Laying down the foundations  

DAV Foundation CCO and Co-Founder John Frazer discusses the advantages of a shared transport network. 

The DAV Foundation considers itself as the internet of transport, building towards a product aimed at decentralising autonomous vehicles, all interconnected by a common network and shared protocol where companies can discover, communicate and transact. John Frazer got on board at the start of 2017, after CEO and Founder Noam Copel recruited him to help him realise his vision. After many discussions together and a further understanding of his colleague's vision, which started out as a three-page white paper, he identified the ambitious goals of the project and developed a passion for the DAV network. 

Frazer expects that 10 years from now, DAV will be widely deployed but no one will talk about the system itself, drawing comparisons from the emergence of the World Wide Web. "Everyone uses the web, but no one ever talks about TCP/IP, the underlying technology that makes everything work," he explains. "DAV plays this role within transport and we hope that no one talks about us, but everyone is using us." The open-source software allows anyone to utilise it and become a part of a single platform which will help create an optimal smart ecosystem. By deploying a system which no one exclusively controls but everyone can take a bit of ownership, DAV has the ability to shape the cogs of mobility in the future and harness new opportunities that will aid its customer’s progress. Prior to the web gaining traction, there were a number of different experiences that the average consumer had access to. These experiences were dictated by separate companies which controlled what consumers could see or do.  

John Frazer

20 years later, there are now billions of user experiences and you can find anything you could possibly want online, which has helped create new businesses and opportunities that no one could foresee back in the 90s. “No one owns it; you don't need our permission to use, it but it will enable transport stakeholders to deploy services and assets to generate businesses and create new opportunities that no one could foresee," says Frazer. 

Creating a level playing field

All of the big automakers are coming up with their own connected car vision and will continue to pursue them in order to achieve a strong market position. The downside of this is that each company will refuse to be associated with a rival's technology, which can make things difficult. However, the minute that you introduced an open network, you present a brand new open marketplace for all of these transport stakeholders to take advantage of. "They are going to see the benefits and advantages of participating with this platform," says Frazer. "This doesn't mean that they have to stop what they are doing, but this is another opportunity to participate in an open, honest marketplace for all." 

Of course, DAV is not trying to solve every problem in the transport market. It isn't necessarily the company's job to convince the automakers to change their ideologies as they will always do what they think is best for shareholders. "Our job is to hit a tipping point for consumers and smaller companies that come onboard, which will make the platform more appealing to the bigger players," explains Frazer. "We are going to produce this commerce involving its own marketplace which will be unignorable. After a certain point, the automakers which have been around for a while will see that this is the way to go and then make their own adjustments." The industry players are now responding to disrupting innovations like this, rather than taking a lead on it. This is normal for most large organisations, as they cannot risk the entire business model on a new process without first seeing some kind of proof. "I think that the big players will eventually see what the DAV network is offering and will make the conscious internal decision to adjust their strategy and adopt the network," predicts Frazer.

Autonomous authorisation

This profound shift is changing so many things in urban areas due to it impacting so many industries other than transport. With drones, vehicles and public transport all being affecting in cities, it allows people to experience a new form of mobility. However, none of this will be possible unless the government can secure a standard of authorisation that companies can follow in order to roll out innovations like these. On a global basis, there isn’t anything that people can do, due to so many different jurisdictions applied in each region. Despite this, the biggest issue in regards to the regulations is the restriction on innovation. “Governments are paying attention and preparing themselves in a regulatory way for this wave of technology,” says Frazer. “There are nations on the planet that will see this transformation much sooner than others. If you were to look at a market like China, where you have a government which drives projects from start to finish, you can see the adoption of autonomous vehicles appearing around the country within the next 10 years, if not sooner.” We are already seeing Baidu's autonomous buses being deployed in Asian markets, Japan in this case, which shows how close the region is. Ultimately, there are different appetites in each region when preparing these jurisdictions, which will tailor plans according to the rules.  

Asia seems to be leading in the technology sector, thanks to a government that is allowing companies and developers to operate freely - but safely - in a more open environment. For example, Shanghai is on course to become the first smart city in the world, thanks to a mindset that pushes for change and creativity. This is changing across the world, especially in Western Europe and North America, but there are challenges that these regions have to face during the course of autonomous vehicle adoption. The technology is there, but the means in which we can utilise them is cut off due to the rules and regulations that are yet to be put in place which, unlike most Asian countries, prevents a mass rollout. As far as overall adoption goes, Frazer believes that this mindset is down to generational demographics. "I think we will see the most resistance from the baby boomers because the older generation are more resistant to change. On the other hand, the younger generation are very accepting of the change going on in front of them.” 

Shifting attitude

This brings us on to the shift of attitude towards future mobility. The biggest barrier to autonomous vehicles and all of the systems around it is the user experience. If it doesn't make sense to people, you are going to have a resistance, so it needs to be made as seamless as possible. With most new technologies we see today, people don't usually know how it works, so what they focus on is how it benefits them. “It has to be about how autonomous vehicles and new decentralised networks are going to change the way people move themselves through new inputs such as smartphones,” states Frazer. “You don't have to talk about the software or the economics behind it, but how it will improve day-to-day life.” Although future mobility solutions will be more efficient, greener and safer, consumers are putting their money into something they want to be as seamless as possible, despite all the external benefits.  

Society is becoming entirely connected, whether it is home technology, mobile phones or vehicles. This is a positive change, although people’s attitude needs to develop in parallel to this. For example, if everyone took the same approach to autonomous cars as they would with vehicles today, society will not address the issue of congestion, due to the attraction of owning your own vehicle. Frazer agrees with this statement but still sees a future for privatised vehicles. "People like to make decisions that make economic sense to them. Of course, people aren't always rational and will sometimes not make this kind of decision but, if they are going to make decisions that are economically sound, a shared platform for autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions makes much more sense,” he says. “We don't use our vehicles for the majority of the day so, behind this convenience, there are burdens of cost, such as car payment, insurance and maintenance that add up to an awful expense.” Over time, consumers are going to question why they would buy an expensive new car that they only use for a few hours of the day, when they can participate in a network which allows them to have a vehicle pull up to their door within five minutes of needing one. The cost is so minimal compared to private ownership so, unless consumers want to own a vehicle due to an emotional reason or running a business with them, there is no need for people to own cars. 

To conclude, the future of transportation is not in privatised cars, but mobility services and public networks which can thrive through a shared platform like the DAV network, where future technologies such as airtaxis and autonomous cars can create an efficient ecosystem for city dwellers to enjoy. "There are so many social benefits to mobility that it would be unconscionable not to pursue it,” Frazer believes. “The DAV team share the same value of making the world a better place and, if we can do that by providing this system plus having all of these transport stakeholders coming together, then I think it's not such a bad thing to do!"  

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