Micromobility is still yet to have its ‘iPhone moment’ as a major transportation force but it is fast approaching, according to long-standing industry commentator and visionary Oliver Bruce.
The NZ native with a global presence in the industry said micromobility’s disruption to the automotive industry is already comparable to the impact early smartphones had on the mobile phone industry.
However, it’s only a matter of time before e-bikes, e-scooters and other forms of e-mobility achieve the technological and functional advances to make them a dominant mode of transport.
Oliver is an angel investor and advisor for numerous micromobility ventures around the world and further cemented his place at the helm of the industry by launching the Micromobility Podcast and conferences in Europe and the US, all co-founded with the inventor of the term micromobility, Horace Dediu.
During the influencers! interview, Oliver predicted micromobility’s rise would emulate how later-generation iPhones not only transformed the phone market but become the most popular form of computing.
“We’ve got four or five billion smartphones in the world. We were never more than about a billion computers, maybe 1.5 billion computers,” he said.
“You just have another order of magnitude with these smaller, lower-serving computers.
“Think of the cars as a laptop. Everybody wanted a computer because it was a really useful tool. I still use my laptop. I use it all the time but I use my phone way more.”
Inheriting Smartphone Technology
Oliver and Horace were closely following the technology being progressed and made more affordable by the booming smartphone marketing, including cameras, batteries and computer resources. They were sure those assets and others would come together in small, lightweight vehicles, such as e-bikes and e-scooters, to upend the transport sector.
“We can see that cities will end up being rebuilt around micromobility as a predominant form of transport because the cost of being able to use these vehicles is going to be incredibly low,” he said.
“When you’ve got electric and low-cost componentry, what happens when all of a sudden it only costs you five cents per kilometer to travel anywhere?”
Oliver said there are manufacturers creating exceptional e-bikes and the industry is fast approaching “an inflection point where costs are really going to drop and we’ll get to real volume manufacturing – into something very compelling for a couple of thousand dollars.
“Then you pair that with a subscription-style model. All of a sudden, having an e-bike like a VanMoof or a Cowboy where you can explore a city at the same cost as what it would be to get a public transport pass and a third or one-quarter of what it would cost you to run a car.
“It’s going to be incredibly compelling for a lot of urbanites and I think that’ll change the conversation at the government level around infrastructure and what we need to be building. I think that’s pretty cool and very achievable within three years.”
Oliver’s global education as a scholarship student led him to work as a student delegate at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, firming his path as a climate change activist and towards a career in micromobility.
His time at the Copenhagen summit and subsequent insight to industrial engineering, transport and world affairs convinced him that business-driven technology and solutions would be central to averting a climate crisis.
“There’s no way the international policymaking framework has the power to really make the changes required,” he said.
“How do you get the policy people making the right policy for business leaders?”
The disruptive effects of the iPhone and Telsa further convinced him that this was true.
His certainty that micromobility would play a leading role in global problems was also compounded by his role as a regional manager and strategic officer for ride share organisation Uber, including his insight to the pursuit of autonomous vehicles. Oliver was part of the mobility as a service provider’s strategic projects team, responsible for integrating technological and industry innovations into the company’s operations.
While he is confident autonomous vehicles will become reality and revolutionise transportation, other innovations in technology and urban planning will bring faster change in pushing micromobility further to the forefront of transport, climate and quality-of-life solutions.
Oliver said he is particularly excited about urban planning and policies to foster less car reliance, such as US company Culdesac’s program to design and construct new car-free suburbs and regional centres.
He said NZ engineering firms have included cycling in their transport planning toolkits for four decades – alongside cars, public transport and walking – but very seldom turned to bikes as a solution. The advent of micromobilty and “sudden” epiphany that bicycles can unlock a city, with the right infrastructure in place, has effectively given those engineers a new tool to move people around at scale.