More and more, when people discuss the automotive industry, they refer to “mobility”. The word is not new. Even a quick online search will find it used as far back as 2016. Back then, an early proposed definition was “Technologies and services that enable people and goods to move around more freely.” Today, it seems to mean so much more. In fact, November 18-21, the Automobility LA conference will address a wide variety of issues all about mobility. And, now it can be defined as “a user-centric concept – recognizing that transportation products and services must be responsive to the needs, habits, and preferences of consumers.”
From barely defined to a multiday conference in just three years. Mobility may just be taking over the auto industry.
A great example of the breadth of mobility is PlanetM from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. As PlanetM explains, it “is Michigan's mobility initiative representing the collective mobility efforts across the state. PlanetM connects you to Michigan’s mobility ecosystem — the people, places and resources dedicated to the evolution of transportation mobility.” Among other things, PlanetM works to bring startups in the mobility sector together. Autos and technology are merging into mobility. As noted by WardsAuto, we are witnessing a convergence, “Emerging technologies and businesses across multiple industries are in the process of converging.”
But where is this getting the industry? The Center for Automotive Research took a stab at answering that question in their August 2016 report, The Impact of New Mobility Services on the Automotive Industry. What was clear even then was that there were multiple different ways that the industry was being disrupted: Ridehailing, Ridesharing, Carsharing, Bikesharing, Microtransit, Mobility-as-a-Service and Shared Autonomous Vehicles were all considered part of the mobility platform. The mobility options are only growing. As the world (developed and developing) becomes more urban and more connected, the intersection of vehicles, infrastructure, transportation, commuting and technology will only become larger.
Vehicle ownership is on the decline as vehicle usership seems to be on the upswing. Subscription services are arriving to allow people to use vehicles, but not own them. In 2018, a Cox Automotive study showed that 40% of consumers agreed that vehicle ownership is not necessary for transportation. There is no reason to think that number is going to fall. People need to get from point A to point B. But how they get there, how they are mobile, is evolving and changing not just the automotive industry, but the transportation industry and the technology industry.