Speaking to the future of mobility and transportation

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  • May 24, 2017
  • Abby O'Connor

The transportation and automotive industries are no longer just a place for the likes of freight rail, trucking, and major car manufacturers. In recent years, a vibrant tech playground has emerged among the giants and spurred mobility advancement. But the future of transportation doesn’t lie with any single technology – it’s not self-driving vehicles, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, or China’s elevated bus. The future of transportation is a shift in our lifestyles and thinking. It’s a shift in the way we approach moving from point A to point B.

The U.S. has been a car culture for as long as any of us can remember. A 2015 Pew Research survey found that 88 percent of American households own a car, and a report published that same year showed that 86 percent of Americans commute to work in a private vehicle. In 2016, Americans drove 3.2 trillion miles, a 2.8 percent increase over 2015. We love our cars – they’re symbols of our personalities, status, and freedom. But we hate traffic, pollution, gas prices, and finding parking.

So here’s the shift: mobility-as-a-service (MaaS). Instead of the majority relying on their personally owned vehicles, transportation will be viewed as a consumer service. Sound familiar? Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, and our local favorite Ride Austin, have emerged with benefits like eliminating the search for parking, decreasing drunk driving, and providing rides on-demand. But rideshare is just scratching the surface.

With big data – especially if it’s crowdsourced and shared – and an array of mobility options at our disposal, MaaS has the potential to create an entire smart mobility ecosystem. People, cars, public transit, and infrastructure all generating data to help inform transportation decisions and solutions. With additional innovations like self-driving technology, electric-powered vehicles, flexible fleets, real-time traffic management, and seamless mobile payments, we start to see the outlines of a high-functioning smart city.

But what does all that mean for the average person? Say you wake up late for work and need the fastest commuting option – you pay a premium for personal rideshare. Or you’re looking to save money and prefer to support sustainable services – you opt for the self-driving public bus. You and your buddies are going out and no one wants to be the DD ­­– you order an on-demand shuttle to pick up everyone along the route. It’s a beautiful day outside ­­– you borrow a bike from the nearest bike share station and cycle to work. This system of mobility services not only results in moving people around more efficiently (far less single-occupancy vehicles), but also cuts down on wasteful practices, like cars sitting in parking lots and driveways, going unused.

The opportunities for various technologies to play a part in this system are virtually endless. That’s the challenging part; it’s a noisy environment. Companies of various sizes and areas of expertise are throwing in their chips and betting on some aspect of future mobility, from tech start-ups to Google and IBM, and niche vehicle manufacturers to Daimler and Ford.

However, no one company is doing it all. And for that reason, businesses need to focus their communications strategy to reach the right people, with the right message.

  • Establish your space. There are so many components of future mobility (car and rideshare, mobile ticketing, accessibility, autonomous driving, connected vehicles, geolocation, smart parking), so start with honing in on your market.
  • Develop a clear, differentiated value message. This comes from researching your market, target audience, and competition. Doing the legwork at this stage and having a deep understanding of your customer will pay off in the long run with a much stronger communications strategy.
  • Find your customer and speak their language. Future mobility concepts (especially involving tech) can be unfamiliar to the public and even to other transportation businesses. Focus on your audience’s pain points and how your product or service can help.
  • Work toward the future, but understand the present. In other words, maintain your future vision – this will position your company as a leader in the space ­– but understand and address the challenges of our current transportation landscape. Many of the biggest shifts toward future mobility won’t happen overnight. The U.S. is still a car culture, we’re battling aging infrastructure, and consumers and businesses alike are skeptical about the safety and security of some new technologies.

The sheer amount of tech innovation alone has the future of mobility looking bright. It’ll be a complex road (literally – simple roads will soon be connected data providers), but one that leads to a smarter, more efficient, and sustainable transportation system. And if there’s one thing we love at INK, it’s the technologies that drive us forward (figuratively, but also literally).