November 10, 2016
The city-service mobility mesh: prospectus
I intend to explore the following opportunity – hypothesis: Develop a bespoke Uber-like mobility mesh (transportation, services) for disadvantaged populations in cities, with proprietary data – addressing the challenge of how cities can implement Uber-like services and move toward collective mobility for those in need.
Theory of change:
- Transit systems are broken – and infrastructure lags decades behind. How do we upend, circumvent or complement what USV’s Nick Grossman calls the 2.0 process by implementing always-on mobility and, ultimately, autonomous cars first with city and suburban transit authorities in joint ventures with emerging and established automotive and service partners – in a new business-purpose model for public-private partnership?
- The trust that citizens place in institutions has gradually eroded over the past century, and our transportation systems and networks are no exception.
- Much like rail and urban transit systems struggled to adapt to the growth of the car, and the exponential growth of companies like Tesla has created opportunity at the higher end of the market to gradually scale both the hardware of the electric vehicle as well as mapping and insights “autopilot” software that will be critical to the future of mobility. I theorize cities have an ability to seize the opportunity these “sharing economy and insights” engines to more effectively deliver services to disadvantaged populations.
- An aging population in the United States will force local governments to come to terms with these realities, putting the future of a graying America at stake while cars continue to clog the road. Government can play a significant role in stimulating the transformation to a driverless world by first deploying these resources for those who need them most, and then scaling the technologies to better-served communities – in exchange for leveraging technology and building the datasets these first-movers can and should ultimately control. This works in the vein of Prof. Joi Ito’s “internet as belief” system, decentralizing innovation by putting transit authorities at the “ground floor” of mobility, rather than the typical recipients of the social benefit of a proven technology.
- What if the cities themselves ultimately owned the insights and data from these mobility maps, and “leased” the data to private enterprises that look to build services above or atop them? There are manifold benefits to launching a “service and mobility mesh” across a city – limiting the onerous permission structures at DMVs to free transportation resources to be leveraged more efficiently, freeing nonprofits and other entities to focus on service performance rather than service delivery. Why do these companies stand to gain from serving disadvantaged populations? Their predictable trips are safer and more efficient at generating reliable data than some of the younger cohort engaged in the new economy.
- I propose launching this sharing mesh sandbox in a city like Boston, Oklahoma City or Charlotte to stimulate and explore the possibility of an infusion of investment and interest in a much-needed area and creates incentives for the city to see its mobility and sharing economy data as a critical new piece of infrastructure. The data collected will enable cities to more efficiently deploy services, manage the needs of these individuals down to the personal level and pilot in other cities.