Evolution of future mobility will hinge a lot on flexibility and adaptability of solutions wherein new vehicle concepts will play a crucial role
Mobility is the lifeblood of any urban city’s survival and it continues to evolve from merely serving as a medium of transportation from point A to point B towards comfort and safety driven, technology-powered solutions at a feverish pace. As traditional mobility systems continue to grapple with problems such as congestion, higher pricing and inefficiency, the ever-growing desire for efficient, faster mobility is gradually opening up a plethora of new experiments. Such innovations and solutions are disrupting the automotive sector, while some sectors are getting converged and new markets are emerging, taking the place of some sectors that have totally vanished.
The technology concept vehicles of today talk to the driver, communicate with other vehicles, suggest a better driving route based on real time traffic updates, provide active inputs to avoid collisions, self-enhance cabin convenience, and toggle between powertrains depending on various needs and tariffs. Most of these connectivity features will emerge as common offerings across the board in future mobility. Start-ups and new entrants across various vehicle segments are vying for a slice of the market pie with automotive incumbents, who have been leveraging their decades of experience in sustaining their market positions. Regardless of the market position, automotive companies need to focus on building digital capacities rather than hardware. This is because many safety systems such as driver monitoring system, anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), blind spot detection and airbags could turn redundant with the advent of autonomous as well as connected vehicles.
Personal mobility of the future will be driven by various transport modes, with autonomous and connected vehicles playing a crucial role. The evolution of future mobility will hinge a lot on flexibility and adaptability of solutions, and changing individual aspirations across urban and non-urban sectors. The steadily increasing population growth is triggering rapid urbanisation as well as environmental concerns, thus necessitating the need for newer forms of mobility. Vehicles in the rural areas will predominantly be privately owned, while mobility in urban areas will be more focussed on the pay-per-use model.
COST OPTIMISED, FASTER TRANSIT
The world is desperately focussing on cleaner emission vehicles to get much-needed respite from the ever-growing pollution and congestion problems in Tier I cities; thus, traditional mobility players are already reinventing their strategies.
Volvo Trucks introduced its fully autonomous electric truck Vera in 2018 that dispenses with a traditionally designed truck cabin to look more like a sports car. Vera comes equipped with sensors, radars and cameras that are designed to monitor and analyse the surroundings and locate positioning in centimetres to respond with high accuracy, while staying compatible with existing trailers or load carriers. It has also been five years now that Mercedes Benz showcased its fully autonomous FT2025 truck at the 2014 IAA CV Show in Hanover. The truck seeks significant amount of information through exchange of data with other vehicles (V2V) and infrastructure stationary communication network (V2I) along with satellite navigation and of course the information sourced by its own network of sensors.
Various start-ups such as Tesla, Nikola, Sono Motors and Lightyear have been trying to disrupt the mobility environment as a whole, as they have the freedom to leverage advanced technologies for their products. While Tesla and Nikola are developing and banking on their expertise in electric vehicles and drivetrains, Sono Motors and Lightyear are moving ahead equipping their vehicles with solar charging panels to self-charge them on the go. Irrespective of their market success, these products point out the interesting direction companies are poised to take going forward.
Traditional mobility players enjoy a legacy of technologies that have been nurtured over decades. These companies also have to carry the baggage of previous investments, while progressing towards future of mobility. Nonetheless, such traditional manufacturers are trying to showcase their respective prowess with various concepts, and what the company want people to envisage in the long term, while building brand positioning.
Toyota Motor Corporation had recently showcased the Accessible People Mover (APM) that it aims to deploy at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The battery electric vehicle has a range of 100 km and can travel at a maximum speed of 19 km/h for transporting people and injured players seeking relief. Tier I suppliers such as Continental and MAHLE have also upped the ante and have been testing CUbE (Continental Urban mobility Experience) and MEET (MAHLE Efficient Electric Transport) concepts respectively to redefine urban mobility. Both aim to offer customised mobility solutions, wherein the customer can opt to transit from one point to another comfortably and at optimised costs.
DATA THE KING
Connected and autonomous vehicles will need persistent connections that will generate enormous data flow among various stakeholders. The data will identify customer behaviour patterns and predict their future needs, thus enabling service providers to serve customised offerings. Further, with all the data collected from individuals with different needs, obtaining permissions for using or sharing private data will hold the key. Industry experts have been deliberating on an independent data exchange platform model in which special purpose vehicles (SPV) would create a database that could be leveraged by various stakeholders. The incoming customer data will be secured and anonymised, using digital IDs that will not be made available at a personal level. However, the data could be tagged so that relevant information is made available for players to serve relevant services.
Traditional OEMs have also been partnering with data analytic companies to share various types of data such as cluster level data, fleet level data, vehicle segment level data and customer segment level data without infringing on customer privacy. At the end of the day, it is all about the ecosystem making sense out of all the data thus gathered. The differentiation will come on the digital and electronics platforms, which is where the value addition and customer differentiation will also happen as the hardware platform will become standard. Data might be the king for the future but it will be more of a collaborative environment that will shape the future, which in turn, will also create the demand for cyber security.
INSURANCE SECTOR BOOM
Autonomous vehicles will gradually pave their way for our future of mobility and there will be significant disruption among other industry stakeholders such as insurance companies, etc. According to a KPMG report, the rise of autonomous vehicles could lead to perhaps 30-50 % fewer accidents, thereby driving a 40 % fall in insurance premiums by 2040. However, with the commercial insurance pool expansion, the cover for new risks such as product liability, cyber security and infrastructure could be as high as £ 900 mn annually. This will require vehicle insurers to develop far more agile, responsive and real-time offerings that are integrated into the connected mobility ecosystem. The segment would have to start deliberating on future challenges arising from autonomous and connected vehicles. Insurance is expected to integrate into other services such as autonomous vehicle rental on a pay-per-use basis.
The introduction of advanced technologies like autonomous and connected vehicles appears little too optimistic for the Indian market over the short to medium term. However, companies are gearing up to get into the mindset of consumers. First movers like Ather Energy and Hyundai are trying to first change consumer perception about electric vehicles by showcasing their portfolio. These companies are also developing infrastructure around them to make customers familiar with battery and charging-related technologies, in order to develop confidence in their products. All such technologies, be it electrification or digitisation, will be largely spurred by shared mobility.
Predicting the future can be parlous as different mobility trends such as connected, electrification, shared and autonomous mobility are poised to take prominence in the coming years. One thing that is clear though is that it will be more of an inter-connected system. Going forward, individual cities will take varied decisions and routes depending on their respective local conditions. A fast-transitioning ecosystem will necessitate the need for taking swift decisions in terms of changing the operating models as well as business partnerships & acquisitions. Any heightened level of automation in future vehicles will progressively lead to accident mitigation & avoidance as well as reduce emission and fuel consumption, while supporting the integration of IoT in mobility. But the future promises convenient, safe and economic mobility, with lesser impact on health and the environment as the holistic innovation ecosystem will continue to be nurtured, thus ensuring the right mobility solutions are in place.
(With Inputs from Frost & Sullivan; References: Various KPMG reports)
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja