. This is where I think this is the question we should ask for next time is.
What happens when you have four or five different modes availabe — subway, bus, walking, car etc — and you throw in something to that? It might [00:42:00] change but I think most micromobility now is really competing in urban environments and urban environments are well served with transport. You would think therefore that if you threw in a new mode, it wouldn’t find many takers because you already have options. Taking a new mode, we would be substituting against something else and in many cases as people have argued with me on Twitter these this this new mode is actually worse.
You have to pedal, you have to work and you’re exposed to the elements and all these other things. Who would want to do cycling when you have the car? Well, one the car may actually being be suffering from too much of it. So, you know have congestion and you have inverse Network effects, which means that the more cars there are, the worse the experience gets, the worse the value of the individual car gets. As opposed to positive network effects where the value of the network increases typically logarithmically as a number of nodes increases.
Traffic is the opposite. It [00:43:00] says that you know transportation infrastructures or Vehicles suffer from negative network effects. The value diminishes logarithmically the more of you there are.
Now so then you introduce a mode that saves you from some of that pain. This is why the argument for self-driving doesn’t solve the inverse effects of transportation. It might numb you to some of the pain but it you’re still going to end up causing even more negative effects. Stuck in a trap and you’re going to have more and more drugs essentially to dull the pain. That’s what it ends up as.
So to get to the chase here, does the new mode really compete effectively because it is better in some [00:44:00] direction, ie availability, speed, utility or does it actually enable you to take journeys that you wouldn’t have taken before because the car or the transit was limiting you and now suddenly this freedom vehicle comes in which is what the car promised in the first place.
That the new microvehicle is actually a source of freedom because it creates opportunity for you to travel where you may not have traveled before and so this is at the heart of the problem. The paper and and my whole question of analysis here is how do we measure apriori in, potential competitiveness of a new mode in a given context in a given City.
So it’s of course going to be different by city. It’s going to be different by mode, but we’re going to see, and I’m not exaggerating, probably a dozen new modes of emerging in the next few [00:45:00] years. We’ve seen them already in the few cases, right?
We have this as I mentioned the scooters, the bike, and the ebike and these are going to be either docked or undocked. Shared or personally owned. So already you have in that Matrix already many options, right but then we might see beyond this. We have a very micro vehicle in the scooter, sort of a mini vehicle. Then in a bike and sort of a little bit heftier ebike and potentially beyond the ebike you might have a three or even the four-wheel alternative. We call them quads and so you have tiny to sort of medium size. All of them exist below the threshold that I said arbitrarily to be 500 kilograms.
So all of these modes and innovators will come with these modes and figure out what are the economics. How can I price this? How can I create experiences? How can I fit this into the infrastructure? How can I find with regulation or how can we have new regulations?
All these will happen very quickly again, because the enabling technologies in batteries, compotent computers etc are [00:46:00] commodities already. Putting these together is not a giant giant research project. It’s going to be just on the shelf stuff reassembled and so one we have a dozen perhaps 20 different kinds of modes. We’re going to see a sort of a Cambrian explosion of modality. Never mind that do. I have the choice of taking the car or the train.
No, it’ll be the choice of having 20 different things that you can take. They’ll be accessible because they’ll be outside the door or very easy to get to. You’d even take one to another so you have sort of a seamless multi-modality where you take one vehicle to another vehicle to another vehicle to complete your journey if you have a ticketing system that allows you to sort of hop between these things without any friction.
You’re going to be in the very interesting way. This is what I want to get into. How can we do this in advance? How can we [00:47:00] anticipate the impact in a city and I have some hints. I think I think there are ways of measuring the attributes of these vehicles.
And the way they might be used that allow us to predict this and that’s what I’m saying. Would love to get into that in the next talk.
Oliver: Yeah, you definitely whetting the appetite there Horace. This is really exciting stuff. We’ll wrap it up there and and with that will hopefully be back in and not too long a time with with new episode covering all those things.
Excellent. That sounds sounds great. Thanks for taking the time here and listening to listening to us on this new micromobility topic that we’re so excited about. [00:48:00]