I thought “First Mile, Last Mile” issues dealt with Mobility as a Service and simply meant the issue of getting from your house to the light rail (First Mile) and then from the light rail station to your office (Last Mile). I learned at an Event put on by Arrive (Formerly ParkWhiz) yesterday that Last Mile issues are something else entirely.
Consider the problem of getting great ideas into the hands of consumers. Elon Musk had a fantastic idea. Design and build an electric car that is the best car on the planet. And he did. However he underestimated the problem of turning his design ideas into something people would buy. He was able to make a few, but could he make them in a volume that met the demand of his customers. That final, often difficult step, is what is referred to as The Last Mile.
An “evangelist” from Amazon’s in-car Alexa program spoke about putting the feature seamlessly in vehicles so you could use Alexa at home, and then use the voice activated program in your car. If you are an Alexa fan, it’s a great idea. The concept is thrilling. The design team is up to speed. But what are the problems getting it imbedded into the new vehicles coming off the line in Detroit, Tokyo, and Stuttgart. How does Amazon hope to get its product pushed over that Last Mile.
After discussing the vaporware that exists, all the features that would be included, and the 70,000 different commands Alexa will recognize, she, the evangelist, that is, discussed the Last Mile issues dealing with myriad automobile companies, each having their own interfaces, hardware and software, and getting the program into the field. She said it would be a long slow process.
Arrive sees itself as facilitating that Last Mile in connecting cars with parking operations so drivers can deal with parking issues directly from their dashboards. They are working with app providers like Amazon, TomTom, Ticketmaster, Ford, Hyundai, XEVO, and Groupon and many others to bridge that Last Mile for their products.
As an aside, consider the road that autonomous vehicles must travel from the idea stage, through design and testing, out to the point where they are commercially viable. Remembering that Level 5 AVs (truly Jetson style that will go anywhere, anytime, in any weather) are the only ones that will really work to the point that they threaten human driven vehicles, consider how long their Last Mile is. If an app on a phone has a bug, so what. If an AV has a bug – it’s a much bigger deal.
Automobile Manufacturers have a five to ten-year lead time between concept and the showroom floor. They understand the perils of the Last Mile.
180,000 attendees at CES this week in Las Vegas will see thousands of ideas that are just approaching the Last Mile. Care to guess how many will actually make it?