Martí Jofre, CEO of FACTUAL: “Mobility is a sector where uncertainty is high”

Submitted by David Seoane on 19 June 2019

The automotive industry is in a period of major transition. It seems like technology innovations in the smart mobility field is bound to break existing business models.

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Based in Barcelona, FACTUAL, a mobility consulting firm, keeps an eye on these global trends. Martí Jofre, the company’s founder and CEO, has a wide experience in the area of mobility. He shared his point of view about the industry in the ICCar Community on June 14 during a Q&A session.

Could you please tell us in what areas do you help companies?

There are so many things going on, and so many external factors affecting the mobility sector. As a result, uncertainty is extremely high. As a consequence, we support all kinds of stakeholders in:

  • understanding the risks and opportunities that might arise for their current businesses;
  • defining strategies and road maps to prepare for that. By the way, we work with all kinds of stakeholders: public authorities, operators, vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) etc.

How do you see mobility evolving to monetise data from connected vehicles, whether it is built-in or coming from online SatNav applications running on smartphones?

Indeed journey data is a big asset and can be monetised in different ways. Journey data can help, on the one hand, to better plan existing services. Public authorities can improve the public transportation offer by making it more efficient (reducing the current costs) or by defining new services (that would bring more users). The same can be said for private operators who should still take a careful look at user data privacy as well as GDPR regulations. Such data can also be valuable to third parties: retail, restaurants, etc. They can display more targeted advertising to people visiting a specific area.

What changes can we expect in urban mobility in the coming years?

There are some trends that we are already observing in many European cities. On the one hand, the environmental challenge we are facing is driving new regulations to limit and restrict the use of personal vehicles. This is changing the way we are moving from one point to another. But there are other trends, it's commonly said that mobility will be:

  • Electric (or more generically speaking "cleaner");
  • Connected: vehicles will be able to communicate with each other as well as with the infrastructure;
  • Autonomous: little by little we will be seeing the introduction of driving assistance functions and eventually fully autonomous cars;
  • Shared: services combining trips from different users or making vehicles available to many users so that personal vehicles are not as necessary as before;
  • Safe: vehicles will become more and more prepared to cope with unexpected events and avoid accidents.

How do you see employers being involved in solving urban mobility challenges? How should they interact with cities in managing the commuting flow and transportation means?

Given the limitations on the use of personal vehicles that cities are now setting, there is a risk of somehow excluding some segments of the population from accessing to some job opportunities. Indeed, public transportation cannot cover all the needs and the capillarity needed to fully replace personal vehicles.

Therefore, employers should get involved in ambitious programmes to promote new mobility services and alternatives for their workers. Commuting is a big share of car use. A significant milestone could be achieved if employers took actions towards more sustainable (and efficient!) employee mobility (e.g. company flexible bus lines).

Do you think corporates are adapting to these changes?

We have seen many investments from established stakeholders in new mobility concepts. Car OEMs in particular have been very active in launching or acquiring new companies offering shared mobility services.

How scared should be the automotive industry with the shrinking millennial market, extensive use of loans to buy and a future suggesting there will be much more car sharing?

There is an agreement (supported by driving licences statistics and surveys) that millennials don't have such an interest in car ownership as compared to previous generations. However, there are other surveys showing that they might still consider buying a car when they get a new living with family and kids. We will certainly see a decline in car ownership in city centres, where many alternatives exist, but I’m not so sure that this trend will follow in rural or peri-urban areas. I expect personal vehicles to have an important role in the future, although they might lose the urban millennials segment.  

Google captures user mobility metrics in different ways: Android, Waze, Google Maps and the YourTimeline feature. How disruptive can they be in mobility as they are now launching Waymo in more markets?

Regarding your point on Waymo (and actually linked to that), there is a risk of individual autonomous cars developing quicker than public transportation and becoming a very attractive way of commuting and travelling.

Moreover, new fringes of the population such as the elderly or children may contemplate individual mobility as a great option. This might generate bigger congestion in cities since we are “removing” people from collective means of transport especially if we also take into account Google’s knowledge regarding user demand in terms of mobility. I think there's a big risk for public authorities here.

How do you see the future of "Mobility as a Service" and multi-modal travel?

I think multimodality and the integration of different services into a single offer (MaaS) will be a slower process than expected and will be following a bottom-up approach, through agreements from individual operators and stakeholders.

In that sense, I think existing platforms might find it difficult to gain traction and become massive platforms to access all kinds of mobility options. Agreements with public authorities and public transportation operators will be difficult to reach and probably they will need to be made on a regional or even on a city level. They are absolutely necessary for a successful MaaS scheme, and this might take some time.

After the close of the battery factory in Sunderland in 2015, and a lot of fake news related to the new European battery industry, do you think Europe will have a battery industry again?

There is an initiative being built around battery manufacturing in Europe. The European industry and authorities have identified it as a big risk for the future of the automotive industry in Europe. The question is, are they still on time to address it, or it will be too late?

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