Reflecting on our second year, the new economy of movement, Covid-19, and new working groups...
We hope this finds you, your families, and colleagues safe and well. It has been a crazy month for our industry, to say the least. Global new vehicle sales fell sharply in the second half of March, and April sales are expected to fall much further. Global supply chains have been disrupted. Rideshare and other mobility services are down more than 75% in cities hit hardest by the Covid-19 virus.
Following both California government orders and common sense, we’ve temporarily closed our Los Angeles MOBI office, but we are all working hard from our home offices and still making rapid progress in the working groups (WGs) and projects. Two new WGs — Supply Chain (SC) and Finance, Securitization, and Smart Contracts (FSSC) — launched last month, and several of our other WGs are preparing to issue standards. We’ve postponed MoCo Los Angeles, our annual colloquium, while we wait for travel and other conditions to improve. Finally, we’ve signed an agreement with a small country to test MOBI Standards, coordinated multi-modal mobility, and tokenized payment for infrastructure at scale; look for our announcement soon!
As we approach MOBI’s second birthday, on May 2, 2020, we would like to step back to review where we are going and why our collaboration is critical to improving mobility and our urban environments.
The Big Picture
The convergence of a variety of technologies — IoT, AI, enhanced GPS, 5G wireless, and distributed ledger technology — permits connected vehicles and devices to have a secure identity, be intelligent, share data and autonomously participate in economic transactions. Such a system first requires some basic decentralized software and hardware infrastructure — identity management, data management, permissioning — along with various sensors and car wallets. With this in place, a new mobility transaction ecosystem will see exponential growth. We’ve called this ecosystem the “new economy of movement”, referring to the multi trillion-dollar opportunity space of V2X payments and data exchange. We expect that autonomous V2X transactions will arrive before, and be more impactful than, level 5 autonomous driving. For legacy companies with existing mobility assets and transactions, this is simultaneously an existential threat and a once in a century opportunity.
MOBI is 100% focused on building the basic infrastructure for V2X data and value exchange. These are the blockchain standards and tools that will enable our members to capitalize on the opportunities, rather than succumb to the threats, in this new economy of movement. Each and every one of our WGs is solving a pain point and building a critical, foundational piece of competitive advantage.
While BC and DLT will revolutionize many aspects of our industry, I’d like to briefly highlight two of the biggest opportunities.
Opportunity I — Infrastructure and the “Tragedy of the Commons”
Mobility infrastructure today is largely provided as a public good. Capital invested by public entities becomes stranded, often for generations. Mobility infrastructure suffers from overuse, under-investment, and resource misallocation aptly named the “tragedy of the commons” by economists.
Governments and infrastructure operators around the world are increasingly turning to usage-based mobility payments, micro-tolling, road and congestion charging, and carbon pricing as critical tools for managing the social costs of mobility. With fuel efficiency rising, and the wider adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles, revenues from the gas tax are falling. Infrastructure owners/managers are researching road usage charging (RUC) as a solution. Similarly, cities have been working to address the heavy congestion clogging their main roadways with real-time, dynamic congestion pricing. These use cases rely on fundamentally similar technologies — they both are charging drivers a usage-based fee. As such, companies in the mobility space have been working on the underlying technologies required for such usage-based payments.
Opportunity II — Secure, Transparent, Privacy Preserving, and Open Data Sharing
The effect of the coronavirus on society and the global economy is unprecedented, with serious consequences for the entire automobile and mobility industry. While major automotive companies struggle with plant closures, liquidity issues, and falling stock prices; the pandemic speeds the further digitalization of the economy and strengthens Silicon Valley competitors. Legacy mobility companies which engage in joint industry initiatives and collaborate on more resilient business support systems that allow trusted and transparent cross-company data exchange will also come out winners.
The importance of collaborative data-sharing becomes clear in supply chain management. The corona outbreak has demonstrated that the automotive industry lacks transparency on multi-tier supply chain, data exchange, and integration. Due to the lack of information-sharing agreements between suppliers, it is difficult for manufacturers to have visibility into their own supply chains. Finding a solution to this problem, analytics, and network mapping could be used to retrieve useful information from multi-party data silos to protect critical lower-tier suppliers.
In addition to the automotive supply chain, major mobility and transportation providers reported significant drops in orders. To cushion the losses that arise from core business activities, transportation providers must pivot their business models towards more integrated service offerings with other parties to jointly leverage transportation capacity. Data integration and open demand-response mechanisms will allow for more transparent and flexible solutions during times of inconsistent customer demands while managing and sharing assets and services across companies. Blockchain technology is particularly promising for trusted data-sharing as it supports data exchanged to be recorded transparently and to be handled securely without the dominance of a single authority. This allows companies to decentralize existing enterprise data and connect data from different “siloed” databases to glean global insights while ensuring privacy and countering the data advantages of the technology giants.
The key breakthroughs needed to succeed in both areas is not fundamental science — but standards, adoption, scale, and implementation. Without open standards and critical mass, mobility companies have no incentive to invest in the hardware and software needed for usage-based consumption of mobility infrastructure and services that rely on shared data. Without these capabilities, third party service providers and the public sector cannot test solutions and implement at scale.
MOBI and its members are enabling a better mobility future by building the critical pieces that enable data sharing and infrastructure monetization to take the ‘tragedy’ out of our shared mobility ‘commons’.
As the current crisis passes, the share of mobility services in transportation will exponentially increase. I’m confident that our progress and hard work in the past two years will strengthen the competitive position of our members in the post Covid-19 mobility services space. Thank you for your continued support of MOBI. We look forward to another exciting and productive year.