Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Auto Transportation Revolution

Orchestrating the Auto Transportation Revolution

The Opportunity for Re-Imagining Auto Transportation Solutions

I am writing this for those angels, backers and builders who will come together to help launch the Glia Auto Ecosystem Platform, whose purpose is to shape, develop and build the auto transportation future for cities and regions. 

My goal for this post is to cover five key points of understanding for those interested in forming the core team that will orchestrate the Auto Transportation Revolution. I do not want to leave any doubt that this is an opportunity of a life time. I will not be able to overstate this, and that I am looking for those with the "right stuff" that have what it takes to capitalize on this opportunity. 
  • that a revolution in the auto transportation industry is well under way
  • the trends and technologies that are driving and shaping this revolution
  • the key organizational principles and technologies that will organize this revolution
  • some of the key stakeholders that should have ownership of this revolution
  • there is an enormous window of opportunity in orchestrating this revolution

The Revolution in Transportation

The current auto industry is a two trillion dollar business, with the production of 66 million vehicles per year, employs upwards of close to 60 million people directly and indirectly, and whose basic modus operandi has changed remarkably little over the last 100 years. (The Entrant's Guide To The Automobile Industry). 
But as was the buzz at this past Frankfurt Auto Show, there was an unmistakable sense of disruption, with even GM CEO Mary Barra recognizing that  “we will see more change in the industry in the next five to ten years than we have in the last 50.”

The gales of Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction" are taking on ever increasing force. 

While much has been made of Apple's entry into the auto world with its Project Titan, and Google with its self driving car--and these two entrants certainly will push the needle--the forces are much greater, and much more subtle than that of Silicon Valley's interest. And more so than Elon Musk and Tesla. To be sure, there are enough critics saying that none of these will be able to seriously disrupt the auto industry, but much of that criticism lacks an understanding of the bigger picture, and the other forces at work. 

For that, we need to dig deeper, much deeper. While my expertise is more around the organizational architecture that binds together ecosystems, platforms, stakeholders and customers, along with the leadership and performance culture such systems require, I will reference here Evangolos Simoudis from the excellent group of minds at Enterprise Irregulars.
Evangolos's three part series here in part onepart two, and part three does an excellent job giving a broad and deeper look at where the industry stands today, why it is being shaken up, and where things could be going. This isn't exhaustive, by any means, but does help to give our mental models a much better framework from which to evaluate the state of play. Horace Dediu, whom I've already referenced above, adds a bit more in his follow up post, Soft Underbelly.

It is in this paragraph that we get deeper clues as to where things are heading: 
The fact is that engineering cars is actually fairly easy. Building them is the hard part and the costs of engineering new models that are cited as so extraordinary are because most of the effort is in engineering for production(The maxim is that it’s far harder to make a Ford than a Ferrari). You can see this in the proliferation of “boutique” supercars which have hyper performance but low volumes. McLaren, Bugatti, Pagani and dozens of others are all recent hypercars which show the power of engineering and design without worrying about volumes.
The key here is the difference between mass production, and more custom production. And it is the means and location of production that can, and will, become another significant factor in revolutionizing the auto transportation industry. More on this as we progress.

We can't go any further here without mentioning Uber, which has its sights on more than just disrupting the taxi industry, and is representative of the sharing economy, and the changing habits of how people conceive of getting from A-to-B, and that of vehicular ownership. Likewise with car sharing companies and business models like Zipcar, and too many others to list here.

There are two other fundamental movements afoot that are part of this radical remaking of the business and culture of auto transportation, and that is the rise of the autonomous vehicle, and 3D printing/network scale custom localized manufacturing. Local Motors has been pushing the envelope on bringing 3D printed cars to the market. Local Motors is more than just another car manufacturer, but it is also at the vanguard of new business models, and in making production local. We'll look more closely at local manufacturing and 3D printing later.

It is impossible to overstate how much autonomous, self driving transportation is going to change how people move about. Nor that what was not long ago more the stuff of science fiction, is now the stuff of the present. We won't get into into why Google is a major investor and developer of the technology, but let's be assured they are not doing it as a high school science project, and perhaps why former Hyundai America CEO and President, John Krafcik is now is now CEO of Self-Driving Cars, Google.  Tesla already has on the roads cars with highly advanced driver assist technology, self driving Daimler transport trucks have been approved in Nevada, and China's self driving buses highlights autonomous techs real potential.

Autonomous vehicles on their own are exciting enough, but not on its own enough to revolutionize an industry, it is when combined with the ubiquitous mobile phone, and big data, we get a fundamental shift.

This isn't a treatise on the trends and vectors reshaping an industry, but rather enough to impress upon you that this is a vast convergence of trends and technologies, from different players with a lot at stake.

With that in mind, let's look further at some of the other macro trends involved.

