Home / Blog / Post-Pandemic Scenarios – XXXIII – ReInventing the Car 2

Post-Pandemic Scenarios – XXXIII – ReInventing the Car 2

The MIT Smart Cities research team’s car. Image credit: Franco Vairani/MIT Department of Architecture

If you want to see how wild our imagination could be about the future of car, just browse the web. You’ll find futuristic supercar that fall in the category of “faster, luxury, amazing, wow”, as well as cars that are designed to fit a specific function, like saving parking space (like the ones from MIT shown in the figure that can change their shape and be staked one on the other).

Most of what you see is just not going to happen, because they would cost too much and would remain a toy for the ultra-rich, or because they are not appealing and would fit more an industrial deployment rather than a consumer market.

As mentioned in the previous post, our cars and, most importantly our perception of what our car should be, will change significantly in the next decades. It will be, however, a relatively slow process so that it will be impossible to put a date on this change. Slowly today’s cars, and the way we use them, will morph into something different. Keep in mind that the economic forces (manufacturers goals) will remain in place with a strong push to sell hence a strong advertisement to convince us to buy.

Nevertheless, the shift towards CaaS, Car as a Service, will be unstoppable. The shift towards self driving cars, the enforcement of policies to decrease pollution (it goes hand in hand with power consumption) are converging and transforming our perception of cars from a personal status asset into a commodity that takes us from a to b at a pace that will no longer be controlled by us.

As pointed out by the FTI’s report what we call today a car will become a pod that is part of a global transportation system. This pod may be loaded onto a gondola for transport in underground tunnels or be picked up by a drone to be flown to the other side of the city (watch the clip). As such most of these “pods” will be commodity that are available for use, not personal properties, although there might be a significant market for personalised pods. Actually, the Covid-19 has shown a desire to use a personal transportation means, increasing the perception of safety. Some car manufacturers have started to advertise HEPA filters to make your car a protected biosphere. There will always be a luxury market offering, with “golden pods” (or possibly more likely pods with the Armani brand -or the likes), like today hotels are a commodity but you have hotels in all range of prices.

The infrastructure supporting mobility and inter-mobility is the real game changer, it is the one that is delivery efficiency, low carbon footprint and business value. It is notable to see how China is investing in transportation infrastructures from high speed rail to metro underground, from communications to artificial intelligence. Notice that all of them are integral part of the future of transportation, the former providing physical transportation the latter virtual transportation. And the future of transportation is a mixture of both, as the pandemic has started to show us.

Another crucial difference, already in the making, is that we will be transforming the pods (the cars) that will happen to use with our very presence. The entertainment and the interface with the car mediate environment will be brought on the car by ourselves, possibly embedded in our smartphone and in our digital twin. Amazon, Apple and Google are competing to deliver the personalisation that we desire (think about Apple’s car play, Google’s Android Automotive OS and Amazon’s Echo Auto).

Most of the services we will be enjoying in our pods will not be provided by the pod manufacturer, rather by third parties service providers (most likely seen through the Apple/Google… brand) using edge computing, edge cloud and our own devices to deliver the customised experience. The Personal Digital Twin will also be a major component in the rendering of the experience and it remains to be seen who will be supporting it (creating, operating, growing…). For sure it will not be a car/pod manufacturer.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.