Will Driverless Cars Usher in a Real Estate Building Boom?

Jennifer van der Kleut

The Center for Real Estate Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a report this week that has industry analysts and media outlets buzzing. Will a shift toward autonomous vehicles over the next decade or two spur a real estate boom, as garages are leveled to make way for more housing and office buildings, and sidewalks are widened to encourage more walking?

The report, entitled “Real Estate Trends: The Future of Real Estate in the United States,” which was sponsored by Capital One Bank, features research on a number of trends relevant to the advent of the technology and its potential impact on real estate across the nation, including housing affordability and inventory, fluctuations in home values, demographics and more, as well as the current boom taking place in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry.

As industry analysts predict that the advent of autonomous cars will bring about a decline in personal car ownership and a subsequent rise in fleet companies that offer ride-hailing services in driverless cars (which a number of companies are currently working on, including General Motors, Uber and others), they predict it will dramatically change the shape of both urban and suburban landscapes.

With less of a need for parking garages–as, presumably, autonomous fleets will pretty much run rides 24/7–the report predicts many inner-city parking garages will become obsolete, and perhaps actually be demolished to make way for much-needed additional housing.

They also predict sidewalks will be widened; with less of a need for on-street parking, designated “drop-off zones” for autonomous fleet cars will be created instead. Widened sidewalks will encourage more walking by pedestrians who can now live in the increased downtown housing and walk to work or to shopping and restaurants.

“Developers are already starting to target parking structures, gas stations and auto dealerships, betting that they’ll be able to redevelop the sites as car ownership becomes obsolete, said Rick Palacios, director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting,” reporters at Bloomberg News quoted this week, in response to the report.

Suburbs won’t go away, though–if they don’t have to fight traffic driving into the city themselves anymore, the MIT report predicts that people will still enjoy living in quieter residential neighborhoods and enjoying a relaxing commute to work every day in an autonomous car, when they can nap, get a jump-start on work or watch TV while their robot taxi keeps an eye on the road.

Rick Palacios authored an article in September that expanded on some of the predictions about how autonomous cars will reshape cities and affect real estate.

He pointed out that increased availability of autonomous ride-hailing would also allow senior citizens and the disabled to age at home longer, which would slow home sales to a certain point, but would then be off-set by the building boom of new housing he mentioned to Bloomberg. In addition, he predicts industries like general contracting and home remodeling may get a boost as people retrofit homes to accommodate seniors and disabled persons living at home longer.

Palacios even suggests that home contracting prices may go down, as transportation costs for shipping materials are reduced. He predicts humans will also enjoy lower personal transportation costs, as hailing robot taxis will cost much less than the regular maintenance and up-keep of owning a car, paying for the insurance on it and filling it with gas (especially if a shift toward autonomous cars also means a shift toward electric cars).

Read the entire report from MIT’s Center for Real Estate Research here.

Image: Pixabay

Podcar City Conferences Aim to Change Future Transportation For the Better

Jennifer van der Kleut

As the 11th annual iteration of the Podcar City conference gets ready to kick off November 8th in Las Vegas, organizer Christer Lindstrom says he is feeling encouraged by how much support for the event and the ideology it stands for has grown over the past decade.

Concerned about growing traffic and congestion in cities all over the world, Lindstrom and others got together in the early 2000s and started a think-tank of sorts to discuss ideas for more efficient and sustainable forms of public transportation.

“We wanted to come up with ideas for how to get people around in better, safer, faster ways,” Lindstrom explains.

The International Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST) and its annual Podcar City conference came out of that think tank.

The goal of the annual Podcar City conferences is getting stakeholders from four key areas–academia, cities/governments, and technology and planning consultants and specialists–to the table together to discover ways of working together to improve urban landscapes for the future.

For more than a decade now, Podcar City has been doing just that–bringing together people from universities, tech companies, planning departments, civil engineers and architects, as well as consultants and specialists, to collectively look toward the future and design cities that feature more efficient transportation, largely based around the idea of the “podcar.”

Lindstrom and his fellow think-tankers were the first to coin the phrase “podcar” back in the early 2000s. It refers to electric, self-driving, on-demand transportation that can shuttle people around cities and metropolitan areas quickly and efficiently, largely eliminating the need for so many parking garages, and dramatically reducing traffic, congestion and pollution.

