The Week in Mobility News — 09 October

What really is future mobility?

Future mobility is a nice catch all phrase that allows us to imagine bizarre concoctions of Back to the Future hoverboards mixed with a Black Mirror Episode (although hopefully a slightly less foreboding version). Given that most readers of this consider car ownership normal, have ready access to public transit and have Uber as a trusty companion on their phone, anything other than science fiction often doesn’t seem to warrant the bandwidth of our imagination.

However if we cast our minds back to 2010, ride hailing would have meant a black cab, shared scooters, a complete mystery and electric vehicles a distant mythology. Today Uber Pool is still a relatively new concept, but in Mexico, Collectivos have essentially been fulfilling this purpose for decades.

The point is, future mobility depends entirely on the context in which we view it. As automakers we have a very imminent and looming deadline to help the world switch to electric vehicles by 2030 or 2040.

To understand how to do that we need to consider what future mobility means on an almost city by city level such that we capture and respond to the nuances of a given city’s dynamics, pulse and culture.

For example, in Lagos, Nigeria the past three years have been marked by a wave of investment in last mile delivery and MaaS platforms. Given car ownership is just 11% (50% in the UK, 80% in the US) the majority of logistics and mobility investments are targeted at operators using Kekes and Okadas (Tuk Tuks and motorcycles to you and me). In February this year, this sector in Lagos was served a curveball when the government banned commercial use of Kekes and Okadas. The ban sent the city into a tailspin with queues of upto four hours for local buses, whilst startups frantically worried about their commitments to investors now they no longer had means of fulfilling deliveries or drop offs.

Future mobility for Lagos does not involve a hoverboard for the time being. Instead it needs a radically different way to address its very real logistics and mobility needs whilst also preparing for a net zero world. Vehicles for this market are expensive, electric ones even more so. How then, do we need to rethink the ingredients that make up the electric vehicle pie? It is by doing this that we can best serve a wider range of markets with alternative commercial models that will genuinely allow automakers and municipalities to deliver on a tangible promise of future mobility.

To design for your users, use your users

The majority of car crash safety test safety dummies are based on the anthropometric measurements of the average male in the 1980s. The upshot is that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die if they get into a car crash than a man. It sounds shocking, however a recent study surveyed only men for determining the comfort and safety of sleeping in an autonomous vehicle.

Despite testing 23 male subjects representing the 30th to 65th percentiles of male Germans, the study did note:

“Females sit with more anterior rotation of the pelvis as well as less flexion of the lumbar spine and thus, yield different contact pressure patterns and it has also been implied that women are more sensitive for contact pressures and have a lower threshold for the onset of discomfort” (Binderup et al., 2010; Vink and Lips, 2017).

However “for the sake of homogeneity” the experiment elected to stick with its all male cast. For anyone who has driven a Tesla and is also below 5ft 4, you will know that you cannot see the screen and the road at the same time as the dimensions were optimised for Elon. Throw in the massive A-pillar blind spot that arises when you sit closer to the wheel, and the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t feel all that tremendous. If we are to design vehicles and services for the whole population, women must be included in the user testing.

Elsewhere in the industry

  • House Democrats tackle Big Tech’s “monopolies” — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google
  • Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, has committed to investing €1bn of his fortune in European deeptech ”moonshot projects”
  • Kiwibot partners with Sodexo to roll out delivery robots at the University of Denver
  • The electric MPV from Peugeout is now taking orders in the UK
  • Octopus Energy has outlined its plan to make the UK the “Silicon Valley of energy” with plans for a new technology, data science and AI centre in Manchester
  • Stockholm-based Einride raises €8.5 million to expand its freight service using driverless e-vehicles
  • Uber Freight, Uber’s logistics arm, raised $500 Million raising its valuation to $3.3 billion
  • Via acquires delivery logistics startup Fleetonomy to bolst fulfilment using Fleetonomy’s demand prediction and fleet utilization tools
  • How Amazon hid its safety crisis between robots and humans in warehouses
  • Amazon unveils its new electric delivery vans built by Rivian

Miscellaneous

With a world shifting increasingly online, fashion is looking to AR to bring both high fashion and the high street into the home. Try this latest AR tool from Vogue. Here is a screenshot from my kitchen worktop.

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