THE BLOG

How the Automotive Industry Will Be Disrupted

08/05/2013 02:21 pm ET | Updated Oct 05, 2013

We live in a world that is increasingly connected all the time. Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything which will generate $14 trillion in value over the next decade. New mobility is a specific aspect of the Internet of Everything -- sustainable connected, multimodal transportation.

Imagine your car connects automatically with the next stop light so that the light is green when you go through the intersection. Not idling unnecessarily at the intersection conserves fuel, puts less carbon in the air, and saves you time. Your car is also connected to the public safety infrastructure, so if you have a problem the police or the emergency medical system is notified automatically. You can even find out if the restaurant close by has a table and then make a reservation.

Now imagine that you have a robust system of clean energy buses throughout your community. On a smart phone you call a vehicle that comes to your home and takes you to the meet the bus. At the stop closest to where you work, another vehicle is waiting for you to go the last mile or so. That entire multi-modal experience is managed seamlessly through one smart phone app. For many people who sure would beat sitting on congested highways during their daily commute.

Corey Clothier from COMET has a presentation on InnoVenture.com showing his work with the US Army's Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center to develop autonomous vehicles. His first demonstration project is the Wounded Warrior Campus at Fort Bragg. The wounded soldier barracks are roughly 400 meters from a hospital on one side and a cafeteria on the other. Some soldiers have physical disabilities and aren't mobile. Others go through intense physical therapy or take such strong medications that while they can walk to their appointments they can't walk back.

The Wounded Warrior Campus will provide on demand personal transit through autonomous golf carts that operate at a top speed of 8 miles per hours. Soldiers call the vehicles via a cell phone to take them where they need to go. The soldiers get out of the vehicle, which automatically returns itself to the pool to await the next soldier's call eliminating parking hassles.

Once this limited demonstration project is up and running, it's easy to imagine it expanding to all of Fort Bragg perhaps at speeds up to 25 miles per hours. From there, it's not too great a leap to imagine a system of autonomous vehicle throughout the Fayetteville, NC area.

Recently GM said they were watching very closely Tesla, which makes a high-end electric sports car. Tesla may be a good competitor to GM, but a high-end innovation won't disrupt the car industry. The existential threat to GM is the fellow who makes an autonomous vehicle system work over 400 meters on an army base, then incrementally improves the system until it works across an entire small city. Some people may decide that this system is so effective and convenient for them that they don't need to own a car, or perhaps only need to own one car instead of two. A small competitor which seems so small and immature that it doesn't warrant much attention is how the automotive industry will be disrupted, like many industries before them.

For GM and the automotive industry -- dux cavete. For Corey and other new mobility pioneers -- carpe diem.