Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota, recently announced that he has “decided to ‘redesign’ Toyota from a car-making company into a mobility company.
“A mobility company,” he explained, “is one that provides services related to movement for people around the world.'” Not only does Toyoda-san state his desire to become a mobility provider, but he also defines what one actually is. CEOs of mobility start-ups, listen up…
Mobility is an interesting concept, and I’m truly curious what it could look like when it involves a global company like Toyota. We’re all familiar with the ride-share company use of “mobility” to describe, in one way or another, what’s basically a minicab, but even companies like Uber are stretching their scope to include things such as electric scooter hire.
— Alan Bradley (@ajpbradley) May 9, 2018
This short and medium distance enablement is fine and dandy in sunny, beautiful and urbanised California, but what does it mean for those of us in the real world? What could ‘mobility’ look like?
From travel to mobility
Let’s look at an example of what’s possible. I regularly travel to the town of Helsingborg in Sweden, and the route I take is an excellent example of multi-modal transportation. Here’s what happens.
Ahead of time, I:
- Book flights from the UK to Copenhagen from one provider
- Book parking at the airport from another provider
- Make sure the car has sufficient fuel to get me to the airport car park
On the day, I:
- Go to my car and set the navigation for the airport car park
- I drive to the car park and swap to a bus
- The bus takes me to the terminal where, after some waiting, I climb aboard a plane that magics me to CPH
- Once at CPH I take a short walk to the railway station that’s part of the airport
- At the Station I buy a combined rail and ferry ticket from there to Helsingborg and board a train for Helsingør.
- At Helsingør I swap to a ferry which crosses the Öresund to Helsingborg.
There are five or six different transactions there, each separate and each needing to be changed or altered in isolation if something fails. Which, sometimes, it does.
Mobility, then, is when I declare that I wish to get from my house to Helsingborg on a particular date, and within defined time and cost constraints. It involves me simply pressing a button and make a payment: all the bookings and scheduling happen in that one single transaction.
Better than that, because I’ve requested a “Home to Helsingborg Service” it’s all integrated. If I get held up in traffic, or the train I’ve been directed to (as it’s theoretically faster) turns out to be delayed enough that I’m late for my flight, the service will re-route me to a different car park, plane, train or ferry, seamlessly and instantly.
At least, that’s my interpretation of ‘mobility’, as opposed to transport, and you know what? I’m all in favour of that future.
No one company will ever have complete control of a series of transactions like that, but there’s no reason that a large, global company can’t forge the necessary codeshare relationships and fill the appropriate gaps to make ‘one transaction mobility’ a reality.
If nothing else, it should make my travel significantly simpler and less stressful. Toyoda-san, for that reason alone, you may just be onto something…