Converging Trends and Technologies

It's difficult, if not impossible to understand where the future is going without having a basic understanding of business ecosystems. I covered this somewhat in a previous post here The Future is Social Business Ecosystems, and Deloitte does their usually great job of the business end with Supply Chains to Value Webs and Business ecosystems come of age. MITSloan explores further yet in Thriving In An Increasingly Digital Ecosystem.

What does this mean? In very short, the business and customer value is being created further and further away from the C-Suite. 

This is profound for several reasons, not the least of which is the future of the C-Suite, and that of the legacy organization. No less an industry giant as General Electric recognizes this, which I summarized in a Google+ post last spring The Tower of Power
Greg Satell, one of my favourite explorers in how digital trends are shaping our future, covers well one my favourite books on operating in more decentralized, complex business environment, Team of Teams, In his recent post, We Don’t Need The Best People, We Need The Best Teams, Greg pulls together how we think of productivity needs to change in order to be more adaptive in how we create value, and more so in a business world more dominated by ecosystems than that of the traditional stacked business.

As a long time researcher of these trends, I recently have concluded that Distributed Intelligence and Functional Know How are now the prime proficiency that organizations must master.

"This is the fundamental basis of the SmartSwarms Networked Intelligence Management System. Strategy and know-how are no longer the domain of the C-Suite, and for that matter this centralized intelligence approach is now the main barrier to new growth and generation of value. Exponential Organizations are one such "future of organization", and at some point in the next ten years, give or take, the legacy organization will not be able to adapt fast enough to keep up. The know how for car development and manufacturing is well established and "out there", it is the old industrial era models that are retarding this know how from flourishing." 

This is what makes Uber so effective. But it is also much more than that, it is how companies like Uber are proving that platforms are the new way to organize work and talent. These autonomous teams of talent do not need to respond to the chain of command, which is what stifles large organizations to be truly innovative and adaptive. Legacy models, which describes all the car manufacturers, habitually want to centralize control and decision making. As Robin Chase, one of the Founders of ZipCar writes, Institutions have internalized lessons that no longer apply, and continue to rely on strategies that no longer make sense. 
Long time inspiration of this decentralized movement, and co-author of The Power of Pull, John Hagel, further defines The Power of Platforms

What has this got to do with the auto industry? The car as we know it is increasingly a product of the manufacturer's ecosystem. We talked about some of the tech giants earlier that are looking for a piece of the auto industry pie, but as I noted then, this trend is much more subtle than that. Dozens of tech startups are Unbundling The Car. Recently appointed CTO of General Motors, Jon Lauckner, recognizes that the necessary innovation isn't going to come from within, but from start up enterprises. His position is “We no longer rely solely on our in-house expertise, which is a big change from where we’ve been in the past,”.
Magna the autoparts giant, is by no means standing still and has made innovation a core part of it's value added strategy to parts supply, and doesn't answer to any one company. 
Are we starting to see a pattern here? 

The legacy style business model and means of organization is not where the industry needs to be in 5-10-15 years. That command and control bureaucracy is the auto industry's biggest anchor. And there is very little to indicate that the industry will be able to change and adapt. 
As Gillian Tett writes in The Silo Effect, "Organising companies into discrete divisions makes responsibilities clearer — but it also leads to bureaucratic rivalry, corporate infighting, and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. In short, the miracle of the division of labour can all too easily degenerate into the nightmare of The Silo Effect."

This report, from the consulting firm Booze, Allen &HamiltonChallenges Facing The Global Auto Industry, is particularly insightful, broaching the possibility of purely platform driven companies emerging to deliver the final product. As mentioned earlier, the know how and do how for designing, creating and building the vehicle is a domain that is no longer central to the industry giants. The main gist here is that the status quo is either going to go through another massive consolidation (which will leave them no better prepared for the meta-trends), or disintegrate into ecosystem based platforms, with the brand name being the basic remnant from the 20th century legacy models.  

New York based venture capitalist, David Packman, with his excellent analysis in a recent Medium article, The Auto Industry Won't Create The Future, opened by saying "I believe this inevitable transition creates a very clear set of vectors for disruption of the traditional automotive industry and, like other industries transformed by technology (newspapers, travel agents, the music industry, traditional retail, etc.), many new winners are likely to emerge. Let’s examine why." 

Another ground breaking technology coming of age is The Internet of Things (IoT). This technology, or technological system, I am happy to report, is already well adapted by companies like GM and Whirlpool. But that is only the beginning of the story. Auto makers will by no means have a proprietary lock on this technology. What the IoT enables is a scale of efficiency for business ecosystems, and networked style organizations (more on these next). In other words, this enables much different ways of organizing the components that go into the making of a vehicle, which is to say how you organize the eco-system that actually makes all the components that go into a vehicle. This will be an integral feature of how vehicles will become "smart".  

