Product-Service System for Autonomous Vehicles: a preliminary typology studies

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, São Paulo (2018)


autonomous vehicles, product-service system, typologies of uses


1. Purpose
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) development is an important innovation that has been promising to have great impacts on the issues regarding urban mobility. Such AVs trends are concomitant with the service economy generalization in which owning a car will no longer be seen as a priority for users, particularly for urban citizens. In this sense, the car tends to be increasingly shared and the “mobility” function becomes the focus of market analysis.
Being that said, the traditional business model of selling cars as products is losing ground to alternative forms of commerce. As pointed out by Johnson and Mena (2008) manufacturers are combining products and services in order to provide greater value to the customer and to facilitate longer more profitable business relationships. A Product-Service System (PSS) can be defined as consisting of tangible products and intangible services designed and combined with the aim of fulfilling users’ needs or of a given function (Tukker, 2004; Poulain, 2017).
This paradigm change towards the PSS concept (Manzini & Vezzoli 2003; Boehm & Thomas, 2013) imposes new reflections on the conditions of innovation, and raises several questions, such as: Do AVs fit the PSS model? What are the characteristics of AVs from the PSS perspective? In this context, this paper aimed at drawing a typology model for the uses of Autonomous Vehicles in the scope of a Product-Service System by identifying their characteristics.

2. Research design
This research is characterized as qualitative of exploratory and descriptive nature. Exploratory because studying AVs as a PSS is still little addressed in the business literature (Gandia et al., 2017; Cavazza et al., 2017), and descriptive because it aims at describing and analyzing phenomena (Malhotra, 2001; Gil, 2008).
Data collection was divided into two stages; 1) secondary data [technical reports, academic literature, news, documentaries and videos] and 2) primary data which was divided on in-depth interviews (12 interviewees); open-ended questionnaires (14 responses) and 01 focus group.
All interviews were transcribed and all questionnaires were tabulated, thus, generating a qualitative matrix for data analysis and categorization. We used categorical content analysis (Bardin, 2010; Gil, 2008), for creating a set of qualitative categories and after analyzing each category, we were able to create a theoretical model the different typologies for AVs as a PSS, emphasizing their main characteristics.

3. Main findings
We were able to draw a set of uses typologies for the Autonomous Vehicle as a Product-Service System. AVs are better fitted on the “use oriented” category of Tukker’s (2004) PSS model, that is: the traditional product (AVs) still plays a central role, however the business model is not geared towards sales, in this sense, the product is not in the possession of the consumer, instead it stays in the ownership of a service provider (or even other forms of ownership), and is made available to the consumers in different forms (typologies).
As for the typologies, 2 main groups were identified: 1) transport of people and; 2) transport of cargo, and within each group two set of business models arose; a) a company-owned model – in which the service provider not only offers and manages the transportation service but also owns and maintains the fleet and; b) a privately-owned model in which the individual can offer the transportation service by him/herself or opt to rent his/her vehicle to a service provider to handle the transportation service. Furthermore, within each set of business model, three main sub typologies were identified: 1) car-sharing; 2) ride-sharing and 3) last mile issue – which can be further subdivided into car-sharing and ride-sharing as well.

4. Practical implications
By analyzing Autonomous Vehicles under the Product-Service System perspective we were able to identify relevant typologies of uses that might soon reach the market, given that most of them are already in place regarding traditional vehicles as a service.
We hypothesize that in an initial moment, company owned typologies will tend to prevail, given the high costs of autonomous technology which might inhibit the private ownership model to spread (e.g. platform companies such as Uber and Lyft are constantly creating partnerships with car-makers to test and advance autonomous technologies in their services). In a second moment – taking into account the reduction in the cost of autonomous technology – we might see a rise of private ownership typologies.
It is worth mentioning that user-centered KPIs were widely cited by the research participants and considered as of great importance for the acceptance and development of AVs in the market. This result corroborates the allocation of AVs in the “user-oriented” category of Tukker's (2004) PSS model, and is aligned to the “need seeker” strategic innovations that aims at engaging customers directly to generate new ideas. They develop new products and services based on superior end-user understanding.
For future studies, we suggest further deepening into each typology, exploring in details their businesses models as well as their specific Key Performance Indicators and possible market segments. We also suggest studies aiming at cross-referencing the typologies by offering mixed PSS models and their implications.

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