ORLANDO, Fla.—The "new mobility ecosystem," driven by changing consumer attitudes and rapid technological advances, will be the agent of big changes in how autos are designed and tires are marketed and sold, according to Goodyear Chairman, CEO and President Rich Kramer.
"Vehicles may evolve to be something fundamentally different from what they are today, and that's what we're thinking about," Kramer told more than 2,000 Goodyear customers and associates in his keynote speech at the 2017 Goodyear Customer Conference Jan. 31 in Orlando.
Advancing technology has always been the engine of change in the transportation industry, according to Kramer.
"We went from the horse to the Model T, and now we've gone to GPS and advanced safety systems," he said.
"As vehicles have become more high-tech, Google and other companies have started to invade the mobility ecosystem with life-changing possibilities," Kramer said. "Connectivity is the key. Our cars and components talk to us today, but tomorrow they will be talking to each other.
"Tire sensors will talk to GPS that will direct you to the nearest Goodyear store before you even knew you needed air," he said. "This new wave of technology will be a tsunami."
Ride sharing is rapidly becoming more common with consumers, and not just millennials, according to Kramer. Likewise, autonomous vehicle technology is being adopted faster than anyone imagined only a few years ago.
Part of the impetus for change is increasing urbanization, according to Kramer. Seventy percent of the world's people will live in urban areas by 2050, as opposed to 40 percent today, he said.
Cities such as Seattle, Austin and Charlotte are already studying autonomous vehicles as possible solutions to mobility problems, he said.
"Experts believe that converging factors will blend to create a demand for autonomous vehicles," Kramer said. "They are more accepted every day, and more people are betting on them."
Three major considerations are converging in favor of autonomous vehicles, according to Kramer. They are:
- Time. "With autonomous vehicles, you won't have to drive, to look for parking lots, or to watch out for pedestrians," he said. "How much time are you going to get back?"
- Safety. "Most accidents are caused by operator error, and they are increasing because of distracted driving," he said. "Autonomous vehicles follow the rules, go the speed limit and don't pass in the wrong lanes."
- Cost. "Currently, our cars sit idle 95 percent of the time," he said. "Autonomous vehicles will invert that curve."
Auto makers invested $12 billion in ride sharing in 2015, and more of them are rolling out ride sharing programs all the time, according to Kramer.
"Today, we use one vehicle for all purposes," he said. "Tomorrow, we'll be able to choose between a wide range of motoring solutions—minivans when we go on a family vacation, pickups when we need to haul something, and so on. This prospect is bold, different—and disruptive."
Even so, the current vehicle fleet isn't going away soon, and even the boldest prognosticators predict that less than one-third of the fleet will be autonomous by 2050, Kramer said.
Tires aren't going to be changing much either, he said.
"There is no new tire-and-wheel combination on the board that will change what we fundamentally do," he said. "And Google does not want to be in the tire business."
The need for tires is not going away, and this is exactly where Goodyear can help its dealers to use the new mobility ecosystem to their advantage, according to Kramer.
"In the future, we can get access to real-time data generated by cars and trucks," he said. "Think about the value you can gain from knowing your customers' preferences and purchasing histories.
"You can also use real-time information to have just the right products shipped to you, just in time, in just the right quantities," he said. "You can buy a tire anywhere, but with Goodyear you get a real business partner, who is on your side and is looking out for you."