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New mobility and digital identity: A revolution in motion

Imagine it: A car that knows you well enough to adjust your seat, cue up your favorite music, map your destination and unlock the door for you — even if you’ve never driven it before. Or the right vehicle for every occasion, from city errands to a weekend in the mountains, arriving at your door in minutes with the touch of a button. Picture streets no longer choked with parked cars, and wallets no longer dented by astronomical parking fees. Smart cities that bring new convenience, efficiency and safety to the flow of daily urban life.

It’s all within reach in the near future — enabled by the transformation of the automotive industry for a new generation of mobility services.

The core technical challenges of autonomous driving are well on their way to being solved, but to fully deliver on the vision of “new mobility,” the industry must address the most important task of all: getting consumers on board. Although new mobility concepts such as ride-sharing and ride-hailing are already available in many cities, they remain limited to specific use cases and consumer profiles.

To lure customers away from long-held traditions associated with personal vehicle ownership — even given the high costs, waste and nuisance of this model — the industry will have to offer modern user experiences they truly can’t resist.

New mobility services begin with complete integration and synchronization with the individual’s digital life, from the apps they use, to the media they enjoy, to the work or personal business they might need to get done while in transit. Equally important, these seamless user experiences must be delivered with the reliable security, privacy and performance consumers demand from any other digital service — or more, given the highly personal nature of personal mobility.

New mobility users literally trust you with their lives, both digital and physical. The companies must be able to gain and fulfill that trust will own the next generation of the auto industry. And, as their vision evolves into reality, they’ll also need to evolve how they integrate digital identity solutions into the new mobility landscape.

An automotive industry in transition: Challenges and disruptions

Start with an outdated and unloved status quo, add a few global megatrends and you have all the ingredients for massive industry transformation. To begin with, though it’s hard for auto traditionalists to hear, car ownership is losing its appeal. Why spend so much on a purchase that sits idle 96% of the time — and even when it’s in use, incurs both high costs for parking and the many frustrations of urban gridlock, slow-and-go highways and road rage?

For drivers of all ages — and especially rising generations who value experiences over possessions — there has to be a better way to get around. Meanwhile, digitization, urbanization and the sharing economy are disrupting business models and reshaping consumer expectations. Digital technologies and experiences have already transformed the photo, music and phone industries; now it’s the automotive industry’s turn — and the changes to come will be dramatic.

The digital transformation of mobility goes far beyond adding screens and connectivity to traditional vehicles. Simulated and influenced by digital-native companies, new business models will upend established industry partnerships and supply chains, ownership and revenue models, and even the fabric of the cities in which we live and move.

As is so often the case, incumbency will be no guarantee of success; large, multinational organizations will have to move quickly to avoid being displaced by more agile newcomers.

Think of some the automotive business disruptions we’re already seeing:

  • In the electric vehicle space, new players with breakthrough battery and charging technologies are challenging incumbent carmakers.
  • New platform and services companies are redefining the business of personal mobility in the sharing economy.
  • IT companies have taken the lean on autonomous driving through machine learning and artificial intelligence — with profound implications for urbanization and society in general.

The question now is, which companies will take the lead in delivering future mobility services: established carmakers that understand that the game is changing, disruptors from the world of digital services, or other players we don’t even know about yet?

New mobility models and experiences

New mobility services put people front-and-center — not the car. It’s no longer about design, horsepower or big wheels; the focus has now shifted to the purpose of the journey (business, leisure, commute, travel) and the most appropriate way of getting there in terms of cost, time and convenience.

In these soon-to-be old days, most people own one car and use it for all purposes, from the daily commute to long-distance vacations. This can mean dealing with an oversized gas-guzzler on city streets where a smaller, more economical car would make more sense — or else taking that small, economical city car on days-long interstate trips with cramped legroom, poor visibility and constant anxiety about the larger vehicles looming on all sides.

Wouldn’t it be better to be able to choose the ideal type of car for each trip — an SUV for skiing, a convertible for a trip to the beach, an electric micro-car for quick errands, a van for back-to-school shopping? And better yet, to complement this on-demand flexibility with car-sharing, ride-hailing, bike-sharing and public transportation for complete freedom of choice and convenience? The trend is obvious: We are moving from a car-centric automotive world to the user-centric world of new mobility.

The rise of smart cities

New mobility is the current focus of the auto industry, but the ultimate goal is the smart city. Where today’s cities seem purpose-built to host cars with wide streets and acres of dedicated parking, tomorrow’s urban centers will follow the needs of people. Much higher car utilization rates will reduce traffic, emissions and parking; autonomous cars can remain in lower-density areas until summoned, or drive to the next charging point before picking up the next passenger.

As both consumers and companies undergo this dramatic transformation, critical success factors will include trust, convenience and user experience.

  • Trust must be earned for technology (things always work), safety (proven cybersecurity) and data privacy (I always know and control what I’m sharing).
  • Convenience depends on full personalization to each user’s preferences and requirements across the features, services and settings of the shared car.
  • User experience must be transparent and intuitive, with new mobility services available at the click of a single button, managed in a single app.

A car used in the context of new mobility will ultimately need to become the so called “third living room,” a convenient space outside the home and office where all is as you expect it and you feel completely safe.

Building the third living room goes beyond sharing or renting cars of a particular type or make. It’s also about services extending across the entire journey, including energy, connectivity, intermodal transportation, payment, entertainment and more, all personalized to help the user’s time en route feel more like relaxing at home or getting work done at the office. Smart mobile devices will play a crucial role in this future, used to manage and operate the entire lifecycle from service discovery to payment.

Why digital identity needs to keep pace

Establishing, securing and protecting digital identities that are just as mobile as the vehicles and technologies enabling us to get around in this brave new “new mobility” landscape? This is as central to its success as the vehicles and technical and urban infrastructures involved.

Owned and shared vehicles alike will need to allow flexible personalization based on user profiles, so connecting them with user identities will need to be trustworthy and seamless. Privacy and compliance concerns will be delicate concerns, too, as usage data will need to be shared with carmakers without violating the privacy concerns of the operator. The literally scores of ECUs controlling each vehicle will need to possess their own secure identities, too, to allow both efficient interconnection with internal and external networks and for interdiction of hackers.

In our next article in this series, we’ll dig into more details about the centrality of digital identity to this wave of profound change for personal transportation, as we examine the security, data and connected services being developed to make new mobility more than conjecture, but an everyday, on-the-go reality.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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