For many, that may conjure up images of summoning a small, driverless Uber or Lyft car to pick you up in the morning, drop you off in front of your office, and then take you home at the end of the day. But Lindstrom says, it’s not all about self-driving cars.

“Self-driving cars can’t solve all problems, we need sustainable public transportation as well,” he says.

The advent of new forms of public transportation and on-demand podcars would mean cities and urban landscapes that look dramatically different in the future. That is what the annual Podcar City conferences want to examine, and inspire.

A new addition to the Podcar City itinerary last year, which will be making an appearance again in 2017, is the Urban International Design Conference (UIDC), in which cities look toward the future and how the “podcar” ideology of sustainable transportation would work and change their cities for the better. Cities from around the world are encouraged to form groups of university students and faculty, planners and government officials, and technology specialists to create a presentation of how this technology might work in their city, and how their city might look in the future based on these dramatic changes.

Their design is shared via a kind of virtual reality simulation on a computer in which the user can virtually move around the city by using transportation ideas of the future.

“It’s a kind of planning exercise of how shared-use automation would look like in your city,” says Matthew Lesh, a former mobility expert for the U.S. Department of Transportation and a strategic advisor to Coast Automation, one of the sponsors of this year’s Podcar City conference.

“Each competing city designs a virtual reality simulation of what their city would look like in the future with the introduction of podcar technology –  so it functions kind of like a computer game, in which you can walk and move about the city in the future,” Lindstrom explains.

This year, six cities hailing from the U.S., Australia and Sweden will take part in the UIDC. Lindstrom already says support for the contest has been so great, they are planning to invite 12 cities to take part in 2018.

Much the same, Podcar City conferences themselves are growing exponentially every year, Lindstrom says. Since the beginning, the conferences have alternated years in the U.S. and Europe, but Lindstrom said this week that demand is growing so strong that they may start adding smaller conferences in additional cities each year.

The difference Podcar City is making in the world’s outlook for the future is not difficult to see, both Lesh and Lindstrom have said.

“It’s definitely expanding the audience that’s talking about advanced public transportation,” Lesh said. “It’s no longer just technology providers talking about it. So many times tech providers are the ones running the show – but this annual event allows them to do what they do, but also work together with planners and architects and the people who use the system, and gets everyone to listen to each other.”

“[The event] has contributed a better understanding of what is possible, and kicked off a series of studies in cities around the world,” he added.

“This is something that takes time. Public transportation doesn’t change overnight. But definitely, in the last one or two years, things have started to change dramatically,” said Lindstrom. “People are starting more businesses, more consulting work, and a lot of cities are looking into this more deeply, and talking to each other about it.”

Lindstrom said he is definitely encouraged by the formation of organizations like KOMPASS, a league of cities in Sweden that has joined together to work toward planning sustainable transportation for the future, as well as a group of five cities in California he has heard about that are combining resources and working together in a similar way.

“It’s really growing,” he said.


“2017 Podcar City and Advanced Transit Conference: Smart City, Smart Transit, Smart Energy” takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada from Nov. 8 to 10, 2017.

Visit our Events page for more information.

You can also visit the official event website.

Images courtesy of Podcar City.

News Roundup: Singapore Signs Deal to Launch Driverless Buses, Analysts Point to 2025 as ‘Point of Disruption’ For Industry, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Driverless buses to launch in Singapore within three years

On Monday, April 10, Singapore’s Land Transit Authority (LTA) signed an agreement with the company ST Kinetics to build and test autonomous buses. ST Kinetics is expected to provide two 40-person shuttle buses to be tested in public, likely in the areas of the University of Singapore campus and Jejong Island. If testing goes well, additional vehicles will be tested in more locations, and then LTA said they hope to launch the buses to the general public by 2020. ST Kinetics said the buses navigate via GPS signal and have sensors and radar that can detect pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles up to 200 meters ahead. The company also said the buses can currently operate in rain of up to 10mm, and is working on increasing that to operate in heavier rain. Read more and see video from ChannelNews Asia.


Boston Consulting: One-quarter of all miles traveled will be autonomous by 2030; automakers not moving fast enough

A new study released by the Boston Consulting Group this week said they expect by 2030 that one-quarter of all miles traveled will be in autonomous vehicles, with a significant percentage in shared vehicles. The shift is expected to start in the early 2020s, they said. Particularly in cities with more than 1 million people, BCG analysts think it will soon be more economically advantageous for people to ditch their personally owned vehicles and opt for robot taxis and autonomous ride sharing. However, BCG also criticized automakers for not moving fast enough in developing and regulating autonomous vehicles. BCG warns that automakers that do not put significant effort into this now will see their biggest assets – their sellable vehicles — turn into liabilities by 2030, when 5 million personal cars will be replaced by an estimated 4.7 million autonomous vehicles, they expect. Read more from Bloomberg.


