IDTechEx: How is COVID-19 shaping the future mobility landscape?


During the COVID-19 outbreak, the automotive industry has been hit hard by shutdowns of factories and sales around the world. The pandemic has slowed down global car sales and is shifting consumer behaviours in travel. Over the long term, COVID-19 could have a lasting impact on the mobility landscape.

As the pandemic spreads, social distancing has become the theme of 2020, which has been having a huge impact on mobility behaviours, especially for shared mobility. In the past few months, we have seen a significant drop in the operation and usage of public transportation. The same happened to mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) such as ride-hailing. According to Lyft, its ride-hailing business was down 70% year over year in April 2020. 

People are switching mobility preferences towards those that make them feel less vulnerable to infection, such as private driving, walking or cycling. At least in the short term, we will see an increase in private driving miles for those who already own a car. For those who cannot afford a car, alternative mobility modes, such as micromobility and car sharing, that have less risks than public transport can have some opportunities if service providers apply strict disinfection measures. Such measures could include, for example, frequent disinfection of vehicles, safety guidance and updates, restriction on the number of passengers per vehicle or even free sanitizers to passengers.   

In the mid and longer term, the pandemic could cause some dramatic shifts in future mobility. Autonomous driving can provide a valuable mobility solution in the new world where social distancing awareness continues. During the pandemic, autonomous driving tests and pilots have been suspended due to lockdowns. However, autonomous mobility could experience even faster development as the world recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. In China, as the mobility industry is slowly recovering, we have also seen many autonomous driving companies resume tests and pilots across the country. Tech giant Baidu launched a free robotaxi service in the city of Changsha in April, which allows all users in the city to hail a free ride via its popular search engine app Baidu and navigation app Baidu Maps. Unlike ride-hailing which suffers a lot during the pandemic, robotaxis which do not require a driver in the future can support physical distancing and thus greatly complement public transport as well as private driving.

As the world recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, significant shifts will happen in both the supply and demand sides of mobility. The pandemic has caused a heavy blow to the world of MaaS and the industry players need to think about new norms and better understand the opportunities for MaaS. The pandemic could accelerate the development of autonomous driving as people would like to be prepared for the future. The autonomous car and robotaxi market will be worth $2.5 trillion per year by 2040, according to research by IDTechEx on Autonomous Cars and Robotaxis 2020-2040. 

Autonomous driving requires a full technology stack of hardware such as sensors and computing platforms, as well as non-hardware components including AI software and high-definition maps - which are completely different from the traditional automotive approach. As the autonomous driving technologies mature, as well as the scale ramps up, the cost of self-driving systems is expected to drop significantly over the next decade. The latest report from IDTechEx, ‘Autonomous Cars and Robotaxis 2020-2040’, builds a detailed technology roadmap and a granular market forecast for autonomous mobility. It offers an in-depth analysis of key enabling technologies including lidars, radars, cameras, AI software, HD maps, teleoperation, cybersecurity, and 5G & V2X. Key technology trends as well as market players are presented for each of these enabling technologies.

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