One of the main factors that hamper implementation of innovative transportation systems is marketing. Understanding the marketing problems is a key issue that influence concepts, technology design, organization design, entrepreneurship and starting initiative.
There is a basic human tendency to stay in the sheltered and warm womb of stability and avoid risks and uncertainty. Every change in life, for better or for worse, may provoke new fears. Many who are afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar stick to conservatism and may oppose new systems. This tendency is a market sensitivity that demand special solution.
The proper market dilemmas
Where is the proper market to start with automatic intelligent ground transportation scheme? This question rises few dilemmas.
- Wealthy markets can pay investments back, but are occupied and locked up by existing systems. Poor markets are vacant and may be open to innovation, but with dropped odds for capital return of investments and operation costs.
- Modern developed markets are culturally compatible to adapt new technologies, but the existing and future technologies in these markets pose harsh resistance and competition. In less modern markets there will be less resistance but no cultural readiness.
- Urban congested markets highly demand solution, but planning and building new systems in very congested areas is harder. In rural areas with low density of vehicles it will be easy to set new scheme, but the demand for new scheme may be low.
- In isolated markets it will be easier to solve the problems of interface between old and new transportation system in the borders between the systems, but isolated markets lack the significant advantage of contagious possibilities.
There are two known ways to confront a dilemma:
- Hold both horns of the dilemma and find markets that balance the contradicting powers, i.e. markets with medium wealth, medium transportation problems and medium resistance to changes.
- Handle each horn of the dilemma separately, i.e. choosing poor market with no transportation and solving the financial problems, or choosing wealthy market and challenging the existing schemes.
The proper niche
The process of transformation from old to new transportation system is apprehensive. Two rivaling systems using the same routes and crossroads, one manually-controlled and the other machine-controlled would cause conflicts and collisions, so how would a new, intelligent transportation system integrate with the existing system?
One of the sensible solutions is to confine the complicated problem and develop a new system in a small niche while lurking to opportunities in the mainstream market. After identification of the proper market and the right strategies to handle the dilemma posed by the chosen market, the right niche should be selected. Somewhere in the global markets must be an appropriate niche that its dimensions fit the right system.
The right niche may cross or overlap the right market. Both, the niche and the market, should be a place with a “soft belly” for easy penetration, a place where conventional transportation systems does not ultimately rule.
Here are some examples of appropriate niches:
- Space niche
– The existing transportation scheme dominate the ground level. Since automatic transportation systems are not fit naturally to be integrated with human controlled systems, they must find new ways. Elevated ways or underground ways that will be parallel to ground ways may be a horizontal solution. Special side new lanes parallel to the existing ways, may be a vertical solution.
- Time niche
– Sharing the same ways by different transportation modes on different time. For example night automatic systems and day human controlled systems.
- Human predisposition niche
– There might be a place where the population is open minded to accept innovative transportation system instead of the existing one, or a place with no transportation or transit at all that its habitants will agree to try innovative system.
- Classified customers niche
– An innovative transportation could be targeted to classified customers, as users of public transit, disabled, elders, small children or pupils.
- Closed special regions
– Zones with unique characteristics that can be closed to traditional transportation as airports, fairgrounds or parks, may found to be special niches.
– Creativity could present many solutions that are combinations of few niches. Multi mode concepts may suggest transportation systems geared with capabilities to function both as a manual traditional system and as an automatic intelligent system. Multi mode systems can change the drive mode in different space or on different periods of time.
Markets research and demonstrations
Profound forethought, early markets research and diagnosis of markets and financial potential usually save sweat, money and time of trials and errors, hence they are logical steps before any plan. The case of innovative transportation is slightly different. Implementation of a new transportation system is a complicated matter that involves many unpredictable and volatile factors as humans’ emotions and interests. In this case any outcomes of a market research are limited, inherently refutable and non-conclusive.
There is a gap between people’ declarations and their concrete behavior, seemingly because of limited verbal expression capabilities. This reality is well demonstrated in transportation behaviorism.
- Many who suffer and argue against traffic congestion will not do much in their practical life to change their suffering from this state. One can complain about congestion, but he loves the slow way to work when he is solitaire in is car and is not subjected neither to his family nor to his boss. People who declare they hate congestion would like to be among many others in sport stadium, theater performance, cinema or opera house, because congestion might reflect positive social behavior like animals herding.
- By rational thinking most people should condemn traffic hazards, but for some drivers dangerous driving may be an emotional thrilling that stir their adrenaline streaming like dangerous adventure or sport activity.
- Many who declare about their care and consciousness for environment quality give this subject low weight when preferring contaminating private car on other alternatives; and most rangers in natural reserves will prefer air-conditioned Jeep on environment friendly horse or camel.
