The Future of Mobility: Collective innovation over individual ambition

NB Team

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  • Integrated mobility solutions are the answer, but openness is key
  • There is evidently an appetite within the industry to collaborate, which bodes well for the future
  • Government attitudes to shaping regulation is vital; but they have an uneven record

Panel: Lime, Zenzic, AutoTrader, BMW Group
Host: Shane O’Donoghue, Director, Nelson Bostock

Our panel discussion looked to answer some key questions:

  1. Can Britain leverage the leading role it plays in automotive, tech, transport, and regulation to turn itself into a mobility powerhouse?
  2. Is it possible for companies to marry their own individual ambitions with the consumer desire for more integrated mobility solutions?

The opportunity is there for the UK to lead but only if industries work together

A repeated theme throughout was that collaboration can be the key to the UK’s potential success against its larger and well-funded international competitors. But Ian Plummer, Commercial Director at AutoTrader cautioned there would be challenges if companies want to manage the entire consumer journey themselves. Some will likely resist the openness and convergence that is required for the integrated solutions that consumers are after.

Agata Stachaszewska, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Alphabet UK (BMW Group), believes that the levels connected mobility in London has already shown it can work in the UK, but also that it is not yet prevalent across the country like it is in somewhere like The Netherlands. One area of particular improvement needed is in the availability of charging points – as it still much more convenient to use cars powered by traditional fuel sources. Given that our data suggests that the vast majority of consumers are not widely driven by consumer emissions, there is a clear need to guarantee convenience.

There must be alternatives beyond just automotive

Zenzic CEO Daniel Ruiz said that he was optimistic because he has already seen the collaboration in the British automotive industry, in the shape UK Automotive Council, not only between the established manufactures but also disruptors, logistics companies, local authorities and legislators. He also hopes we are beginning to see an increase in partnership across modes of transport as well, such as linking up with rail, to address the challenges of integrated mobility solutions.

Whilst using EVs may reduce emissions, he argued that integrating transport solutions could have an even bigger effect and have a greater impact on areas such as congestion. He believes the government needs to provide a framework to reduce risk and encourage investment so that the industry is corralled in this direction. Whilst they may have been slow to respond in areas such as e-scooters, the landmark Automated and Electric Vehicles Act (2018) proves they have the ability to lead the way for the rest of the world.

We need regulators to be brave

Lime’s Head of Policy, Alan Clarke agreed that whilst the UK certainly does have the potential to be a leader in the mobility sector – as shown by the work coming out of the tech sector – he has significant reservations over the UK approach to regulation which he believes has lagged behind other areas in of world. With shared mobility solutions, in particular, it is his view that the UK has been behind the curve in establishing regulatory frameworks and governmental support allow tech companies to thrive at scale in Britain.

Alan and Daniel agreed that government in the UK has a tendency to view new methods of transport by tentatively assessing how they fit in to current systems, whereas they should generally be trying to encourage them in their early stages and seek to mitigate any potential issues once they have developed. This may be a higher risk model, but it is one that is used in other industries. Whilst there need to be checks in making sure solutions are safe and effective, is important to strike a balance with encouraging innovation. Agata made the point that companies like BMW and Alphabet, much like governments, are often naturally risk averse; however, she also stressed that they have learned lessons from start-ups in recent years in knowing that they need to be forward thinking and agile to adapt.

Connected data has the potential to be revolutionary

In terms of the way data is used, Agata believers customers are willing to share if they know it is being used fairly and correctly, citing a recent Alphabet example where there was a willingness to share GPS connected data to inform the optimal locations for charging ports. In this instance, they have used data to not only build a compelling argument but also to remove feasibility barriers.

Daniel from Zenzic cited the UK as the number one country in the world for cybersecurity. He mentioned emerging programmes to harness data, not just between the automotive industry as has been done in Germany but across different modes of mobility. Ultimately though, the key was to take the data from being “just numbers” and turn it into actionable insights. Ian from Autosuggested that the data shared by TfL is a great example of this, as is the crowd-sourced information used to benefit consumers in Waze.

Consistency of Message

Ian also stressed the need to foster an open and collaborative approach to innovation that puts customer’s needs at its heart. It is important he felt to provide consumers with consistent and compelling messaging to take them on this journey: a compelling value exchange is the only thing that will make new mobility solutions attractive. All the panellists felt optimistic that the opportunity is there. British companies, by collaborating and with the support of progressive regulation and an ambitions government, can become a global mobility powerhouse.