Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

Research tells us that humans have been riding horses as a primary mode of transportation for more than 5,000 years. We’ve only been driving cars for 100 years, but mobility has changed dramatically in just a century’s time.

Today’s cars are equipped with more technology than most drivers are aware of, typically run by a single computer or multiple systems monitoring the engine, transmission, air bags, pressure and temperature levels, sensors measuring objects on the periphery and much more. Mobility as we know it is fundamentally changing thanks to “four disruptive and mutually reinforcing major trends—autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility,” according to McKinsey. These trends are predicted to chart mobility’s course for the next century, and open up opportunities for new players in the automotive space to revolutionize the way we get from Point A to Point B 

Autonomous Driving 

Experts have identified five levels of autonomy in relation to mobility (note that there is arguably a level zero, at which the vehicle is not “smart” at all and the human performs every action). See here IIHS.org’s breakdown of the levels of vehicle automation. 

There is even a distinction between “automated” and “autonomous” cars that drivers should pay attention to: an automated car, or self-driving car, is not completely autonomous and needs a human to complete certain driving tasks; a fully autonomous vehicle, or a driver-less vehicle, does not need any human intervention. Even the newest Tesla model is considered Level 2 and its driver must be engaged in some aspects of the driving experience. Several intriguing statistics have surfaced to show that some drivers have not embraced the automated trend due to safety concerns or the simple fact that driving is pleasurable and they don’t want to give it up; needless to say, we’ll be watching this trend closely as technology advances, potentially in the face of human desire.  

Connectivity 

Vehicle connectivity refers to communication between vehicles via a network, or the Internet of Things, much like the question you ask your smart speaker at home. Gartner estimates that automotive connectivity will grow more than 30% by 2020 and will include “a range of add-on devices to accomplish specific tasks, such as fleet management.” In the past 10 years, hands-free driving assistance features like in-cabin phone calls and text-to-voice have been available to nearly every new car on the road, and more advanced features are quickly becoming standard. Newer over-the-air services help keep GPS and software systems up to date without a visit to the dealership for manual transmission of that data. Eventually, vehicles will provide highly-personal experiences based on passenger data. 

Electrification 

Although the advance of electric vehicles (EVs) was spurned at the turn of the 20th century by the gas-guzzling Model T, EVs have made up a significant portion of new vehicle sales in many countries. China and India seem to be promoting EV adoption in part to address increasing pollution, and Europe appears to be shunning diesel in order to embrace battery-powered vehicles. According to the International Energy Agency, the global stock of electric cars will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 33 percent from 3.1 million units in 2017 to 125 million by 2030, mainly driven by government policies encouraging vehicle owners, fleets, and municipalities to embrace cleaner vehicles. As the world becomes more energy-conscious and governments enact strict policies around the use of fossil fuels, EVs are sure to be a much more common sight on our roads than ever before. 

Shared Mobility 

Shared mobility is the umbrella term for transportation resources that are shared among users through an app or platform like Uber. It includes modes of transport like bikes, shuttles or vans, hired cars, scooters and mopeds, all of which can be publicly or privately operated. These services are intended for short term use, to be borrowed and returned, or hired, for a fee. While this model isn’t necessarily new—the New York City taxi system began in the late 19th century—this modern version of shared mobility, with millions of participants including users, vendors, technology intermediaries, has significantly changed how people travel. New concepts of ownership have also forced insurance carriers, OEMs, tech providers, policymakers and drivers into debates of liability and culpability in the age of subscriptions and shared services. 

These four trends in vehicle innovation represent a shift in modern mobility and hint at larger societal changes, rooted in the advancements of technology. Each trend, and the ways they intersect, says something larger about the way we as drivers, passengers, and mobile users prefer to travel and interact with the many different transportation resources available to us. In the coming months, we’ll be discussing autonomy, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility even further and celebrating these achievements in vehicle innovation while cataloging the unique challenges they have all introduced into the automotive and insurance ecosystems.