Is Australia the most eager nation for driverless cars?

According to a new survey by Roy Morgan Research, Australians are warming significantly to the idea of driverless cars. Forty-six percent of citizens in a recent survey said they would hop into a driverless car today. Specifically, 51 percent of men and 41 percent of women–who appeared the more cautious gender–said they look forward to driverless vehicles. A whopping 61 percent of millennials compared to 26 percent of baby-boomers said they look forward to the technology. Roy Morgan Research said they expect the main point of disruption in the auto industry to take place in 2025. Australia has been blazing down the driverless trail for a few years now, hosting trials of self-driving cars on public roads, implementing driverless technology into its public transit systems, and conducting research at the professional and university levels. Read more on Which-50.com.

Photo: ST Kinetics test vehicle in Singapore, courtesy of ChannelNews Asia.

News Roundup: Volkswagen Unveils ‘Sedric,’ Its New Level 5 Autonomous Car, Truck Drivers Push Back Against Autonomous Trucks, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting news to come out of the driverless transportation industry this week:

Volkswagen unveils ultra-modern-looking Level 5 autonomous car

No, this isn’t a giant Pokémon on wheels–it’s Volkswagen’s new fully autonomous concept car, named “Sedric” (a mashup of the term “self-driving car”), just unveiled this week. Volkswagen is hailing it as a Level 5 autonomous car, “capable of operating any driving mode in any environmental condition, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride.” The concept is evident by the car’s interior, designed to look more like a mobile lounge than the interior of a car. The car will be optimized for shared mobility, meaning passengers will have a “universal mobility ID” and be able to hail a Sedric from anywhere with their smartphones. Sedric will automatically recognize and remember each passenger when it arrives, allowing the passengers to talk to them in any language naturally, including with slang. Passengers will also be able to choose whether to look at the world passing by through the windshield, or choose entertainment like a movie or TV while they ride. Read more and see photos from SlashGear.


Trucking companies push back against autonomous trucks

The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security recently voiced its opposition to claims that autonomous trucks will soon take over the industry and cost truck drivers their jobs. Representatives say that the “accountability” of human drivers is too important to fully hand over to a machine, and that drivers should not be worried about losing their jobs to technology anytime soon, at least in the next few years. “A change to driverless vehicles will occur gradually–if at all,” the Alliance said recently. The organization represents major trucking companies like J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation and KLLM Transportation, among others. “Truckers, after all, are not just operators but also cargo monitors and a key point of communication for logistics providers,” they explained. Read more from Supply Chain Dive.


Toyota unveils new autonomous concept car

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) unveiled its new autonomous concept car, called the Toyota Advanced Safety Research Vehicle (TASRV), at the company’s annual Prius Challenge in Sonoma, California recently. The vehicle consists of Toyota’s plug-and-play autonomous system on a Lexus LS 600hL. Toyota representatives say the “flexible” system will be easy to upgrade often as the technology continues to advance. The on-board technology in the TASRV “focuses heavily on machine vision and machine learning and includes an array of layered and overlapping LIDAR, radar and camera sensors that reduce the need to rely on high-definition maps.” Toyota reps said they believe the technology will have invaluable applications throughout the industry as it helps bring driverless technology to areas without high-definition mapping. The car will also be able to share data with and gathered from other cars. Read more from Kelley Blue Book.

News Roundup: Trump Administration Reviews Federal Self-Driving Car Guidelines, Roborace Shows Off New Driverless Race Car, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of headlines to come out of the driverless transportation industry the past week:

Roborace and NVIDIA show off electric driverless race car

Roborace is creating some buzz with previews of its new electric, driverless race car, powered by a “brain” created by NVIDIA. According to Engadget, the car features a 540kW battery and four 300kW motors, which the Roborace team says can push the car up to 320 km per hour, or 199 miles per hour. The car is outfitted by a wealth of sensors, including two radars, five LIDARs, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors and six AI-driven cameras, all feeding into NVIDIA’s “brain.” The car’s ultra-futuristic styling comes from chief designer Daniel Simon, who has worked on such science-fiction blockbusters as Tron: Legacy and Captain America: The First Avenger. No word yet on when the car will first race on a real racetrack, but the team promises more demonstrations this year. Read more and see photos from Engadget.


