The Business of Mobility: Michelin Mobility Intelligence – smarter, safer, greener

Michelin, ventures into data-driven sustainable mobility with brands like Michelin Mobility Intelligence and Michelin RoadBotics, targeting reduced accidents, optimized infrastructure spending, and boosted non-tire revenue by 2030.

The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.  

Q&A with Philippe Armand (CEO Michelin Mobility Intelligence & CEO RoadBotics by Michelin) and Ross Douglas (Founder at Autonomy)  

French multinational Michelin (founded in 1889 to make bicycle tyres) is the world’s second-largest tyre manufacturer. In 2001, Michelin started a digital mapping service, and more recently leveraged this capability to pursue innovations in data and sustainable mobility (‘smarter, safer, and greener mobility solutions’). Their sub-brands, Michelin Mobility Intelligence and Michelin RoadBotics, provide data-based services to help authorities reduce road accidents and optimize road infrastructure spend. Michelin are committed to increasing share of non-tyre revenue to one quarter of the total by 2030. 

Ross: Take us through how you are able to reduce road accidents with your data.

Philippe: Data is becoming increasingly important in reducing accidents, be it in factories and mines, or on our roads. The key to it is analysing near-misses, e.g. when a driver brakes sharply to avoid an accident. When you aggregate the near-misses, you can work out where the danger-spots are, and when they are most dangerous.  

Ross: Where does the data come from? 

Philippe: We collect data from various sources, be it vehicle telematics, weather reports, state of roads, citizen road-safety apps, etc. And we also derive data from our sister company involved in fleet management, Michelin Connected Fleet 

Ross: That’s a great service, but how do you monetize it as a business model?

Philippe: Clearly, life is priceless. However – particularly in rich countries – there are   sophisticated actuarial models showing the enormous cost to society of road deaths and injuries. By paying us a relatively small amount, authorities can save hundreds of millions in the financial and societal disruption that accidents cause. Departments of transport and metros will often something in the budget for a service like ours. If not, we show them that our scientific approach is the ideal foundation for life-saving interventions. 

Ross: What about improving driver behaviour?

Philippe: We work closely Michelin Connected Fleet; and they are working on programs to warn drivers about dangerous sections of the road and nudge their behavior toward safer decisions. Currently we sell our safety solutions to transport authorities, but there is certainly potential to use this data to help ordinary drivers make better decisions. 

Ross: And what about your infrastructure services, in terms of helping authorities improve their spend. I am interested in your approach in collecting up that data. 

Philippe: One of our main sources of data for this, is that we equip municipal employees with a smartphone to mount on their dashboard, filming as they go about their normal duties. The footage is uploaded to the cloud, with AI interpreting, showing which roads have the highest percentage of potholes, or any other damage, and which roads are fine. We present this information to the client in the form of a coded map, (graded 1-5 in terms of the state of the infrastructure). 

Ross: …and this helps ensure spending is going to the right areas?

Philippe: Precisely. In the last year we’ve seen a 20% price hike in the materials for road-building. Our sophisticated data approach makes all the difference for reducing wasted expenditure, and ensuring serious issues are addressed immediately.  

Ross: How are you making mobility greener?

Philippe: Across the board, Michelin has various projects to reduce transport emissions. (We’re even working on inflatable sails for cargo ships.) From the perspective of Mobility Intelligence, there is much you can do with data, with things like improving the efficiency of road surfaces, which, as a tyre manufacturer, we can help with. But there’s more we are aiming to do, in terms routing, synchronisation of traffic, and various innovations, to help authorities optimize the use of their roads.  

Ross: Where is mobility headed in the next 5 years, what with the rise of EVs and AVs, and the drop in car ownership following the increase of people working from home?  

Philippe: Predictions are always wrong. For example, studies keep under-estimating growth in EV sales. So, whatever I say it will most probably be wrong. But I am excited that EVs are progressing well, especially in countries where electricity is green. Electromobility is an exciting revolution in transport, as is autonomous driving. Think of the billions of hours that AVs will give back to humanity; people will do the crossword while sitting in traffic. Not only that, but connected AVs will improve traffic flow, reduce accidents and ultimately reduce emissions. 

I think it’s important that carsharing is more democratized and that we take an equitable and balanced approach to sustainable mobility, whereby we don’t simply replicate the old model. Making mobility smarter, safer, greener is also about building a sustainable future for all. For my part, I am proud to be contributing to the sustainable mobility cause. 

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