The Future of Mobility as a Service?
We have come a long way since the Ford Model-T automobile was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. For over one hundred years, cars have stood as a status symbol; their mass production ushered in a new age of individual freedom. Today, however, this picture is rapidly changing.
There are currently over 1.3 billion vehicles carousing around our planet’s roads. And the World Economic Forum estimates that this figure is set to double by 2040. In February 2018 alone, global vehicle sales totalled 6.87 million. That’s a lot of cars.
Moreover, by the next decade, one billion individuals are expected to move to cities around the globe. The increasing rate of urbanisation will further compound the traffic congestion and pollution issues faced by cities around the world. As a matter of fact, legislators have begun to introduce congestion charges to limit vehicle access to large urban areas. And this will contribute to making private vehicle ownership less desirable.
The automotive industry has enjoyed a long profitable ride, introducing new models, continuously selling more vehicles, and enjoying ever growing returns. However, experts posit that this trend may now have reached a turning point, known as Peak Car Theory.
Indeed, the automotive industry is already facing major issues related to overproduction and decreasing sales. The sharing economy, urban congestion charges and a range of other factors, such as the introduction of self-driving cars, have begun to reduce the appeal of private car ownership.
The Sharing Economy
The Millennial generation is coming of age with a completely new weltanschaung. Private possessions are on the decline and the sharing economy has become a powerful new green and sustainable life model. Indeed, many millennials do not even have a driving license and, if they do, cars are increasingly viewed as an expensive burden that can be hired when necessary.
The self-driving car market is expected to grow to over $87 billion by 2030 (Lux Research), completely revolutionising transport as we know it. This is a revolution that is set to provide immediate, cheap, and safe rides to any destination. Whether we are working, reading or simply kicking back, it is up to the autonomous vehicle to deliver us to our destination.
The conjunction of self-driving cars and the sharing economy model will introduce new mobility-as-a-service systems based on self-driving vehicle fleets and transportation network companies (TNCs) that can be hailed directly to one’s doorstep. Autonomous vehicles will drive users to their destination and then move onto the next client, only needing to stop to refuel. At night, when fewer cars are necessary, the vehicles will drive themselves out to the suburbs to park, and also to be serviced if necessary. This will undoubtedly reduce the number of necessary vehicles.
Experts posit that once autonomous vehicles are introduced it will take just one year to reach oversupply. Indeed, one hundred million on-demand driverless vehicles could replace two billion human-driven vehicles. Thus, the automotive industry is called to completely reinvent itself to stay abreast of the future.
Once fully autonomous vehicles become the standard, there will no longer be any need for human controls. Pedals, steering wheels and forward-looking driver’s seats will be removed and the added in-vehicle “real estate” will allow automotive producers to completely redesign the inside of vehicles. Self-driving vehicles will become offices, meeting rooms or lounges in which users can kick back, eat and enjoy a movie.
And if our vehicles become mobile offices and lounges, could they not become mobile restaurants, gyms or bedrooms with bathrooms? Campervans, caravans and camper trailers are hardly a new concept, but futurists envision a world in which self-driving caravans are transformed from vacation homes into permanent mobile living and working modules.
The integration of on-demand services, the sharing economy and autonomous vehicles may well spell far more than just the future of mobility.
Imagine a world of autonomously-moving residence and office modules based on the old campervan concept. Now, however, the campervan is self-driving and modular. It is a mobile home unit that can be easily moved or relocated for work missions or vacations. It can be interconnected, on-demand, with other units such as gyms, larger dining rooms and conference halls. It can connect to the mobile homes of friends who come to visit. The possibilities are endless.
Furthermore, in line with the new vertical city model, the units could be housed in reconfigurable skyscraper stacks - along the lines of automated parking lots. The modules could be attached to others as desired, detached as necessary, or lowered to the road level for travel.
It is a panorama that moulds in beautifully with the envisioned subterranean Hyperloop systems that could propel these units rapidly and efficiently to their destination. Multiple modules could be attached together like train carriages for travel and then be restacked and organised as preferred upon arrival.
A further fascinating aspect of this futuristic model is that these modules could self-configure to adapt to user preferences. They could automatically relocate based on the user’s preferred weather conditions or work schedule, or even independently move to the best-priced module-housing stack. Similarly, the modules could manage their own cleaning, maintenance and rental.
And looking even further into the future, we might imagine a world of autonomous modules that self-configure urban environments, assembling themselves into bridges, skyscrapers and other city infrastructure.
The future of mobility as a service may well be mobility as a residence!