New Transportation Secretary ‘reviewing’ federal driverless car guidelines released under Obama administration

Brand-new U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told the National Governor’s Association this past weekend that the Trump administration is “reviewing” federal guidelines regarding driverless vehicles, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) late last year. Automakers, tech companies and transportation officials across the globe have been holding their breath since the new president took office, wondering if President Trump would scrap the progress made during the final months of President’s Obama’s second term, or would embrace it and press ahead. Positively, though, Chao said the new administration wanted to be “a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment.” Read more from The Hill.


Renault-Nissan, Transdev partner up to start on-demand driverless car service

Renault-Nissan and Transdev have signed a research contract to develop an on-demand service that connects people to driverless cars to get around. Transdev consults and helps manage public transportation operations in Asia, Europe and North America, and is involved in a number of pilot autonomous vehicle tests in France. The app the two companies plan to build will assist both sides of the business–the consumers that hail the driverless cars for rides, and the operators of the fleet companies. The Renault-Nissan Alliance says it plans to launch cars that can navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention by 2020. Read more from Fortune.


Survey: The More Familiar People Become With Driverless Cars, The More They Accept Them


A new survey by insurance advice website Bobatoo.co.uk has found that the attitudes of UK drivers toward driverless cars is beginning to improve.

Bobatoo ran the same survey 18 months ago and found that UK motorists were not too keen on the idea of self-driving cars taking to the roads.

It would seem attitudes are beginning to soften though, as the new survey results show that more UK drivers are looking forward to the prospect of driverless cars.

Of the 2,109 respondents to this latest survey, 34 percent admitted to being “excited” about self-driving cars, a significant increase from the 2015 survey when just 26 percent of respondents said they were “excited.”

A similar change in opinion was evident when respondents were asked if they would prefer a self-driving car over their current car. In 2015, 28 percent said they would rather have a driverless car. That figure has now jumped to 37 percent.

One of the reasons for this apparent change in attitude could be the increase in awareness of self-driving cars among the UK public as a whole. In 2015, more than a third of respondents were not aware that companies like Google and Uber were working on driverless car technology. That figure is down to just 24 percent now, suggesting that the more familiar we become with the technology, the more we accept it.

Revealing the results of the new survey, a spokesman for Bobatoo said, “When the idea of self-driving cars was first mooted by the likes of Google, the main concern among the public was about safety.

“The results of our new survey show that, whilst there is still a long way to go, it would seem that the general public is not only warming to the idea of self-driving cars, they are actively looking forward to them.”

By The Numbers:

A total of 2,109 UK residents were surveyed.


Male – 53%

Female – 47%


17-24 – 12%

25-35 – 28%

35-45 – 21%

45-55 – 27%

55-65 – 8%

65+ – 4%

Do you have a valid U.K. driving license?

Yes – 72%

No – 28%

Are you aware that companies such as Google are currently developing self-driving cars?

Yes – 76%

No – 24%

How do you feel about the development of self-driving cars?

Excited – 34%

Concerned – 28%

Not bothered – 38%

Would you prefer to have a self-driving car instead of your current car?

Yes – 37%

No – 45%

Don’t know – 18%


Image: Rendering of Google driverless car / Credit: Google

News Roundup: Tesla’s New Self-Driving Hardware to Debut This Month, Three Groups Get Green Light For Testing Driverless Cars in Ontario, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industry over the past week:

Elon Musk says Tesla will roll out new self-driving feature before the end of the year

After announcing that all cars made after Oct. 19 would feature all-new self-driving hardware, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that the company would gradually start activating the new capability “in about three weeks.” However, there still appears to be much confusion and speculation over just how “autonomous” the new feature will be, including whether a driver will still be expected to keep eyes on the road, or hands on the steering wheel. Additionally, some Tesla owners are upset that the newer models hae been stripped of so many of their previous features, in favor of the new hardware. Read more from Computer Business Review.

