As the role of the traditional auto industry expands, experts share how mobility-on-demand services and smart cars will solve the challenge of urban mobility.
First, the KPMG consulting firm released a report forecasting that ride-sharing, car-sharing and mobility-on-demand services will drive down the number of cars owned by the average U.S. household.
Then, Bill Ford, whose entire life has been shaped by the growth of personal access to the automobile, spoke in Dubai about alternatives to a future of gridlock that consumes valuable time and energy.
“The freedom of mobility that my great-grandfather brought to people throughout the world is now threatened,” Ford said in a speech to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.
Noting that by 2025 more than half the world’s population will live in cities of 10 million residents or more and today’s global car census 1 billion will likely double by 2050, Ford envisioned “global gridlock on a scale the world has never seen before.
Where the KPMG study and Ford diverged was on the role the traditional auto industry will play in solving the challenge of urban mobility.
“Not since the first automotive revolution has there been such massive innovation and displacement of the status quo,” said Gary Silberg, who heads KPMG’s automotive practice. “We will see new players surge forth, some old players reinvent themselves and others totally left behind.”
By contrast, Ford said the connected car is already with us and it provides multiple options to use vehicles more efficiently.
“Imagine what is possible when our cars begin talking to each other and the roadways and networks around them,” said the executive chairman of the company his great-grandfather founded.“The systems that we use today to bring entertainment into the vehicle and help us with directions are the same systems that will help us create a smart vehicle network.”
While smart vehicles vacuum up data that automakers didn’t know existed 10 years ago, there are issues of privacy, complexity and learning which data will help transportation providers better understand their customers’ needs.
“Identifying or developing the right technologies -- saying “no” when necessary-- then integrating those technologies into automotive grade systems and getting them to market quickly with no defects or recalls – that’s a tall order,” Silberg said.
Ford also raised the challenge of developing transportation options for an aging population in most developed nations.
“What if autonomous driving could extend the driving life of the elderly?” Ford asked. “What if this technology could enable them to maintain the personal freedom that comes from mobility? Imagine how that could improve their quality of life, and reduce some of the dependency on caregivers.”
Silberg held firm to his projection that technology will deliver alternatives to individual vehicle ownership.
“Owning a car is not the most rational economic decision,” he said. “The average price of a car is around $31,000. The minute you drive it off the lot you lose 11% and, by the way, it sits idle 90% of the time.”
KPMG estimates that today about 57% of U.S. household have two or more cars. By 2040 it expects that to drop to 43%.
©2014 the Detroit Free Press