Your Car is Not a Car

I’ll bet that when Karl Benz first imagined his Motorwagen, he was thinking only about getting from point A to B.  Yet because of its novelty and price, the automobile quickly became a status symbol, allowing misters to outrank cavaliers.

When Ford started mass producing cars, you couldn’t really call the automobile ‘your own’ as there was one model in one color.  Would you like black, or black?

Later people were able to extend their identities onto cars a little more by choosing from a collection of models, colors and options.  In this way the automobile went from being a simple transportation means and status symbol to becoming an outward expression of your personality.  Don’t we all categorize the types of people who drive speedy red cars and big trucks?  😉

And now . . . and now I’m going to throw an idea at you that you may not agree with, but that I think is worth some chew time.  Your car is not a car.

Jonathan Dutton and Anne Asensio explain this concept best in the below video (taken at the 2010 Paris Motor Show).  They talk about the car becoming the “digital extension of your life”, the “sport for the purpose of your trip,” and a “physical platform.”

If your car is a physical mobility platform, then you can add all kinds of services and plugins to make it uniquely yours, which as Anne says will be the “21st century pleasure of automobile.”

Do you agree?  Will you start to view your car as your device, a big iPhone on wheels . . .?



  • Giuliano

    No, I don’t agree. The car has increasingly become a boring and damaging addiction for a more and more selfish Man, no matter how many plugins you might fit to it. There is an unlimited number of more useful and interesting things, and none of those are iPhones either…. Wake up guys, the dinosaurs era has ended.

  • Hi Giuliano, normally I don’t accept comments from people who leave non-legit email addresses, but I’m glad to hear your different point of view and hope some others will jump into the conversation.

    What do you think is a solution to our mobility challenges?

  • Jonathan

    Imagine, in a few years from now, you jump into a “pay as you go” independent mobility device, what we’d call a car today. It’s not yours, it’s probably provided by the city who in turn pay for a service from Mobility Providers. Is this an attractive option compared to today? OK, I don’t have to pay for road taxes, insurance, repairs etc. but I’m having to drive something that is not personal to me – why do people who take the train listen to mp3 players and read books? To make their space more personal! Now imagine again the independent mobility device, but this time with your personal application carrier docked in – all of a sudden you’ve got your music, your satnav favourites, your telephone numbers, your seat and mirror settings! Just like smart phones which are nothing without their apps except perhaps a boring simple mobile phone.

  • I agree with the idea that cars are not anymore about ownership the way is used to be. I like the idea of Peugeot about mobility.

    I think that in the future, we won’t pay for a car that loses all its value in 5 or 8 years period but we will pay for a mobility service.

    One small (1 or 2 persons) and electric vehicle for everyday travel to work. Thoses cars will be able to drive by themselves (like Google jsut announced) and can enhance the way we use cars and roads by defining a predictive usage of those resources in real time.

    And when we need a bigger car, we’ll get more space on demand.

    I agree also with the customization but I fear that the “vehicle” will only be an extension of a mobile device that knows everything about you.

  • Jonathan

    H4mm3r, great comment thanks. I completely agree that cars will be a service and that we’ll have many different products proposed depending on our needs at a particular moment. This truly the only way to provide people with better mobility solutions and improve our ecosystems too.

    I also believe that today we are used to customising our cars; colour, trim, engine options. We also change things once in the car, storing radio staions for example. I think that people will jump from their precious fully owned car to a mobility as a service product faster if they can take their customisations with them where aver they go.

  • I see the vision for the future, especially in urban areas. But most of the world is not urban, most of the world does not have – or even want – an iPhone. There need to be multiple solutions to modern mobility challenges.
    I very much want a small, full electric vehicle for commute to work, but it is only a part of my mobility solution. I also need a vehicle for 200km trips with luggage, skiis and snowboards. I also want a key to turn to start it, not a button. And I believe in keeping a vehicle for 12 to 20 years or more. I don’t think a vehicle is anything at all like an iPhone – but maybe I am a dinosaur.

  • I beg to differ. 50% of the world is urban with 77% in France and 79% in the USA ( But I do agree about iPhones, I’m not a fan either.

    There are 2 main agendas:
    1. making mobility sustainable
    2. making this sustainable mobility so attractive that people will use it.

    We’ve already seen lots of interesting cars that use very little fuel, but they were too slow. Very light cars, but they were too expensive.

    So perhaps the secret is to provide a huge of choice of mobility solutions (as you said matt w), whether it’s for urban use or provincial use. I’d also like to see independent mobility (i.e. big & small cars, scooters, bikes, pods) tied much closer to public mobility (i.e. buses, trains, trams, boats) solutions which have been around for a long time but are considered inconvenient for many.

    Why hasn’t this happened already? Two reasons I believe: door to door not possible, and luggage carrying. D2D can be managed by leaving your vehicle at the train station and picking another up when you get off the train, the techno is here but it has to be organised. For luggage, I’d love to see some standardisation, i.e. in the old days trunks were loaded off horse drawn carriages and loaded into steam train carriages. Why can’t we do the same now with cars and trains and planes?

    I agree on your last point of keeping cars for 12 to 20 years, but with maybe a slight difference. Cars should be made much much more durable than they are today. They should never break down and only be worked on if repairing after an accident or if some new technology is available that would make the car more sustainable. But, this should only be the concern of the Mobility as a Service provider, the customer just wants the best service for him/her and the environment.

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