Notes from the field: promising new seeds of mobility?

new seeds of mobility

It’s hard to be optimistic when it comes to predicting how the mobility market will develop as more and more countries gradually emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown.

One key question is whether the traditional auto industry will be able to recover from its catastrophic drop in sales once people are allowed to hit the road again. The fragile state of the global economy and the growing popularity of remote working practices and on-demand grocery and meal delivery services suggest that achieving a recovery will be challenging to put it mildly. In the short term at least, it’s likely that auto makers will have to put a lot of long-term development projects on hold as they grapple with today’s grim economic realities.

A second key question is whether the disruptions caused by the lockdown will accelerate the long-heralded transition towards a brave new world of autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Now that they’ve experienced the pleasures of home-based working, schooling, and deliveries, will people continue with them once they are free to step (or drive) out into the world again?

If (and it’s still a big if) such a major cultural shift does occur, demand for autonomous last-mile delivery vehicles will inevitably climb as firms strive to reduce the operational costs of their still largely unprofitable home delivery and ridesharing services. The biggest challenge these companies will face is finding the stomach to make such a major investment at a time when VCs are turning off the money-spigot that subsidized their previous growth.

Given this rather gloomy picture, it’s tempting to conclude that the pace of innovation in the mobility space will slow down in the next few years as industry incumbents focus on addressing the negative impact of the lockdown on their business. Tempting, but not necessarily correct. Indeed it’s quite possible to argue that the pace of innovation may actually speed up as the promising new seeds of mobility that have been germinating over the past two decades force their way up through the topsoil and burst into flower.

Let’s see…

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