By Carsten Isert, Gartner Inc. 

Once considered an outlandish idea, self-driving cars — and other smart mobility services — are steadily gaining attention in the technology landscape.

With megatrends like population growth, the aging society, globalization and urbanization expected to continue, accelerating the deployment of new mobility solutions is key. In the years leading up to 2025, companies that provide smart mobility technologies will face change and uncertainty brought on by connectivity, automation, services and electrification. Collectively, these forces, known as “CASE,” will push the entire automotive industry, as well as many smart mobility companies, to redefine themselves in the next few years. Adjacent industries — such as transit, finance and insurance, as well as all levels of government — will also feel the effects and influence of mobility market changes.

As will be discussed during the upcoming Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Toronto, regulations will be one of the crucial driving forces that will have a deep impact on how the technology will get adopted. Additionally, public perception of advances in smart mobility will play a major role in this adoption and will also have an impact on regulators, as they are more likely to allow deployment of autonomous driving and mobility services if the public demands it.

Scenarios for the smart future of mobility

Four possible scenarios could impact organizations through 2025, and these scenarios should serve as a thought-provoking set of possible futures for CIOs and leaders in the smart mobility space.

  1. The smart mobility field eventually stalls: In the near future, technical difficulties, consumer hesitation, reduced funding and, most importantly, lack of consistent regulations, will plague the smart mobility industry before its technology is accepted. CIOs will need to assess and monitor how long it will take to overcome these challenges before leading to one of the other scenarios.
  2. Extended period of stalled regulations and slow consumer adoption lead to modest change. If there aren’t any major breakthroughs in the regulatory environment by 2025, this scenario favors the local players in each market. Although several countries worldwide have passed legislations that allow the operation of autonomous mobility services, the regulations are different in each market and lead to localized solutions but limit the potential scaling of business cases.
  3. Early success stories lead to a virtuous circle and a widespread use of Level 4 autonomous mobility services: Autonomous driving Level 4 describes vehicles that can operate without human interaction in a wide range of conditions and locations and will likely operate in geofenced areas. This level of autonomous car will likely appear on the market in the next decade. In conjunction with safe operation and well-engineered customer experiences, Level 4 can lead to the most disruptive case of IT mobility in society, where larger IT companies can obtain a significant part of the market share.
  4. The transportation and delivery industry as the main driver of new mobility until 2025: In this scenario, a combination of fine-grained commercial goods transportation services with automation of large parts of the delivery chain could lead to reduced cost and higher utilization. Funding from passenger vehicles is increasingly moved toward the logistics industry.

The four driving forces for smart mobility in 2025

Technology is the main influence sphere for CIOs, but the driving forces influencing the future of mobility will also depend to a large degree on a complex interaction of:

  • Regulations
  • Societal/customer acceptance
  • Economic structures
  • Organizational structures

These forces will likely differ among different countries and cities, but these areas will be the primary forces driving the industry toward one of the four noted scenarios.

Strong societal resistance to self-driving cars, for example, could delay or thwart the passage of vital legislation that makes them able to take to the road. Yet, should the legislation be approved, it is realistic to assume more people will experience the benefits of autonomous mobility services — and their opinions will change, thus allowing autonomous vehicles to become increasingly commonplace.

CIOs must account for smart mobility when planning their digital roadmaps

CIOs must generate technology visions for their organizations, to include influencing customers, and drive innovation as part of the wider industry trend toward accelerating digitalization. They can do this by driving and aligning their IT strategy with one of the four scenarios. This also means redefining that strategy further by regularly monitoring and understanding the most relevant scenario drivers — changes in regulations, customer experience, economic structures, and so forth.

Smart mobility can ultimately take many different paths toward adoption, or the lack thereof. Regardless, CIOs need to be prepared for the transformation the field might endure as a litmus test for the acceleration of digitalization.

Carsten Isert is a senior director analyst in Gartner’s CIO Research Group. Mr. Isert covers smart mobility and the evolution of the automotive industry, including the rise of vehicle autonomy, connected vehicles and future technology. He helps CIOs and technology leaders explore the opportunities and impacts of new technologies on mobility.