Over the course of the twentieth century, the personal automobile transformed the way people lived, worked, and played throughout the developed world. But today, as changes proliferate across the energy industry, and as smart communities become increasingly connected, the concept of personal transportation is shifting to one of personal mobility.
In an article for a special series in Public Utilities Fortnightly on smart communities, Navigant transportation experts H. Christine Richards, Derek Jones, Lon Huber, and John Gartner, said improved electric drive performance, ever-increasing computing power, new sensing technologies, mobile apps, and wireless communications are enabling new modes of transportation. These new modes are characterized as ACES — or autonomous, connected, electric, and shared — and they spell out a new chapter not only for those who use transportation, but also for utilities and regulators.
According to the article, the industry's transformation is giving way to new business models, such as infrastructure providers, charging service providers, load orchestrators, and mobility providers. Within these platforms, utilities and regulators must navigate regulatory uncertainty and flux, as well as focus their strategy around public good, a nascent commercial market, or ratepayer protection before settling on the role they will play.
"As with the growing number of transportation and mobility options that come with smart communities, there are a growing number of ways that utilities and regulators can support the transition from traditional personal vehicles to transportation that is autonomous, electric, connected, and shared," according to the authors. "A long, but exciting road awaits. Utilities and regulators need to consider frank conversations about the future platforms that will enable utilities to support what comes next for ACES in smart communities."