Mobility & Autonomous Driving Reflections
Since 2016 I have been travelling around the world and have met and debated with technologists, investors, entrepreneurs, OEMs, Tier 1’s, consultancies and evangelists in for mobility and autonomous driving from almost all industry sectors (Automotive, Energy, Banking, Telecoms, Silicon, …). I have talked, listened, learned and shared my views of the future of the autonomous society that we have the responsibility to create and these are my key takeaways so far:
Mobility is already here but the autonomous brain will take a while:
The mobility and last mile or MaaS business models are now part of our day to day business lives; Uber, Lyft, Cabify, Car2Go, DriveNow and many others are part of our society. The acceptance by consumers of these models that promote cost and time reduction in our day to day life has also accelerated the increase and acceptance of electric and hybrid vehicles. The technology was there (electric cars and charging points), the prices of electric batteries and motors where competitive and the mobility business model provide a different revenue stream that can pay off the investment of the large car manufacturers in these vehicles. However, do not forget that it took more than 15 years to develop a robust technology, create an ecosystem with the right business models and for society to accept the technology. And this completely ignores the level of investment that got us to this state.
On the other hand, we have autonomous vehicles. A Software and AI technology-driven functionality that will revolutionise road safety, increase the comfort in our day to day lives, but that we need to master in order to make it work.
Software Stack in the Mobility space
The industry is changing and automotive is changing to be more a software driven industry than hardware/commodity driven. These changes have been pushed by incumbents in the mobility and autonomous sectors such as Baidu, Argo AI, AID, ZooX, Uber, Waymo and others. These tech companies have an understanding, philosophy and commercial background that allows them to develop a Software environment efficient enough to develop new functionality.
However, even though advances in the mobility and autonomous driving software ecosystems have been significant in the last couple of years we are still seeing a major lack of understanding of the architecture definition and integration challenges that these advances have on the transportation systems. Most of the new companies are focussed on the autonomous architecture and functionality at higher autonomous levels however this does not take into consideration that the new functionality needs to be integrated into a scalable vehicle system. In turn, that system (the vehicle) is a subsystem of a larger collection of Transportation Systems. For us, the transportation system is the Vehicle + Edge + Cloud + enterprise service of each OEM. Currently, I am seeing companies working only on the autonomous architecture without properly taking into consideration the wider or whole transport ecosystem.
For some, this will lead inevitably to a failure to scale to a secure and safe product. It is paramount that any new functionality and architectures need to be safe and secure for the consumers and the environment.
So, I believe that there is a lot of noise and a lack of understanding of the importance of the integrity of the “Software Stack” in the mobility space.
Collaboration, Collaboration and Collaboration:
I think I have lost count of how many times I heard that in order to have integrated mobility solutions we need to collaborate to and create ecosystems. I fully agree with this statement however I am starting to believe that this is a nice marketing slogan but there is not a strong commitment or strategy behind it.
It is quite well known that collaboration is crucial but, unless the automotive, insurance, energy, city infrastructures and telecoms companies and organisations want to collaborate the mobility of the future will be a nice dream to have but not a reality.
However, I believe that in order to collaborate we need to understand what good collaboration looks like. Currently, I am seeing a lot of good intentions but not a structured plan behind the collaboration efforts. There ARE a reasonable number of the major OEMs with a really good strategic plan defined but no one to collaborate with. I am also seeing a lot of other OEMs, scale-ups, and other corporates in telecoms, energy and infrastructure with a really good marketing plan but with no strategic plan and therefore no financial commitment.
This, as you can imagine, makes it quite difficult to collaborate as a strategic plan KPI’s are to define a product, relationships, collaborations and a way of working and this is usually planned over 3 to 5 years. A marketing plan is a one-year plan based on social media KPI’s and not on the product requirements, philosophy and goal objectives with a defined business model.
People, people, people are the key
With the number of changes that I am currently seeing in the automotive and mobility industry, we are experiencing an exponential need for key resources to develop some of these technologies and capabilities.
The challenges that everybody has now in the industry is that there is a lack of quality resources in Software architectures, Edge Computing and AI with the experience required to develop the right product strategy and to drive product development to scale to mass production.
People have been trying to find a solution for this and there are many options but day to day, key resources, understanding the problem space, how to improve it and scale it are rare and difficult to find and retain.
Y-Mobility was created to bring together such a team of experts, that have the knowledge and experience in developing architectures and safe and secure products from idea generation to full scale production.
Our philosophy is based on collaboration with all the ecosystems to make them understand the importance and to have a holistic view to design and deliver the best software stack to develop vehicles and mobility architectures that can transform the mobility of 2030.
What are your thoughts on the above? Any comments or suggestions of something we should add to our Blog?