Monday, October 24, 2011

Give Me Mobility or Give Me Death

Hythem made a great point in class today that got me thinking... He mentioned that OnStar seemed to be driving GM toward a software/service platform that would ultimately move their focus away from automobiles. Sync was better, therefore, because it was more focused on the experience in the automobile itself.

That got me thinking that this is exactly what is needed in the automobile industry in the US: a move away from the car-centric worldview. This can be hard to swallow for an industry with such a storied history, but that's where leadership becomes so crucial...

"If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth -- and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago." - Steve Jobs in an interview to Fortune magazine in early 1996

Having the discipline to say that the war for who can build the best car is over, that several Japanese or German companies won in the late 80s -- that's what the auto industry in the US needs. Once we acknowledge that any one of a dozen companies can make a high quality car at a low cost, then we can "get busy on the next great thing."

So what is the next great thing?

Here's three interesting trends that I think should produce new business models in the Auto Industry:

Contextualized two way communication with online data sources: The ability to access all the information from the drivers seat sounds great. What sounds better is being able to access the most relevant information. And accessing it quickly. And through an interface that is safe to use while driving.

Location Based Services: As we mentioned in class, location based services offers some exciting applications for all of that data. Privacy concerns aside, we're already seeing the power of location based commerce (groupon, local offers, scvngr, foursquare, etc...), but what about other services that make sense with LBS in an automobile? Could this solve the parking problem? Could you sort your to do list so that you could use a more fuel efficient route while doing errands? Could you find restaurant or attraction information on the way home from a wedding in Maine?

Mobility as a service: We all now about the popularity of Zipcar, but what about the sweeping vision of City Car? Could a new class of cars be designed to work seamlessly with mobile devices, so that the whole experience of mobility can be redefined? My wife decides that we need to pick up a couple things from target, I pull out my CityCar app, enter my destination, and my distance to the nearest pod of vehicles is calculated, I click "Go" and in the time it takes to walk to the end of the block, a car is waiting for me, we get in, and the route to target is already entered into the GPS, and away we go, along with an option to pick up dinner from our favorite kebab place on the way home...

I'm sure there are other trends that are more interesting to you, but these are the ones that I get excited about...

For those of you that have never heard of CityCar....

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