Any theoretical market research that aspires to forecast the consumers’ acceptation of innovative transportation may be false. There is no substitute to real experience; consumers may radically change their minds after experience, real trial of new transportation system or by perception of the reform process advancement. A mass psychology may enhance rapid shift in public opinion as reflected by public opinion shifting in political polls and surveys.
In the case of innovative transportation system the best research may be the real customers response to implementation process. The substitution for market research may be a limited, incremental implementation and an empirical design of the new system.
Several and sufficient automatic intelligent transportation systems had been demonstrated by their designers, but public judgment asks for a real evidence or precedent and not a synthetic prove. Only empirical but tangible system may supply this evidence.
Many times reality, rather than academic analyzes and inquisitiveness, set standards. An empirical design may balance short-range preference for markets conquering and quick implementation and long range sight for the best solution.
It should be remembered that there is no ultimate solution; logical innovative idea that is better than the existing scheme is a sufficient reason to start a trial and error process with aspiration to create real evidence and precedent.
It is easy to be drawn into a vacuum, but difficult to enter into occupied space. Ground transportation systems are congested, well established, and hard to be penetrated. Any innovative transportation system challenges a hard shell of existing systems that were consolidated and have been proved along generations. Such an initiative begins from inferiority standpoint and should challenge rooted powerful interests, habits, conservatism and emotional resistance.
The assumption that transportation scheme should be radically changed or be changed at all is not obvious. It is hard to challenge habits and emotions only by advocating, reasonableness and argumentation, even when it seems to many logically crystal clear. Long history of car marketing brainwashed a lot of people’ minds, many became accustomed to the scheme, many are beneficiaries of the transportation industries and their affiliated offshoots, and some are emotionally touched to their private car. It is hard to change deep-rooted habits or to convince someone that his car flatters his ego or sportive spirit to accept transportation focused system.
First step of penetration must be a local initiative somewhere. Any local market will naturally cross-eyes to the global transportation customary solution. Why should a sound local place invest resources in a peculiar transportation solution? Even if such a solution will have conspicuous advantages it will not be efficient when secluded and may provoke many problems of interface in the borders with the common transportation system.
Local markets may wait for global change or until someone else will set the standards. Less developed markets are waiting for any reform to start by the developed markets, but in the developed industrial markets the transportation industry is deep rooted and will naturally tend to oppose new reforms or rivalries.
Nowadays, when automatic intelligent ground transportation system had not been proved, the center of gravity should be markets penetration in order to supply a real proof that innovative systems extremely supersede the existing one.
Here are some strategies to ease penetration:
- Lowering the price
– Markets penetration is always a hard step and the basic method to change customers’ habits is by suggesting low penetration prices and special bargains for new transportation systems and for using the systems.
- Markets sensitivity
– Entrepreneur who trys to penetrate innovative transportation system should be sensitive to his potential customers wishes rather than trying to educate or brainwash them to adopt his ideas.
- Markets attentiveness
– Logically solutions solve problems, but sometimes inventors have such ingenious technical ideas that they try to find problems to their solutions. Feedback process between technological innovation and public demands is important, but the origin point of a successful transportation concept should identify the real problems and the customers’ demand, the technical concept should follow the demands.
- Creativity and flexibility
– Those who want to change existing habits and systems are expected to face rigid markets that will naturally do not understand their entire new concepts. Markets may have basic tendency to retain the existing equilibrium, will not initiate creative solutions and will not try to be flexible to accept changes. It is recommended for the entrepreneurs to use all their creativity and flexibility skills in order to comply to the markets’ demands and conditions rather than expecting the market to accept new rules.
- Encouraging competition
– Each of those who hold innovative ideas and concepts to upgrade transportation systems may be anxious from other innovative competitioners. From a general point of view this anxiety is not proper. People prefer to buy in fairs or open markets where many merchants compete on their hearts and pockets and public authorities are used to bargain after competitive bids. With no competition the markets are dormant and the buyers are reluctant to come.
- Advocating pioneering
– There are some good reasons and motivations not to be a pioneer, but let someone else be the first one to jump into the cold water, and watch the results. No one likes to be the soldier who lay on the barbed fence in order that the troops will stamp on his back and pick the glory. Apparently, public authorities tendency to avoid pioneering is adamantine then these of individuals. In business and social life it happens that those who follow the one who hardly pierced the crack in the wall will stride on a paved way and enjoy it more than the pioneer.
