• March 8, 2017

On the Move: New Mobility Services in the Auto Industry

It’s coming: embedded smart wallets, contextualized connected cars, and more. 

The automobile industry will look much different in the coming decades with the rise of ride-sharing services and the impact of self-driving cars. As more people consider these means of transportation rather than purchasing their own, automakers are aggressively investigating new mobile services that could compensate for lost sales.

Both Ford and Toyota announced in the past year that they will create new organizations solely dedicated to new mobile initiatives. Ford Smart Mobility LLC and Toyota Connected aim to explore self-driving vehicle technology and mobile contextual services—that personalize the experience based on the user’s situation—among other things.

Flexibility Is Key

In an interview with The Verge, Ford CEO Mark Fields states that the company wanted a subsidiary with flexibility outside of Ford’s bureaucracy to compete with other technology and mobility services companies. Fields envisions the vehicle as a mobility platform providing opportunities such as a smart wallet that allows drivers to reserve parking, pay ahead for a spot, or buy food at the drive-through without needing to reach in their pockets.

Ford is hiring auto industry outsiders for the new Silicon Valley-based unit in hopes that new ideas for customer experience will emerge. Auto engineers tend to approach the customer experience looking through the lens of existing technology, while outsiders more naturally see things from the driver’s seat, Fields notes.

A Concierge at Your Fingertips

Toyota Connected has a similar approach, with CEO Zack Hicks talking about overcoming the “tyranny of technology.” This is a phenomenon created by ubiquitous mobile technology and innumerable apps that can make daily life more complicated, he says.

His vision is to put mobile applications in the background and make mobility more of a concierge. For instance, mobile applications would predict where a driver is going based on his or her habits and information gleaned from social media posts and other sources. An interactive voice response interface would ask the driver if the predicted destination is accurate and if he or she would like to be routed around traffic to that location.

For that service to work, users would have to opt in to share personal information, something they may be uneasy to do. Hicks says that Toyota will need to clearly explain the value proposition and privacy safeguards to encourage people to reveal personal data—a key consideration for any enterprise considering similar mobile services. In order for consumers to continue to adopt mobility services, enterprises must be transparent about the data they collect and how it will be used. Breach of trust could douse public enthusiasm for these services, Hicks says.

Mobile Services for All

Perhaps the most interesting results of these new ventures will be services that can be used outside of their brand’s vehicles. Fields talks about providing services for consumers who don’t even own a car. For example, the company could provide mobile solutions to help urban customers use ride-sharing or public transportation and then rent an electric bicycle for any remaining portion of their trip.

This vision stretches automakers’ brands beyond selling and servicing vehicles to a holistic transportation solutions provider and more. It exploits mobile services to create a new business model. It’s a concept that all enterprises should consider, because mobile service option laggards will lose competitive ground. As Chris Moyer, Vice President, Mobility and Workplace Practice, Enterprise Services, puts it, “Enterprises that fail to develop and implement mobile strategies will lose customers, and winning those customers back will be very expensive.”

Like this story? Learn more about the automotive customer experience.