Another technology that will have a significant impact on how business is organized is the blockchain. I mention it here, as this disruptive technology will also have implications for Internet of  Things. IBM, already a leader in the IoT, is likewise moving quickly on the blockchain, as explained here in what is blockchain, and what does it have to do with the Internet of Things?
It is noteworthy to mention that virtually every major bank is investing in the blockchain, which can most simply be described as a distributed, public ledger hosted on a peer network of computers. 
We will touch more towards the end on the blockchain as to how it relates re-organizing the future of auto-transportation.  

This IBM Report is an excellent over-view of the potential behind IoT and Blockchain combined.

For a comprehensive report, that outlines the six "mega-trends" I have touched upon here, Deep Shift, from the World Economic Forum is an excellent overview.

To sum up here, what we are seeing is an unmistakable tectonic shift in how the nature of auto transportation can be organized, and owned. 
The growing consensus is the legacy models of the 20th century auto industry players are ill suited for this shift. Again, this is something General Motors CEO Mary Barra recognizes, "We're going to disrupt ourselves, we are disrupting ourselves, we're not trying to preserve a model of yesterday". Time will tell if the industry can "disrupt itself". 

The auto industry's expertise is in mass manufacturing and push sales, a model that will increasingly become irrelevant due to the continuing fragmentation of sales base. 

Key Principles, Trends and Technologies For Organizing This Auto Transportation Revolution

This is a conceptually difficult concept to transcribe and describe on paper, which in my experience is why so many business that know a different organizational structure is necessary, but find it exceedingly challenging to do so. 

In our case here, once we understand all the knowledge necessary for the design and manufacturing of the auto exists within the auto-industry eco-system, and not within legacy model, we can begin to conceive of business and organizational models that will replace the old organization, which has not changed appreciably since Alfred Sloan designed it in the 1920's.

However, before we go too far, we have to have a basic understanding of just where auto transportation might be in 10 years.

Autonomous Vehicles

To say the now inevitable shift towards the self driving car changes "everything", is to understate just how much personal transportation can and will change. 
For starters, we will need fewer cars. For cities, this will mean far fewer parking spaces, and eventually no longer a need for street parking (which also means a loss of revenue). Parking garages will become wasted spaces, while opening up a wide variety of opportunities for their re-purposing. 

The biggest gain we can conceive of is commuting. This is a massive opportunity in value creation and cost savings in transportation and infrastructure. 
This also opens up the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the nature of car ownership. 

Software, Hardware, and Big Data

That auto vehicle will become a product and service that is combination of software, hardware and big data. This is already so, but that will accelerate dramatically, particularly when combined with artificial intelligence. (you can see Mercedes Benz's vision for such vehicles here)
Imagine swarms of self driving cars attending to most of our urban transportation needs, where our smartphones organize our trips, and ride payment is through cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin), you'll start to get a pretty good idea of where this is all heading. 

Mass Customization

Mass customization is another trend that is a convergence of technological progress, data, and cultural norms and expectations. For the Glia Model, we refer to this mass customization as "networked scale custom local production". 
As I hinted at above, as 3D printing matures, along with advanced, ubiquitous robotics, localized custom manufacturing becomes possible. When we look at this within the greater context of the future of manufacturing, we can begin to conceptualize a future where we move from "off shoring" jobs, to "near sourcing" jobs. This becomes more important when put together with the trends of robotics and automation continually replace the current workforce (we need to be clear this also includes "white collar" workers), and the growing crisis of not enough skilled workers for the kind of economy we are heading towards. 
It is in my very strong opinion, for cities to maintain a vital economic base, localized manufacturing and the creation of the next generation of highly skilled workforce becomes urgently necessary.

Pertaining to changing consumer demands, this report from IBM, Challenges for the auto industry in an on demand environment, states "Consumers no longer accept standardized products, but want products that satisfy their individual requirements".
This is a very difficult arena to compete in for an industry built around the tenets of 20th century mass manufacturing.

The case I have been building here is as such:

  • Technology is rapidly evolving to deliver personalized hardware/software products and experiences, at a "network scale" for affordable costs. 
  • The consumer is evolving rapidly to expect these services and products. 
  • The very nature of the individually owned auto as transportation is changing. 
  • The mass production and growth sales of the auto legacy is creating ever increasing congestion and infrastructure costs for cities and regions. 
  • The traditional auto industry's growth model, and the needs of cities/regions and their citizens are at odds.
  • Organizational and business models are rapidly evolving and emerging, that when combined with evolving technologies and consumer trends and needs, allows for a much different framework for the auto industry, and its relationship to needs of consumers and city-regions. 
  • These new models should be predicated on providing "auto transportation solutions and experiences" rather than gross sales of individual units.
  • The ecosystem exists to provide the new model for personalized transportation solutions and experiences, but it needs to "Gravitate" around a new platform model
  • Cities and regions can be at the forefront of developing the platforms and "gravitational pull".
  • Glia is to provide the "operating system", expertise, leadership and vision for the platforms and ecosystems. 