Despite the shortcomings mentioned above there are some good reasons to be a pioneer region to implement intelligent automated ground transportation scheme. Beside the glory that deserves to those who are the first to reach the peak of a mountain, they will be the first to enjoy the benefits of the new system. Pioneer can gain relative advantage, they will be asked to pay the lowest price for their consent and permission and may become attractive for professional pilgrims or tourists.
Brave or open-minded communities that will agree to be the Guinea pigs of others may enjoy in the future the opportunities to be the first to try and enjoy future elaboration and upgrading.
- Incremental process of reform
– Revolutionary steps tend to be fearful and may provoke resistance. Slow incremental steps pacing along with the customers’ sensitivities may ease the penetration.
Fight for domain in the markets
Existing transportation systems are well rooted in modern culture. Challenging these systems may confront the challenger with enormous economic powers that will decisively fight against new concepts and will try to dub any entrepreneur of innovative transportation system as Don Quichote.
Evolution or revolution of transportation schemes may affect many financial and commercial interests. Better mobility may affect land prices and shift populated areas. Fewer road accidents may influence insurance business, and new kinds of vehicles will affect car manufacturers, mechanics, gasoline stations, professional drivers and huge industries that are associated with the transportation system. All those who make living out of the existing transportation systems have no motivation to change their stabilize state and are potential opponent to any change of the existing situation.
Fight of innovative transportation systems for their domain in the markets is supposed to be harsh for those who depend on the existing systems and those who initiate new ones. The best solution is not a confrontation but cooperation. Car industries look forward to improve traditional concepts. These significant industries have an invaluable understanding of market behavior and preferences and weaknesses of people in regard to transportation. This knowledge and experience cannot be disregarded, since new systems should be merchandised and not only developed. Cooperation with the car industry may lead to a better transportation system for the benefit of car customers and the car industry.
Advertising logical ideas and general advantages of automated, intelligent transportation systems is important to prepare markets for a complicated reform, to change old anticipations, create new-fashioned modern anticipations, create and ease the transitional period of rearrangement from past anticipations toward adaptation of new systems.
Advertising a specific innovative system before wide successful penetration and adaptation seems to be unclever. The risks of penetration and implementation are high and there are more chances of failure than success. Creating high expectations by former advertisements have more chances to amplify a disappointment of failure with negative future impacts than to be a lifting arm for penetration and adaptation. Moreover, advertisements may provoke dormant opposition of conservatives and old systems rivalries. At early stages quite and practical steps seems better than sensational ones.
Private car merchants are free to advertise commodities by appealing emotions and brainwashing. Public sector is limited to use the same strategies as private sectors and is expected to use balanced rational inducement. Automatic intelligent transportation implementation is a process that obliges public sector involvement and hence may attach the public restrictions.
Despite the limitation the salient rational advantages of new transportation system are so perceptible that they might be sufficient. It may be adequate for innovative transportation systems to protrude and utilize their relative advantages of automation and intelligent.
The arrangement of different classes of customers along scale is a common marketing strategy. Positioning enables the merchants to pose different products and different prices to different classes of customers, and create competition among the customers who want to achieve higher ranks on the scale motivated by ambitions, envy or honor.
Positioning and various products appeal and create different tastes and fashions. Car merchants are cunning to offer a wide variety of solutions deviate from their designated function and transportation focus. Vehicles are not being marketed and sold as pure functional commodities, but are used as jewelry, toys, sport, entertainment, image and status symbols, a substitute for sexual relief, and other needs, in utter deviation from their designated function, the conveyance of people and cargo.
Automatic, intelligent transportation based on standard vehicles that suppose to replace the wide variety of existing vehicles. Standardization may pose problems of classifying and positioning. From marketing point of view setting different classes of services or different classes of private vehicles have many remarkable advantages.
Design of transportation concept depends on destined time and market place. Local conditions as demography, socioeconomy, topography, weather conditions, culture, politic, working hours, rush hours, financial strength, or open minds may lead to different concepts. Market orientation upholds acclimatization of specific system to particular place.
Adapting unique concept to special locality may satisfy the locals in the short term, but may conflict global and long run orientation. System that was checked and even proved in one place or region may not fit other. For examples, system that worked well in tropical region may not work in arctic region, system that was proved on line may not fit grid of roads, and system that was accepted in rural area may not fit high-density city traffic. The adaptability of new system is always questionable.
Technologies that serve global common denominator have better chances to set standards, are prone to be widespread and hence to gain economical advantages, and fast development. The balance between the different considerations should be done on every place, in regard with the financial cost of the balance and the flexibility abilities.
