Smart Cars and the Mobility Ecosystem

Business leaders across industries are increasingly recognizing that the computerization of cars will greatly influence the future of mobility. At the highest level, the emergence of cars-turned-computers will enable two critical trends likely to shape the mobility ecosystem in the coming years.

The first trend is the rise of shared, rather than personally owned, vehicles. Fast-growing ride-sharing and car-sharing service providers rely on the ability to connect customers with on-demand transportation quickly, accurately, and securely.

The second trend, which is even more contingent on the speed of technological innovation, is the adoption of autonomous vehicles. How soon self-driving cars become a reality will largely depend on how quickly we can create technological solutions to our thorniest driving problems, such as bad weather and erratic (human) driving behavior.

The combination of shared mobility and autonomous vehicles, along with other forces, such as new electric powertrains and changing attitudes about car ownership, will radically change the way people and goods move about.

There are a few questions business leaders across the extended automotive industry will need to address.

What will happen to asset-light business models in the future of mobility? The business models of many disruptive technology players are premised on owning very few physical assets. It’s become a cliché to note that some major retailers own no inventory, major hospitality providers own no hotels, and major taxi companies own no cars. Indeed, several of the patterns of disruption we’ve identified in the economy reflect this trend.

But what will happen to a ride-sharing provider like Uber—which relies on its drivers owning cars—when autonomous vehicles no longer require drivers? Although some individuals may be willing to rent out their personal autonomous vehicles, we suspect that, in many places, fleets of shared self-driving vehicles owned by commercial fleet operators will dominate—hardly an asset-light approach. Will today’s service-based providers see value there, or will they look for new, less capital-intensive opportunities?

What will happen when organizations increasingly sell to businesses rather than to consumers? Most of today’s extended automotive industry is built to serve individuals with personally owned cars. But as shared usage grows and car ownership declines, more of the mobility ecosystem will be geared toward commercial customers, such as fleet operators and vehicle rental companies. That means carmakers, insurers, lenders, and others will have to deal with large, sophisticated organizations, some of which may be influential enough to demand concessions.

How will value be created and captured? In other words, what are the emerging opportunities in the future of mobility? Arguably, value will increasingly be created by maximizing customers’ return on mobility. Delivering on that value proposition will require trusted mobility advisors, data aggregators, fleet operators, and operating system providers, among others, to work together seamlessly in a complex ecosystem.

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