Kathy Gibson is at Fujitsu Forum in Munich – Fujitsu, Autonomic and Ford recently announced a partnership to bring advanced mobility services to the global automobile sector.

With millions of vehicles already connected in North America, Autonomic is now partnering with Fujitsu to expand cloud mobility services to new regions to further develop the concepts of ride sharing, fleet management and autonomous car routing services.

The Transportation Mobility Cloud (TMC) from Autonomic is an API-driven connected vehicle platform that enables bi-directional communication between vehicles, service providers and applications.

The TMC normalises the signals that are retrieved from connected vehicles enabling faster development of mobility applications by car-makers, partners and third-party developers.

Applications like driver behaviour services, dealer inventory management, vehicle health alerts, in-car delivery, driver safety indicators, AV dispatching/routing and OTA updates are among the solutions developed on the platform.

Gavin Sherry, CEO of Autonomic, explains that his motivation in developing the platform was the plethora of subscription services he saw when he moved to Silicon Valley.

“People like the flexibility and transparency of these services and I wanted to help create a vehicle subscription service.”

He adds that there is a strong generational effect when it comes down to whether people own a car or not. “Older people may hold on to cars. But younger people don’t see the benefit of owning their own vehicle.”

Paul Warburton, vice-president and head of connected automotive and mobility (US) at Fujitsu, agrees that car ownership is very much a generational issue.

“Everyone I speak to still wants to own their car – it’s a status symbol for a certain generation. But the younger generation looks to instant gratification and owning an expensive asset that is not used a lot of the time makes it less attractive.”

Rich Strader, vice-president: mobility platforms and products and Ford Motor Company, believes the concept of transport mobility is being driven primarily by the global trend to urbanisation.

“We are seeing a shift towards people living in denser, more urban areas. That creates a situation where, the more vehicles there are, the harder it is for people to get to where they want to go.”

The current model of vehicle ownership will likely continue for some time, he adds, but it will increasingly be predominantly in non-urban areas. “In urban areas, we expect to see different solutions.

“People’s need for transportation is changing and we are seeing a change in human behaviour – for instance, people are waiting until later in life to buy a car, and questioning whether they really need to make the purchase at all.”

Sherry believes that true transport mobility is still some way off and will be driven by improved connectivity. “To abstract use from ownership, you must be able to track things like digital fingerprint and vehicle identity.”

The switchover probably won’t be equally quick in different regions of the world either, he says.

“For instance, in China extreme urbanisation has created a change in the ideas around mobility. The generational change has really played out in China as millennials have mass migrated to Tier One cities.”

As other transportation providers face increasing challenges and costs, combined with lower margins, they will look for ways to re-factor and re-lever their companies as they manouevre to reimagine themselves, Sherry adds.

Warburton thinks the move to mobility will come quite quickly, but we still don’t really know what the end result will look like.

“I think the big driver will be the convergence of markets. For instance, retailers may see it as another retail channel, or content providers may see it as part of their solution.

“But when they get interested and start to forge things together, that is what will drive the change.”

Strader points out that cities already have a crisis on their hands in terms of mobility. “Some cities take hours to cross and this is just not viable.”

Safety will also get behind the push to mobility, Sherry adds. He points out that 40 000 people will die on US roads this year. “But with the advent of autonomous vehicles, or other modes of transport, this should decrease.”

Safety also relates to data and privacy concerns, with a massive amount of data required to make mobility networks functional – but people are reluctant to compromise their privacy.

“In every discussion I have with clients, data becomes a central point,” says Warburton.

“The individual has to own the data and choose what they want to do with it.”

Service providers need to get creative in offering additional services in exchange for customer data, while still guaranteeing the safety and privacy of customer information, he believes.

Strader points out that there are two legs to the security challenge. “On one hand, security is a technical challenge and we know how to overcome it.

“When it comes to protecting data, the customer must own it, and there will be regulations to this effect.

“We feel that is the right obligation, and the only way we would use data would be with customers’ permission. So there would have to be some benefit for them.”

In fact, people are becoming more aware of the value of their own data, Sherry says. “There is a case for intellectual capital and I think the industry is going to have to take a more nuanced approach that will be driven by legislation.”

On the topic of security, Warburton points out that the possibility exists to weaponise autonomous vehicles.

“This has to be recognised as an issue,” he says. “This is a real challenge and we need to get it right.”