Modularity and flexibility
Mechanical engineering tends to prefer block design of systems; this design cares for the harmonious functionality of different components in the system. Preference for block design may contradict markets demands. Systems that are not designed as a one block, but composed of modular components have significant advantages in skeptical and dynamic markets. When better technologies emerge or public opinion change, modular systems have better chances to survive by replacing one or few modules.
ore modules give more opportunities and options. Systems equipped with abilities to change functionality in different time or environment may be preferable. Here are few examples:
- Automatic vehicle that can change mode of navigation from rails to markers or GPS navigation out of the guided net can answers diversity of demands in different environments.
- Adaptability of vehicle to be driven both manually and automatic or be guided by supported and suspended way gives more options to use different conditions and environments.
- Automatic vehicle that can change its engine or energy source easily may be easily suited to accept innovative engines or energy sources.
- Flexible and modular design may leave conceptual issues with different solutions and prices to local decisions and may be more easy accepted by customers who are afraid of solidified systems that could not be easily upgrade in the future.
The complications of transportation upgrade oblige evolutionary process. The nature of the evolution is incremental and gradual steps. It is better to stay in-line with the implementation pace rather than run ahead in a rhythm that will leave the public readiness behind. Hasty progression or shortcuts may provoke public rejection, total unfaith by immature customers or, at the least worst case, redundant costs. Forethought and research must plan few steps ahead, but execution should be slower.
Incremental steps are recommended from few aspects:
- Simple to complicated system
– Many times simplicity is the real ingenuity. Simple, well-known and proved technologies are more safe and secure, and can be easily trusted and accepted by the customers. Incremental progress from simple technologies to more sophisticated may have salient advantages.
- It had been impossible to build an information net without prior ability to exchange E-mail massages. The first step to prove transportation net is to build a simple automatic transportation corridor, and then gradually build a proved crossroads or interchange toward the destination of broad net.
- After building a simple net of roads, the control system should not be an ultimate central control system that can guide and command every vehicle on the net in real time. Tactical solutions, similar to the flashlights systems that serve existing systems, may be sufficient at early stages, and then be improved to better system as neural control systems built similar to that of the biological neural system.
- Theoretically it is possible to navigate and coordinate vehicles movement with no changes to existing infrastructure or cars by radio transmission or self-navigation systems that are used in satellites industry. Potentially imbedded sensors in the existing infrastructure can do the guidance. Different existing or potential technologies can help the fulfillment of automated intelligent transportation, but the old, simple, proved and well-known iron rails on ground level may be better to start with, as a trustable attractive system.
- Technological imagination can improve, refine and add many facilities to intelligent transportation net. Improvements and refinements may always be welcome, but complicated improvements should not be traded with focused simple steps, in this case the refinement should be left to later stages.
- Economical to expensive
– In order to succeed to implement innovative transportation system one cannot be frugal or Spartan but must present a mature system. Common investors are not generous, but inspire to let limited amounts of capital and see the prospects of quick refund. Without generosity investments it is impossible to implement mature system and present quick refund.
Above we described a typical dummy circle that may characterize financial problems of innovative systems. External factor like ultra-generous contributor or economical magic solution may break this dummy circle easily, but reality is usually different. The average entrepreneur may collect more investments as long as he improve and refine his system gradually. A model may start with cheap materials or technologies and after proving the concept be improved by more investments.
- Locals to global
– Local regions are reluctant to implement a system that is not a matured and efficient global net, but global net cannot be incorporated without a local start.
An old Chinese wisdom says that every long journey start with a first little step. One cannot be afraid to initiate the first step since the journey is long, if he will not start he will never have a chance to finish his journey. An innovative transportation system must start somewhere in a small step of local initiative to implement and prove the idea.
Our suggestion is to start a real demonstration in a small village or community where the inhabitants and their representative are relatively ready for this experiment. A place where less resistance is anticipated, use of land and ground is more flexible, bureaucracy is less dominant, the relevant laws and circumstances does not encumber burdensome conditions and the ability to make changes is greater. The initial demonstration could be limited to connect key destinations as shopping areas, schools or central transit station.
The real demonstration will examine the response of “real population” to a new concept and become a healthy starting point. The limited trial would examine the new relationships between man and the new system, and would provide a chance to improve the system according to customer demands. If the restricted trial fails to succeed, it means that the new system should be improved or concealed, but if it succeeds, it would be easy to convince neighboring villages to accept the system.
After closing a cluster of villages it would be easy to close a wider region and if it would be wide enough it might cause people to abandon second or first cars in families that are used for restricted travel. A successful process may expand to wider areas, from peripheral regions to cores of cities in a growth way similar to organic proliferation. The advantage of standard net structures is that many local regions can built their local net, and when few local nets are connected exponential advantage is achieved.