Four Distinctive Markets

Based on my owns observations of these trends over the last 5-6 years, I envision three opportunity markets.
  • The Commuter Market
  • The Family Market
  • The Contractor/Professional Work Vehicle Market
  • The Luxury Experience Market
As has been said of Wayne Gretzky, the key to his play-making genius was his vision and understanding of where the puck was going to be, rather than where it is was at the moment. 
To successfully transition the revolution in auto transportation, it will be in intimately understanding where it will be in ten years, and aligning the auto-ecosystem towards these targets. 

Again, it is in my very strong professional opinion the current auto industry structure is comically ill-suited to hit these targets, and for that matter, represent a significant barrier. This is not to say the auto brands cannot play a significant role in the co-creation of our regional transportation future, but what I am emphasizing they cannot lead our regional transportation solutions future with the best interests of our regions in mind. I believe the local auto dealership ecosystem is better poised to be part and parcel of the regional interests. The corporate model is legally committed to the needs and whims of its shareholders, a legal commitment that has repeatedly put it at odds with consumers and societal stakeholders alike. 

Which leads us to...

Who Owns The Revolution? Key Stakeholders

The technological progress that is shaping our collective futures is awesome in the very sense of the word. However, you do not have to study these technological trends for long to get a keen picture of impeding  utopia or distopia. All the progress in the world will be for naught if it does not improve the welfare of the citizens of society. 
This is unquestionably a watershed moment for business and society, and who owns, and who benefits in our future.
This is much, much more than the future of our auto transportation, this is about the future of our societies, and our economic organization. 
The Glia "Operating System" was conceptualized and designed on the premise of shared ownership, what we termed "networked capitalism", a capitalism where the local populace and stakeholders have an ownership in the means of production, and to shape our own transportation solutions.

We want to tap into the expertise and vested passion of our local businesses in the auto industry, such as auto dealerships, the capacity of our local telecommunications businesses, along with our knowledge within the public enterprise,  and the hive of local entrepreneurs to form the hubs that keeps the designing, development and delivery of the future of urban transportation where it belongs--In Our Cities.

Not Wall Street, Not Silicon Valley.

We will of course work with technology providers of all shapes and sizes, but with the primacy of keeping the terms in favour of the wants and needs to local businesses, the city, and its citizens. 

As a student and observer of "Wall Street" and "Silicon Valley" capitalism for over thirty years, I have no doubt that neither of these centres of gravity can hold our best interests in mind, and develop the future we deserve. They are incontrovertibly locked into a system that will give us the future that best enriches the few, rather than that of enriching the many. 

Personal Data

We would be dramatically remiss if I didn't bring data and its ownership into the equation. With data already considered as the new currency, along with privacy and security issues, who owns the data that the platforms generate is no trivial matter, and one on which our future prosperity and quality of life hinges.
For the kinds of revolutionary transportation networks to work efficiently and seamlessly for the consumer, such a system will rely on enormous amounts of personal data, along with Trust and Identity mechanisms that enable the smooth functioning of a largely autonomous transportation system.
It is essential in my opinion that the cities and regions have a significant stakehold in the platforms, rather than rely on third party platforms such as Uber, Google, etc. 

A rapidly emerging technology known as blockchain will prove to be the most important technology development of this century. (herehere, and here will give you a primer taste of the tremendous potential of this technology).
Not only will the blockchain fundamentally transform accounting and legal contracts, and dramatically reduce transaction costs while increasing trust, it enables us to build much different types of organizations, ones that can tie together the power of networked business ecosystems, with that of the good of society and distributed ownership. In context of personal data issues, along with trust and identity, well designed use of the blockchain technology becomes essential.
For the purpose of building the kind of organization that will bring the future of transportation to cities and regions, I refer to "high prime minister" of venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins, who recently wrote, "Our leading thesis is this: the most valuable companies being built in this space will use block chains as a deliberate architectural choice in their stack, but in a way that’s invisible to end consumers. As far as consumers are concerned, these will be services that are cheaper, faster, and more secure than ever before."

For the economic health and vitality of the city and its region, this is a tremendously powerful development.

The Window of Opportunity

I will bring this to a close by making the most important point of all. This is not just a business concept and proposal for which I seek your financial backing and intellectual capital. This is much more, this is an unprecedented opportunity to shape our future. 

That window is open NOW. It will not remain open for long. I can not express it loud enough the urgency with we must move forward . 

With your backing and support, we can begin immediately at getting to work on developing and building our own auto transportation solutions, and significantly shape our economic future and prosperity.