Ford has announced its intent to sell a high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle in 2021.
That big stake in the ground comes with an equally big caveat: the vehicle will only be sold to operators or ride-hailing or ride-sharing services, and not to consumers.
There is a bit of an analogy to the mobile services business. Today, mobile services are sold to human beings, for use by human beings.
Tomorrow, sales will be to operators of industrial and other businesses, to support machine communications. Today, users are “people.” Tomorrow, users will be “sensors, computers and other machines.”,
Today, Ford sells autos to people, to be driven by people. Tomorrow, Ford will sell to businesses that sell transportation to people, but the vehicles themselves will be the drivers.
That is a big change. Today, mobile and auto products are sold directly to end users, for their own use, or to entities that use cars as part of their business processes (auto rental companies, trucking fleets).
Tomorrow, Ford will sell autonomous vehicles only to entities that provide transportation services, and “drive people around.”
To a greater extent in the mobile and communications businesses, but in Ford’s autonomous vehicle business, buyers might not change as much as “users.” Buyers will still be individuals or enterprises.
But users will be sensors, machines and servers.
We have seen such impact before. Fixed network services were sold for use to places. Mobile phones are sold to people, not places. There are many more people than places.
Likewise, autonomous vehicles and Internet of Things devices are much more potentially numerous than either places or people.
As mobility has meant many more potential units to be sold, so will IoT.