MOBILITY: THE DISRUPTION OUTLIER
In our previous post, we argued how lightweight electric vehicles such as e-bikes, e-scooters, e-boards, and other lightweight electric vehicles were the true disruptors of mobility, not electric cars, owing to their super low cost and because of, not despite, their lack of features.
In this post, we will see that it comes to mobility, a disruptive new product, technology, or service does not necessarily predict disruption, unlike in many other categories or markets.
In classic disruption theory laid out by Clayton Christensen (and overviewed in our previous post), a disruptive new offering will inevitably eat away at its higher priced, full featured competition due to its low price and incremental improvements, which then slowly but surely match or beat its competitors features: desktop computers vs mainframes, smartphones/tablets vs desktops, etc.
However, in mobility, there is one additional factor and it’s a doozy: the inability to easily and safely adopt a new product or service.
Using a smartphone and a desktop are not mutually exclusive. People can switch between the two on a whim. The use of one does not prevent the use of the other.
In the case of mobility though, the incumbent technology, cars, can severely hinder the use and adoption of other mobility options:
- The physical size of cars takes up most of the bandwidth of the street, leaving little physical room for alternatives
- The weight and speed of cars pose a physical threat to anyone not in a car, making the use of new mobility options a literal matter of life or death
MOBILITY IS NOT A FREE MARKET
No matter how cheap, green, efficient, healthy, and disruptive a new mobility offering may be, the shear size of cars taking up road space and their extremely dangerous form factor might be enough to prevent the adoption of a technology that it would otherwise stand no chance in competing against.
In other words, mobility is not a free market that allows for competition to select the best product or service.
With such bad infrastructure for micromobility, there is a very real danger of dockless bike and scooter sharing to easily be just a passing fad. For instance, one highly publicized accident could put a freeze on new VC investment into the space (even as the car dominated status quo kills thousands of people and parking requirements cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars).
This isn’t a hypothetical. While exploding batteries are no joke, the overreaction to a few incidents of hoverboards catching fire completely froze up the market for hoverboards, which had become a huge hit, especially with young people.
WHAT’S A DISRUPTOR TO DO?
If we are to see any sort of significant disruption in urban mobility, we must address infrastructure.
First, those cities that wish to by reap the benefits of mobility disruption, the tremendous cost savings, the increased road capacity, the decrease in pollution and carbon emissions, the decreased parking requirements, and thus exponentially increase their competitiveness need to start investing in true third speed mobility infrastructure.
Second, if new mobility disruptors like micromobility manufacturers and dockless bike/scooter sharing companies want to truly disrupt urban mobility and become substantial mobility players instead of just niche products/services, they must demand and advocate for safe and convenient access to the roads for all.
Finally, in order to inspire such large scale infrastructure changes, micromobility companies must find powerful and creative ways to communicate how their products and services can usher in healthier, richer, safer, and more sustainable cities in order to inspire the changes required.
These companies should cue from some of history’s most visionary leaders like Walt Disney, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Isambard Brunel and reimagine our cities with futuristic, awesome new micromobility infrastructure and tell the story of how they could solve much of our urban mobility problems like pollution, sustainability, traffic, stress, and car deaths.
True disruption of cars will take much more than a product with disruptive properties as described in the Innovator’s Dilemma and micromobility companies should act accordingly if they wish to fix the disastrous car-centric mobility model of today’s cities.