In the process of building the second edition of Autonomy I’ve spoken to more than two dozen shared mobility companies, with many coming from the traditional auto industry. I’ve also been speaking to a number of cities wanting to radically increase their shared mobility offering and would like to share with you three insights:Competition: New entrants are not competing with other car-sharing companies, they are competing with the stubbornly persistent culture of single-car ownership and drivership. No car-sharing company, on its own, is influential enough to convince a significantly large chunk of the urban population to switch from car ownership to car sharing that will free up the parking bays needed for the service to really work. Autolib, in Paris has the exclusive rights to the city’s car sharing but has had little impact on reducing the 600 000 private cars that enter the city each day. The best markets are where there is already a culture of sharing and companies are not having to create that alone.

Competition will however come from ‘Free-floating’ scooters, bikes and e-bikes that will work with large economies of scale. While traditional sharing fleets need docking stations, free-floating fleets park on the street, ready for the next user saving money on fixed infrastructure. Chinese bike share company, Mobike, has raised over $200 million and with its free-floating solution is transforming the way people move in Beijing. The beauty of their solution is that they require no infrastructure or investment from the city. Their strategy is to release 100 000 eye-catching bikes onto the streets of a city the size of Singapore in the space of a week. The size and scale excites sufficient numbers of urbanites to sign up to the service at an annual cost of $50 giving Mobike a quick cash injection and urbanites bicycles ready to roll on every street corner.

Cities: The days of monopoly contracts for car-share operators will end. Cities will look to encourage more sharing by entering into multiple vehicle sharing deals. And, if all vehicles are free-floating then the rationale for city permission may fall away entirely. However, relationships with cities will still be important especially as cities start to draft their AV legislation.

Cities, in a bid to boost public transport, will reduce speed limits and deploy electric fixed-route autonomous shuttles like RATP has done in Paris earlier this year. Car-share operators will need to find their niche among a host of new mobility solutions. The private and public sectors will start collaborating with on-demand mobility solutions and there will be a lot of lobbying, debate and conflict about the way cities accommodate private AVs.

Autonomy Paris 2017 has partnered with ICLEI and Polis Network. These two organizations represent some 1 500 cities around the world, and they’ll be looking to build private-public partnerships to change the way we move in our cities.

Consumer experience: We used to listen to music on a hi-fidelity machine, built with the same engineering passion that cars are built with. Now records are a hobby, and the real business is in streamed music as we voice-command Google Home or Amazon Alexa to play our album of choice. We have sacrificed sound quality for instant gratification. Winners in shared mobility will apply this same logic and create a frictionless user experience from door2door.

Don’t expect too much brand loyalty as users switch apps if they’re not satisfied with the service or unhappy with the perceived politics of the company. It is far easier to switch off your app to express your disapproval than sell and replace a car. The winners in shared mobility will be companies that collaborate with the competition, build a community of users, and work with cities to improve the urban experience.

Ross Douglas

CEO of Autonomy