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posted on March 7th, 2017

This is an excerpt from a longer article by Turo CEO Andre Haddad, where he ruminates on what the future of “mobility” looks like, for OEMs and other players in the transportation sector. Read the full Medium post here.


THE STRUGGLE TO STAY FRESH IN THE MOBILITY INDUSTRY

Is mobility actually a thing? Or is it just our attempt to make something old new again?

Earlier this year, we brought together some industry experts and thought leaders to ruminate on the evolution of the automotive space, and to discuss the elusive notion of “mobility”. It was enlightening to hear the different perspectives of these seasoned automotive experts — Reilly Brennan from the Stanford Revs Program, Elliot Martin from the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley, Zach Barasz from BMW iVentures, and Alex Roy, editor of Time’s The Drive.

We debated topics from connected cars to whether the car enthusiast was destined for the endangered species list, and the key takeaway was that the automotive industry is changing faster and more dramatically than ever before. From connectivity to autonomy to the ongoing struggle of OEMs to stay relevant, so-called “mobility” players are angling to stay ahead of the next big thing. But the question remains, are these contenders for the mobility throne true innovators, or just modern day Sisyphuses scrambling to stay fresh, only to be stale the next day?

What is “mobility”?

First things first: what the hell is “mobility”? This question came up at our Turbo Week panel and I think it was Reilly who said that mobility is really just a gussied-up term for “transportation”, or how to get to where you need to go. I totally agree with his assessment — mobility has become a buzzword, especially in Silicon Valley, just as “connected cars” and “autonomy” are the buzzwords du jour within the mobility discussion. Mobility is the tech world’s rebranding of age-old transportation discussions, perhaps an attempt to bring sexy back to the transportation sector, or at least to usher it into 2017.

So even if the term “mobility” is a bit of a contrivance, perhaps it’s the neologism for how transportation paradigms have shifted under the auspices of connectivity. Modern day “mobility” blurs the public and the private, it’s powered by data, and it’s proving to be a genuine head-scratcher for even the most forward-thinking OEMs.

When private becomes public

With the emergence of new products and services wiggling their way into the transportation sector, the clear distinction between private transportation (completely privately owned and operated vehicles, à la commuter car) and public transportation (trains, planes, and automobiles) is becoming increasingly ambiguous. Private cars are now more available to the public and are steadily supplanting their traditional counterparts — privately owned cars fuel Uber and Lyft in the ridesharing space, and Turo in the peer-to-peer carsharing space.

What were once self-contained nodes are now part of a network, thanks to both an evolving perception of ownership and the connectedness of the enterprising owners and intrepid users of these shared assets. Our mobility these days in many ways depends on network connectivity, so while the means of transportation haven’t changed, the way we think about them certainly has…

Andre is the Turo CEO and a true car enthusiast. After many years in the consumer web space, he combines his passion for cars, technology, and the environment each day at Turo as he works to put the world’s one billion cars to better use.