Brave New World – The Future Of Automobility

In recent years, ubiquitous digitization has induced business innovation processes which have touched upon almost every single sphere of human life. Recently, one further domain has been affected – the system of automobility.

A case in point is Uber Technologies Inc, the game changing company within the taxi sector. It is thought that automobility is characterized by severe cracks in its underlying system design. The one side of this coin is the radical unsustainability of cars which is expressed by their substantial contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the considerable consumption of space in urban areas by parking lots. The other side of the same coin is the inefficiency of cars reflected by their extreme underutilization: an average car remains parked for 95% of a day and once it is moved it often carries only one passenger. It is being recognized that from the economic, ecological and social perspectives it is highly irrational to further maintain a mobility paradigm which is solely based on a private car ownership.

Therefore, a paradigm shift towards “sustainable mobility” has been proposed. This paradigm encompasses three main areas: efficiency increase of car usage, modal shift and reduction of mobility needs. The author’s research aims at drawing a special attention to the first area by depicting fascinating opportunities for a radical increase in the efficiency of the car. Above all, it takes a closer look at the arena of innovative mobility concepts which flourish at the frontier of digital technologies, shared mobility patterns and business model innovations.

The important foundation is the researcher’s conviction that the digitization processes have both an innovative and transformative character. What began with the introduction of microprocessors in the seventies of the twentieth century, today is being referred to as the “Fifth Technological Revolution”. Some recent technological advancements such as ubiquitous computing, big data, social media or internet of things imply that the digital era is going into the next disruption wave. One important dimension of this disruption is the emergence of new companies. These “early adopters” do not develop the technology themselves, but they generate added value for the consumers by means of creative applications.

The notion of value is important as it denotes that an offering has to satisfy customers’ needs. It is thought that pairing innovative technology offerings with a corresponding commercialization approaches is a prerequisite for the scaling of groundbreaking technology. Therefore, innovative companies should create, deliver and capture value for the end-users. The recent management literature refers to these value added processes as “business models”. In order to build purposeful and economically feasible applications another fascinating research field has been coined, that of business model innovation.

With regard to the arena of automobility the author reveals three distinct fields of business model innovation: Digital Carsharing, Digital Ridesharing and Shared Autonomous Vehicles. The first two innovation domains are characterized by the emergence of innovative business endeavors such as Carzapp (innovation in carsharing), SAP TwoGo (innovation in ridesharing) or UBER (a total market disruption in the taxi sector). These cases demonstrate important adjustments in the prevailing automobility paradigm. The third realm of innovation, however, represents a futuristic prospect of a total reconfiguration of this paradigm. The combination of patterns of shared economy and autonomous vehicles bears a great potential for overcoming the aforementioned inefficiencies in the usage of cars. The author claims that the amount of automobiles in urban areas could be easily reduced by at least a factor of 10 while maintaining equal mobility levels. This would be an important contribution to the shift towards the paradigm of sustainable mobility.

About the Author

Tomasz_JanaszTomasz Janasz is a business administration graduate from the University of Hamburg (class of 2007). Commencing 2011, he has been a senior research analyst at the Business Transformation Academy – SAP’s applied research think tank for business innovation and transformation. He is conducting a PhD-program at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, the leading research institution in sustainable development in Germany. The thesis topic is: “Factor 10 of Automobility. Business Model Innovations for Future Urban Mobility”. For his research, he was awarded the Swiss Electric Mobility Award from Touring Club Suisse in 2013.

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