This week. The AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator headed over to France for Autonomy Paris, the yearly conference on all things mobility.
We joined thousands of professionals hailing from the public and private sides of the road to get an insider’s view on what’s happening in transport in now, and what is coming our way in the near future. Here are our takeaways:
1) Critical MaaS
In previous years, the exhibition floor was filled with electric scooters and micromobility providers like Lime or Byrd. They were still there this year, but the first things you see walking in weren’t scooters or bikes, but sharing platforms.
Mobility-as-a-Service, or MaaS, were all the craze this time — promising a post-ownership world where none of us owns our cars or scooters or bikes, but share them with everyone else.
For the uninitiated, MaaS is essentially the idea of collecting all forms of transport modules into one space: bus, train, bikes, cars. ride-hailing, and scooters — a singular portal to mix and match every which transport method most convenient to you. Everything found, organized, and paid for in one app, in one go.
The future of mobility, according to the conference, lies not in wheels in motors, but in the alternate universe of data. Represented in quantified form, what we do in our vehicles, how and when and with whom we use them — have become a vast deposit of information brimming with potential for lucrative insights.
One obvious avenue is using this data to train autonomous vehicles. But applications are wide and many. Consider for instance questions like: How ought a smart city look to best suit the needs of passengers? Where should charging ports for EVs be placed? How could insurance be better determined? Are there ways to encourage better driving practices?
3) The public-private romance
Every representative we spoke to stressed how collaboration between regulators and private innovators are crucial to mobility. Little surprise, given the need to obtain permissions to test self-driving cars or operate platforms in a city. But in a more nuanced view, mobility providers are also realizing that trail blazing, move fast break things kinds of attitudes might not be sustainable — and are instead hiring heads of policy to create relationships with city authorities and working together to implement their ideas.
Just think about cases like Uber, which have had to battle authorities over and over again to make a case for their existence. By working with city authorities to begin with — which are also seeking ways to bring innovations into their infrastructure — this creates a more sophisticated, less combative, and ultimately more sensible route to realizing vision.