Three groups get licenses to test driverless cars in public in Ontario

Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca pulled up to a press conference recently in the “Autonomoose”–a self-driving Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan–to announce to reporters that three groups have been granted permission to test their driverless prototypes on public roads in the province. The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Autonomous Research will test the MKZ starting early next year; Erwin Hymer Group is the second, and QNX, a division of Waterloo’s BlackBerry, will develop vehicle software in association with its test of automated features of a 2017 Lincoln. Read more from TheStar.com.

Construction begins on American Center for Mobility in Michigan

Progress on the new American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is moving quickly. Just months after the sale of the old 330-acre Willow Run test site was finalized, construction on the ACM has already broken ground. A ceremonial first dig by officials including Governor Rick Snyder was conducted last week. ACM will be a site for testing autonomous and connected-car vehicle technology, and is expected to be open for business by this time next year. Read more and see photos on Detroit Free Press.

News Roundup: Singapore Adds Hybrid Buses to Its List of Driverless Options, Fisker Teases Its Answer to Tesla’s Model 3, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car world this week.

Driverless taxis and shuttles test so well, Singapore moves on to buses

After public tests of self-driving taxis and shuttles have gone so well, Singapore is already planning to expand its driverless transportation offerings. This week, news outlets like TechCrunch, Engadget and ChannelNewsAsia gave a sneak peek of designs for driverless hybrid buses that feature Lidar, V2X capabilities and even night-vision. An initial pilot launch will apparently consist of two full-size buses that will transport passengers between Nanyang Technological University and CleanTech Park, and potentially even beyond to Pioneer MRT station. The first route has been tested with a driverless shuttle since 2013, TechCrunch reports. See maps of the routes and read more information about the buses and testing on TechCrunch.


Henrik Fisker posts teaser photo of driverless car he says will give Tesla a run for its money

Renowned automotive designer Henrik Fisker teased fans this week by posting twfisker-driverless-caro photos of what he says is his forthcoming autonomous-capable car that will give Tesla’s Model 3 a run for its money. The first photo is dark and only shows the front bumper, but was enough to get people excited. The second photo is a dark silhouette of the entire car with its wing-style doors up. Fisker said the long-range electric car will eventually have full autonomous capabilities, and that he is teaming up with a top automotive supplier for the autonomous system, though he declined to state which one. Read more from the Business Journal.


Wanis Kabbaj’s TED Talk: What a driverless world would look like

Transportation geek Wanis Kabbaj thinks we can find inspiration in the genius of human biology to design the transit systems of the future. In his recent TED Talk, Kabbaj asks, what if traffic flowed through our streets as smoothly and efficiently as blood flows through our veins? Get a closer look at Kabbaj’s vision and hear his TED Talk on Ted.com.


Images courtesy of Henrik Fisker

British ‘What Would You Do in Your Driverless Car’ Survey Yields Unexpected Results

Jennifer van der Kleut

When South London-based logbook lender Varooma set out to find out what activities Britons would most like to do in their driverless cars once they no longer have to drive their vehicles themselves, they got some unexpected results.

Instead of giving expected answers like sleep, work or watch videos, most Britons said–they wouldn’t be in a driverless car in the first place.

A whopping 73 percent of Britons surveyed said they prefer to drive themselves over taking a driverless car.

Along the same vein, 38 percent of responders said they would not purchase a driverless car, even if they were readily available for purchase and were the same price as regular cars.

Are autonomous vehicles better suited to future generations? Varooma suggests their survey results may indicate just that. Results said that 18- to 24-year-olds would be most comfortable and “chill” engaging in other activities rather than paying attention to the road in a driverless car.

Then, after skipping a generation or so, acceptance of the idea of driverless cars gains traction again as people enter their senior years. The survey results show that people of ages 55 to 64 are more likely to want to purchase a driverless car than adults age 45 to 54.

The idea of autonomous vehicles have long been touted as a solution for aging drivers, as well as those with physical disabilities.

However, those open to the idea of driverless cars did have a few ideas of what they would like to do on their commutes if they didn’t need to pay attention to the road.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 24 percent of men age 18-24 said they would “catch Pokemon.” Twenty-two percent said they would “catch up on sleep.”

Almost all responders said they would love to read a book or watch a movie.

Interestingly, more women said they would be a little distrusting of the technology and would probably keep one eye on the road (22.3 percent) than men (16.3 percent).

What jobs would Britons trust their car to do without them, while they were at work?

Another popular idea in regards to autonomous vehicles is the idea that your car could perform simple jobs for you while you are otherwise engaged, such as daytime work hours. So, Varooma also asked their survey takers what jobs they would feel comfortable sending their car to do while they were at work.

