3. New eco-system architectures: embedding the automobile in societal contexts

Theme N°: 

The transformation of the eco-system of the automotive industry, driven in part by digitalization, will trigger transformations in the architecture of products and value chains. Eco-systems are outside the control of any single actor, such as the OEMs, and are therefore more open to influence. For some aspects the main “architects” are countries, which can influence policies at the local, national and supranational levels. For example, national governments are active in fostering electrification and decarbonisation of vehicles, as well as in permitting experiments new forms of mobility, for which start-ups have raised significant amounts of money. By the same token, OEMs appear keen to become “mobility providers.” As a result it is possible we will see the rapid emergence of new eco-systems built around connected, electric, shared and autonomous vehicles, data driven mobilities, and the smart management of renewable and fossil-fuel energy. Nevertheless, while there many new players and initiatives, we have yet to observe a radical transformation of such eco-systems.
Are countries up to the task of providing the required infrastructure for connected and rechargeable vehicles? If not, can and will private actors fulfill this role? As almost all the actors involved in these experiments are burning cash, much less generating profits, is there any evidence of long-term viable business models?
Are these new mobility solutions inclusive of both consumers and workers? And if they are not, is their diffusion met by social and political opposition? Do for instance the yellow jackets protests in France represent a new type of social movement where the right to inclusive mobility becomes central? Will the workers for platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo succeed in organizing against bad employment and working conditions? If so, will that threaten the long-term viability of new mobility providers of persons and goods? Are there alternatives to privately-owned digital platforms, such as cooperatives and non-profit organisations, for promoting new types of mobility?
Are emerging countries in the position of leap-frogging existing automotive players and value chains? In particular, China through its ambitious programme “Made in China 2025” aims to become the front-runner in electric vehicles. Will this challenge the global dominance of incumbent European, American, Japanese and Korean producers inside and outside China? The automotive industry and transport sector are heavily regulated, including safety, fuel efficiency and emissions. How do these contribute to national strategies, and how important are they in molding the structure of the industry in different makets? Do we see convergent or divergent patterns? What type of policies, institutions and state actors shape these strategies and transformations?
What is the role of global finance in promoting/organising this new eco-system? What are the tools used by institutional investors to create and capture value? Is a financially driven transformation of mobility and transport systems sustainable? Does the financialisation of OEMs and global suppliers reinforce or weaken their capacity of dealing with these evolutions?
We welcome papers that explore these questions, as well as papers that look at what is happening at the city, regional and national levels, in terms of new services, experiments and technologies being tested or deployed.

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