The Week in Mobility News — 13 November 2020
Food for Thought
Right at the base of Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs are air, water, food, shelter, clothing and reproduction. It should be unsurprising therefore, that issues surrounding these six core needs dominate our news outlets. Betting on the appearance of air quality, ocean plastics, the rise of the pomegranate, the housing market, fashion and sex would be wise choices in a BBC News Bingo.
Businesses concerned with the provision of, or our access to any of these needs are guaranteed to exist forever. How the nature of that access or provision is as certain to change as the certainty of their permanence.
Over the past few months I have observed the acute shift in mobility news away from ride hailing and towards food delivery and associated tech. This week alone it was announced that Ocado acquired robotics companies Kindred Systems and Haddington Dynamics for automating grocery picking and packaging. Nestle acquired healthy food delivery company Freshly for $1.5B. UberEats took over PostMates and plans to continue to scale up its grocery business. In the UK Banquist has partnered with the UK’s best chefs to deliver DIY three-course gourmet meals at home. Meanwhile GoPuff acquired alcohol retailer BevMo and I wouldn’t be surprised if Reuters announced that Softbank had invested in an on demand mobile frozen food service- or an ice cream van in layman’s terms.
In the context of Covid this shouldn’t be surprising. Bricks and Mortar spaces for stores and restaurants are struggling to justify their rent when the notion of a ghost kitchen, apps, lockdown and gig economy drivers exist. However I wonder how much this switch to enjoying any food at home will last.
Covid has prompted questions about the rationality of living in a city when you’re able to work from anywhere. Cities are hubs of diversity and cultural exchange with the role of restaurants and bars serving as a vital enabler. Without them and with remote work, why live in cities at all?
In the early 20th century, formerly “wet” US states saw a dramatic drop in patenting activity following the banning of alcohol consumption. The reason — informal gathering spaces ceased to have a purpose, and the social space for the critical exchange of ideas was removed. (Read more — Bar Talk: Informal Social Interactions, Alcohol Prohibition and Invention). More recently, Seattle noted a massive upswing in patenting following the introduction of Starbucks coffee houses.
Informal gathering spaces make us more creative. In 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic was followed by the cultural revolution via the introduction of stadiums, cinemas, public spaces and department stores.
The difference between the 1920s and the 2020s is that they didn’t have the benefit of technology to fundamentally redesign their relationship to the physical environment. The change in social behaviours couldn’t be as reactive, permanent or impactful owing to their lack of smartphones and digital technologies.
Responding to market needs is a sure way to generate profit, but when it comes to factors so vital to enabling our movement up Maslov’s Pyramid, they must be consumed and commercialised with as much care as critical resources. Something as a society we’re only just beginning to realise with air and water.
But like food, we require balance and must choose between what might give us instant gratification, long lasting nourishment or more importantly, what can be shared amongst the entire table.
Food on demand is here to stay, but with any luck so too is our need to connect to people and places in order to generate community and the meaning of the word “my local”.
Elsewhere in the industry
- Virgin Hyperloop successfully completes first passenger test — DesignBoom
- Biden’s Build Back Better promises to provide every American city with “high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options” — Buildbackbetter.com
- Hyundai is reportedly in talks to buy Boston Dynamics — TechCrunch
- Amazon Starts Air Cargo Arm in Europe With Jet Hub — Bloomberg.com
- Electrify America opens 500th location — electrive.com
- The European Union has agreed to stricter rules on the sale and export of cyber-surveillance technologies like facial recognition and spyware — MIT Technology Review
- Volvo Trucks North America announced it will begin selling its Volvo VNR Electric model in December — TransportTopics | Volvo Trucks
- Porsche unveils concept that it killed — electrek.com
- Bentley to build only EVs from 2030 — The Guardian
- Lithuania is paying residents to switch from ICE vehicles to electric scooters — The Next Web
- Centrica, DPD UK, Royal Mail and BT and Openreach have joined the UK Electric Fleets Coalition Campaign to call for ICE vehicle ban from 2030 in the UK — Current+-
- Shell reveals electric forecourt concept — autocar
- Pride Group Enterprises have ordered 150 Tesla Semis — electrek.com
- New Electric Ford E-Transit revealed with 217 mile range — autocar
If you watched Kamala Harris’ or Joe Biden’s speech and were moved by it, hypothetically — do you think you’d feel as moved if you knew it had been written by an AI? A future AI could likely write a perfect speech that hits all the right notes but could it generate the same emotions? If not, why not? Can only biologically living beings spark true emotions for humans? Experience Design’s Amogh Lux shared this with me which, through football, starts prompting similar questions. It’s well worth the entire 5mins!
Imogen Pierce — Head of Experience Strategy, Arrival Ltd