The number-one response from middle-aged men was “send their car to the car wash.”

The top answer from women of the same age was to send their car to pick up take-out food.

When it came to driving around their children, though, the numbers were a lot lower. Only around 4 percent of responders said they would feel comfortable having their autonomous car drive their children to school without them.

Even fewer said they would feel comfortable sending their car to deliver cash to someone–3.6 percent.

Varooma’s survey was conducted through Google consumer surveys. Their survey netted 1,591 online responses.


Mobility As A Service in the US – Who’s the Bank?

Burney Simpson

The time seems right for Mobility as a Service (MAAS). Travelers are looking to cut costs, congestion, and the bother of owning a vehicle. And autonomous technology and driverless vehicles could bring costs down so MAAS would be affordable for the masses.

A successful MAAS program will need a mix of transportation providers like public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, shuttle and bus services, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, car-share outfits like car2go, and others depending on the metro area.

But any MAAS project will also need three behind-the-scenes providers to grease the wheels.

Those are an app creator, a data analyzer, and a bank, said Tim Papandreou, director, Office of Innovation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“You need an entity that can create and maintain the app, (and an entity) to gather and analyze the data so transportation options are continually updated and improved, to meet customer needs and offer incentives,” said Papandreou. “Third, (there’s the entity) that will act as a payment facilitator. It will send money to the transportation provider.”

A single payments firm is essential, said transportation consultant Carol Schweiger.

“You pay one entity for all these services or else the concept won’t work. You can’t have users paying multiple providers,” said Schweiger, president of Schweiger Consulting.

Schweiger refers to a MAAS scheme where the traveler pays a monthly subscription fee to a service, covering her daily commute and a certain number of weekend and evening trips. That service is responsible for divvying up the funds to the transport providers.


MAAS is evolving but generally refers to a subscription-based, phone-app accessible mix of transportation options providing door-to-door service.

moovel-transit2Schedules and fees of the transportation providers will have to be online, integrated and continuously updated. That goes for weather and road condition information. The service is operated real-time, so a subscriber can preplan a journey, or find, pay for, and jump on the best option on the fly.

For now, there appear to be firms ready to step into the first two roles that Papandreou describes.

One ride search provider is the moovel app launched by Daimler this spring in Portland, Ore. It offers smartphone searching and the ability to make payments to multiple providers. But moovel is pay-as-you-go, there’s no monthly subscription service, says a spokesperson.

Second, data gathering and analysis is becoming core to intelligent transportation systems (ITS) with multinational giants like Siemens, Microsoft, IBM and others exploring the sector.

What’s missing is three, the bank.

Ford and GM are logical providers of this service though neither has expressed interest publicly in becoming a MAAS bank.


Papandreou says the auto OEMs are still getting their heads around the idea of integrated mobility, so throwing in the concept of banking may be a bridge too far.

But it isn’t far-fetched.

Each has a financial arm with deep pockets.

The Ford Motor Credit Corp. provides loans through its Lincoln Automotive Service Corp. in the U.S., Canada and China. Net income for Ford Motor Credit tallied $1.4 billion in 2015, with managed receivables of $127 billion. Put simply, receivables measure the amount customers owe on loans.

GM subsidiary General Motors Financial reported net income of $646 million and total assets of $66 billion last year.

And there’s the possibility that fewer consumers will be buying cars if MAAS-style systems take hold.

“GM has to find new ways to make money if they don’t sell as many cars,” said Schweiger.

One way to do that could be to finance the system and earn income from payment processing.

“There are billions of transactions every day, this is a tremendous opportunity,” said Papandreou.

For now, the two big American auto OEMs don’t appear to be interested. GM is focused on expanding Lyft, in part with driverless vehicles it develops with Cruise Automation.

Ford’s new FordPass seeks to connect with customers through their smartphones. Millennials can do cool stuff like reserve a parking space and start their car.

But the payment angle is a work in progress. A customer earns rewards by purchasing Ford services, and the rewards can be redeemed at a Boomer brand like McDonald’s. A Ford spokesperson says FordPass is evolving, and changes will be coming.

Mobility As A Service is evolving too, and there will be different approaches in different cities. MAAS banking is a move away from an auto OEM’s core skill set but financing such a system could be quite rewarding.

Story photo – Piggy by Pictures of Money, 2014.