The attention economy is set to transform the mobility business model
Trends in mobility today include greater comfort and enabling/supporting activities in addition to transport itself. Already today, in a train or during a ride-hail – and soon in a plane with the introduction of Wi-Fi – travellers can work, use social networks, obtain information, listen to the radio, eat, shop, and so forth. Autonomous cars are designed from the outset to allow various activities. The trend is set to grow as more occupations are proposed (sport, taking a nap…) and the connectivity of the means of transport increases.
As a consequence, are we seeing mobility being gradually invaded by the attention economy? This consists of doing business by exploiting people’s attention time. Search engines are based on this model.
For the dominant stakeholders in this economy, Google in the first instance, mobility therefore represents a means of accessing more attention time. The autonomous car – for which these stakeholders of course have, in addition, expertise – represents a veritable Trojan horse for this attention economy. It is consequently attracting investment from certain GAFA and BATX(a). Google, for instance, has already invested $1.1 billion in its autonomous car programme and Intel has paid $15 billion to acquire the Israeli start-up Mobileye, which has developed terrain recognition and obstacle avoidance technologies.
Yet, it is unfortunately likely that these companies are more interested in the attention of passengers than the major mobility issues of reducing congestion in urban areas, the health of travellers, or reducing the climate impact. Also, there is a very real risk of transport becoming a by-product of a more lucrative business.
To continue addressing the challenges specific to mobility, it is therefore down to the traditional sector stakeholders to capture part of the attention economy in order to remain competitive. It is also the responsibility of public authorities to refuse to let new entrants dictate the mobility of the future.
a BATX is the acronym for Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi, the four Chinese internet giants
1.1 billion dollars
= the sum invested by Google (Waymo) between 2009 and 2015 in the autonomous car
7,000 billion dollars
= the amount autonomous vehicles could contribute to the world economy, between now and 2050
= the average human attention span (less than a goldfish)
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