I was struck by this article today – http://uk.businessinsider.com/uber-tesla-waymo-struggle-to-disrupt-auto-industry-2017-6
I don’t know why i was so struck as the thrust of it didn’t surprise me. But it has sat with me for a while so i have to comment. That Uber and Tesla are struggling on the weight of far too great expectations is no surprise to many, me included.
Uber is burning investors’ money trying to push out competition and dominate every market it enters. Tesla on the other hand is burning investors’ money in developing world-class products that are disruptive but require vast R&D spend to bring to a tough market. Neither will go under any time soon and, as the article suggests, it is merely a slowing down of the trajectory of disruption.
But there is something more. That more is the unspoken bit where actually human behaviours are not going to so radically change when it comes to transport, particularly with the combined forces of population growth and urbanisation. The obsession with autonomous vehicles is exciting and useful, but not the ultimate goal in terms of everyone switching from existing car usage to autonomous vehicles (AVs) and then more of those AVs being brought in to allow even more to use them as personal cars.
I am not for one minute suggesting that tech is going to fail to make a difference, it absolutely will, but it will do so in more complementary ways that focus on actually supporting and enabling existing behaviours rather than fundamentally redrawing everything transport-related – well for the medium term anyway!
So yes smartphone apps, mobility as a service, automation and electrification all have key roles to play. But Uber is not going to replace taxis, minicabs, public transport, private cars etc etc and indeed AVs are not going to replace public transport but actually be a part of public transport.
So the disruption trajectory is perhaps shifting and being more widely adopted in more mainstream ways. For example, the railway, trams, metros are all adopting autonomous capabilities using digital signalling tech to increase capacity and efficiency. That is what we need, the significant uplift in transport capacity that tech can bring to really provide the benefits that towns and cities so desperately need.