Moving Mobility Forward

By Joseph Kopser, Global President of moovel Group GmbH

I wrote a blog on Medium a few months ago and made a bold statement: “A smartphone could be considered your ‘new mode’ of transportation; it’s really all you need.”

Think about that for a second. When was the last time you didn’t involve your smartphone in getting from here to there? Maybe you entered the destination in a mapping system. Maybe you used an app to locate a Lyft, Uber or a cab. Maybe you checked the bus or transit schedule. Maybe you just checked the traffic to estimate how long the journey would take.

These actions have become a natural – almost automatic – part of our daily routine. Our mobile phones have moved from accessory to extension, and it is easy to take it all for granted. The good news is that as we depend on this connected technology, the systems supporting it are becoming better, smarter, more efficient and easier for us to use. Mobile technology is intersecting with advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects more devices to more systems, all enabled by next-generation GPS mapping and Near Field Communication (NFC).  All of these innovations have the potential to work seamlessly and deliver amazing levels of connected convenience in a way that is integrated into our local communities, turning them into smart cities.

Smart cities are the new wave of innovation in the U.S. with the hopes of having a very positive impact on citizens, especially in the area of mobility – our ability to move about in our daily lives.  It’s not just about cars, not just about trains, not just about buses, not just about walking or biking. It’s about the integration of all of those things in a way that is predictive and serves to increase efficiency for citizens, for operators and for government institutions.

So all of this sounds like great news right? You’re right it is. But remember that “easy to take for granted part?” The modern urban reality is full of things that we all take for granted, including the networks on which all of this connected technology runs. The foundation of high-speed Internet must be available to support all of this. In this new connected world, lag times and low signal strength have very real consequences related to how our cities run and operate.

This is an excellent time in history for us as consumers to establish a dialogue with our elected officials – both in city halls and in the nation’s capital. The message is a clear one: enable and invest in innovative technologies that make our cities smarter. We want our public-sector professionals to encourage companies to push harder and work faster instead of what can often happen – companies are ready, but government red tape slows down the process.

What is encouraging is that cities across the country are waking up to this and beginning to create public-private task forces as well as support initiatives that empower this kind of thinking.  For example, the Department Of Transportation (DOT) is encouraging innovation by sponsoring a $50 million grant competition – The Smart City Challenge – which aims to seed connected technologies in the winning city. There are seven finalists and my hometown of Austin is in the running.
Just like the other six cities, here in Austin this Challenge has inspired the city’s top entrepreneurs, seasoned technology and infrastructure experts and industry leaders to work with Mayor Steve Adler to create a compelling proposal. It’s inspiring to see so many different professional groups – private and public sector – rally together for the cause. One of those is an open forum in Austin that is near to my heart – MobilityATX – which is just another way for the professional sector to keep a clear channel of communication with our elected officials.

There has already been a declaration that, regardless of the outcome, Austin will continue to explore and invest in smart tech related to mobility and becoming a smart city. This is exactly the kind of thinking we want to cheer – not just in Austin but across the U.S.  Policymakers who are supportive of new technologies must do their best to bring smart people together, remove barriers to widespread deployment, and activate those at the local leadership level to encourage entrepreneurial thinking.

About Joseph Kopser

As global president, Joseph is responsible for shaping and communicating moovel’s vision, mission and overall strategy on a global level. moovel Group GmbH was founded by Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz, with the global mission to find solutions for the disconnected and ever-changing state of urban transportation and to discover how new technologies will affect the way we’ll move tomorrow.  Prior to moovel, Joseph co-founded RideScout, an Austin-based technology company that enabled seamless multimodal experiences and connected transit commerce to app users worldwide, where he served as CEO.  Through his work at RideScout, Joseph earned the 2014 U.S. DOT Data Innovation Award as well as recognition as a White House Champion of Change as a Veteran in Clean Energy.  Before his move to transportation technology, Joseph served in the Army for 20 years earning the Combat Action Badge, Army Ranger Tab and Bronze Star.   Joseph is a graduate of West Point with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and also received a Masters from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2002. In his free time, he works closely with The Bunker Labs in Austin, an organization dedicated to supporting veteran entrepreneurs. In addition, he volunteers as Chairman of NSTXL working to improve U.S. Energy Security policy. He lives in Austin with his wife and three daughters.