The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has launched its Future Mobility Challenge, encouraging SMEs and start-ups to deliver innovative solutions for motor manufacturers.
The initiative is supported by five of the organisation’s members; Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Bosch, Ford and Toyota. More than 50 SMEs and start-ups are pitching technology services and/or solutions to address mobility challenges.
Opening the Challenge, the SMMT’s CEO Mike Hawes (pictured) explained that, while some autonomous vehicles will be on the road by the Government’s 2021 target, there is a lot to do to get to full autonomy. But, he added, almost all vehicles are now connected and alternative fuel vehicles sales are growing.
“Alternative digital technologies are key to the innovation,” he said. “So to uncover these solutions, the Challenge will find start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs to deliver new solutions.
“Some of the innovations pitched may redefine the future of mobility and the entire automotive sector. This is a serious attempt to find new partnerships between innovative start-ups and automotive brands.”
Hawes explained the need to work with government to create the right framework and the Challenge was welcomed by Transport Minister Jesse Norman who said that it was vital because mobility the lifeblood of the economy. “25 years ago, when the Internet took off, people thought we’d travel less with home working and deliveries, conference calls and so on,” he said. “This has happened but demand for mobility has grown. In Britain, we travelled 800 billion kilometres last year, more than ever before.
“What has been fascinating is that technology has been static in places. We’re using a largely Victorian rail network, driving internal combustion engine cars, flying sub-sonically. If our transport system hasn’t altered much over the last two decades, it will change in the next two. Today’s children will grow up using modes of transport that would have been science fiction a generation ago.
He referenced a recent difference of opinion he had with the transport journalist Christian Wolmar who is extremely sceptical about the value of driverless vehicles “Rarely could a man be more wrong,” Mr Norman said. “Autonomous technologies will offer a range of benefits. One is road safety – reducing the number of accidents – and they will help older, disabled, sight-impaired people to get around.”
He pointed to autonomous progress, including pods in Milton Keynes and Greenwich and the successful circuit of Coventry Ring Road by a driverless vehicle. He explained that the Challenge “allows small companies to make a mark. Historically there have been very high barriers to entry but the rules are being rewritten.”
“We are on the brink of a revolution,” he continued. “Mobility is the lifeblood of the economy and there is a chance for innovators to be part of it. And we in Government know this will be a very successful and profitable future relationship.”
The Challenge sponsors, BMW, Bosch, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, agreed that the future is autonomous, connected, electric and shared.
They commented that innovation will never be as slow as today, and that they are open to all ideas from start-ups and SMEs to work to help these businesses industrialise their ideas.
They stressed the need to work with cities and for collaborative working, which they said is the only way to find sustainable solutions. Over the last 100 years, they added, they have learned how to build and sell vehicles, but they are now learning how ownership will change in the future.
The Challenge will focus on seven pillars:
- Harnessing the potential of mobility data
- Intelligent solutions for intelligent fleets
- Urban mobility solutions for future cities
- Innovative shared and on-demand mobility models
- Creating new and superior customer experiences in the age of hyperconvenience
- New connected car services
- Future vehicle technologies
Christian Wolmar will be expanding on his views on driverless vehicles in a debate at the ITS (UK) Summit in Bristol in November. Find out if you agree with him or Jesse Norman by signing up to be part of the day at www.itssummit.co.uk.