By: Nicholas Crowley

The term “mobility” encompasses many new technologies, services, and business models disrupting the transportation space. But what are the commonalities between self-driving cars, smart-parking, and drone delivery? What does “mobility” even mean?

We ran into this question early on in our partnership with the Wayne State University engineering department. What degrees and curriculum should a first-of-its-kind mobility program include? It became apparent that establishing a definition for mobility would be integral to our education design for mobility studies moving forward. 

We started by looking for any pre-existing definitions of mobility. Unfortunately, most “mobility” companies do not publicly share their definitions. We attribute this to a few factors: the speed at which the scope of the industry as grown, the benefit of keeping investment plans private, and, in some cases, a lack of clarity on strategic direction.

The best formalized definitions we were able to find came from organizations in charge of early stage mobility investing and incubation. Similar to our situation, defining mobility was crucial for scoping their focus. For example, our friends at Techstars provided a great definition: “technologies and services that enable people and goods to move around more freely.”

In the absence of a consensus industry definition, we started to decode the term ourselves. This involved conducting interviews with industry leaders in the mobility space, auditing the use of the term in the press, and conducting brainstorming sessions with the Wayne State engineering faculty. While we didn’t find a consensus definition across all groups, we did find five key components that most definitions of mobility include:

  1. What does Mobility cause?
  2. What does Mobility move or transport?
  3. What does Mobility leverage?
  4. How does Mobility benefit society?
  5. Where does Mobility occur?

Check out the below infographic with our findings.

We would thoroughly recommend that anyone who is currently working in or is interested in working in the broader mobility space to develop their own definition for mobility. If this article inspired you to craft your personal definition of mobility we would love to hear from you in the comment section!

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