This article is authored by Greg Moran – Co-Founder & CEO – Zoomcar
For many, the term shared mobility first came into being with the emergence of ride hailing companies like Uber, Lyft, Didi, and ultimately Ola. Unknown to some, it was actually the car sharing companies such as Zipcar and Car2go that really blazed the trail within shared mobility in the 2000s. As such, it’s quite clear that the automobile has a long and involved history within shared mobility. As technology continues to expand at a breakneck pace, it’s quite likely that the next iteration of car-based shared mobility will look very different than the earlier forms.
The two major trends that are set to transform shared mobility are the rise of electrification and the rise of autonomous vehicles. At the heart of the first transformation is a dramatic hardware revolution tied to battery advancement both in terms of performance and cost. The second transformation is much more software oriented and focuses on synthesizing real-time data to ensure vehicles remain safe with no one behind the wheel.
Both transformations have the power to dramatically alter the future trajectory of shared mobility for the car. At the core of shared mobility is the premise that an asset will be utilized at a much higher rate if its shared. This works perfectly in the context of an electric vehicle since the fundamental underlying economics require the car to be utilized very heavily in order to payback the steep upfront costs. Battery prices will likely remain cost prohibitive for the next 4-5 years, thereby ensuring that an upfront cost premium will exist for electric cars compared to petrol/diesel based machines. To help bring the cost back closer to parody, companies are approaching the problem creatively. Some are even looking at unbundling the battery cost entirely from the upfront vehicle cost and then paying for energy (fuel) as a service to help ensure better economics. For an EV, the more the car runs, the more the operator saves. This is the ideal paradigm for shared mobility and the expectation is that this will happen in multiple geographies in the near to medium term.
Regarding the impact of autonomous vehicles, this remains a bit further off on the horizon when compared to electric cars. That said, AVs are likely to create a major disruption within shared mobility since it can offer the same ride at a dramatically lower price point. This will spur even more adoption. Moreover, since the vehicle won’t have a driver, there’s no need for the vehicle to go offroad, hence delivering a more 24×7 product. This also will have profound implications for parking as cities can dedicate more parking space for alternative uses. Overall, adoption of AVs within shared mobility holds the potential to dramatically improve the scope of urban development.
The future of vehicles within shared mobility is certain to look different. With the current trends, let’s just hope it remains for the better.