There is currently a worldwide oil crisis underway that is calling into question how transport and mobility will be conducted in the near future. In response to this situation, car companies like Ford are seeking innovative ways to plan for a mobile future that is greener and less reliant on oil.
Mobility includes all technologies that address the movement of goods, people, and services. To date, some of the trends seen in oil-saving mobility include:
• Personal mobility (1, 2, 3-wheel vehicles, electric bikes)
• Connected cars (those that will build fuel loyalty)
• Ride Sharing (Campuses, fixed distance, commuting, long distance, universities, carpools)
• Trucking (Think: Uber for loads)
• Other general auto tech (notably via enhanced safety features)
Clearly, as times change there must be alterations made to how people engage transport and think about mobility and the methods of mobility. To help the progression of these new ideas and concepts, the startup-supporting organization Techstars has teamed up with leaders in the car industry in order to pair these companies with creative thinkers who can bridge the gap between the “now” and the “ideal.” According to the Mobility Program press release provided by Techstars:
There is an intense need for truly dynamic, paradigm shifting technologies that will create the mobility systems of the future. We are currently in a period of rapid innovation because mobility sits at the intersection of emerging trends such as the internet of things, smart cities, increasing smartphone penetration, the sharing economy, rapid urbanization, big data analytics, and connected vehicles. As a result of new capabilities in connectivity, data analytics, and payment, consumers and citizens can optimize trips based on mode, price, and speed. Disruptive mobility technologies across all modes will fundamentally change how we move around urban centers, providing systemic and connected solutions to global congestion and transportation inefficiencies.
Unsurprisingly, the American city at the heart of the Techstars Mobility Program discussions is Detroit, Michigan. Although it has fallen on hard times over the past four decades, Detroit was once the global center of the mobility and transportation ecosystem. With its long history of automotive innovation, Detroit has provided freedom of movement to hundreds millions of people worldwide. Ironically, given the hardships the city has been experiencing, many of its residents have difficulty finding effective transportation and there is a lack of jobs in general. As Techstars outlines:
Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is a mentorship-driven technology accelerator that will create a Metro Detroit hub for transportation and mobility innovations in downtown Detroit. Its goal is to bring new technologies to market that address the future of movement of people, goods, and services. Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will run for three years with a new class of 10 companies each year. In addition to its proven accelerator model, Techstars is bringing its extensive network of mentors, founders and corporations to Detroit to help support the program. Each partner in Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will also provide executive-level mentorship and support throughout the program and beyond. To help make a positive impact on the community, Techstars is coordinating efforts across the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem. To date, over 200 mentors have signed up to support the incoming class of 10 companies. The response across southeast Michigan has been incredible, as Techstars joins in on the goal of turning Detroit into the future mobility hub of the world. The ten companies selected for Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, will be announced on June 4, 2015. The program kicks off June 9, 2015, and concludes with a Demo Day on September 10, 2015 at the Fillmore Theatre where each team will present to investors, industry leaders, and the community at large.
Although the Mobility Program has been underway for several months, in early May Techstars announced that the movement was gaining support via three new partners in Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. McDonald’s, Honda Motor Company, and Dana Holding Corporation agreed to join existing partners Ford Motor Company, Magna International and Verizon Telematics to help 10 startup companies drive towards the future of mobility and transportation.
“Between Ford’s leadership in mobility and transportation, Magna International’s deep experience in the automotive supply chain, and Verizon Telematics’ pivotal role in the connected car, the companies selected for Techstars Mobility will have direct access to global leaders in telematics, manufacturing, and technology,” a Techstars representative explained. “The mobility infrastructure of the future will rely on intermodal, connected, and systemic solutions, and Techstars Mobility will provide emerging companies direct access and support to help shape that future.”
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Techstar’s Managing Director, Ted Serbinski, about this endeavor. “We want to help Detroit become a center of startups,” Ted explained. “Obviously there is a lot of interest in auto companies in Detroit. Ultimately we want to make the city start-up friendly even to companies that products have nothing to do with automotives.” Ted was attracted to the Mobility Program project because he realized the capacity to generate jobs and help rebuild Detroit. “There is going to be a lot of disruption in the vehicle industry over the next five to ten years and Detroit could be a catalyst for those changes,” Ted stated. “Detroit could become the automotive hub of the world again or at least a hotspot for startups and I.T companies.”
In order to kick-start this, Techstars recently accepted hundreds of submissions from fledging software, hardware, and advanced materials companies that deal with automobiles. Of the many submissions—which came from every continent except Antarctica—10 companies were selected to become part of the Mobility Program and have their products produced via an office building and factory based on Detroit. “Making cars more efficient, in both engines and connected devices, is a huge trend in the car industry right now,” Ted claimed. “Safety features are also being enhanced a lot, like having window glass that doesn’t break as easily, so a lot of the response we got was from companies who figured out a way to make a preexisting car part more effective.”
Techstars was very pleased by the worldwide response they received upon announcement of their Mobility Program. “This might start in Detroit but if we make something truly innovative it could help people all over the world,” Ted said. Other companies are catching on to the importance of monitoring the future of transport. For instance, the fast-food distributor McDonald’s recently came onboard to support the project. McDonald’s, which gets a lot of its business via drive-thru windows, understands that the availably of transport, and the effectiveness of cars, has a big impact on a lot of industries—not just the automotive one. “This project has a lot of potential and we are excited to see where it will go,” Ted proclaimed.
The unveiling of the ten selected companies is due to occur in early June. To learn more visit the official Techstars website blog: