SAE Blog Text

Expanding the Scope of Mobility

Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

By Raman Venkatesh, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at SAE International

The story of mobility is as old as humanity itself. For more than a century, mobility—the concept of moving people, goods and services from one point to another—has most often been associated with the automotive, aerospace and commercial vehicle sectors. These industries, along with their diverse supply chains, amount to more than a $5-trillion market worldwide. The three sectors are continuously innovating with notable progress in autonomous vehicles development serving passenger mobility and the entire gamut of commercial applications: multi-modal freight covering highway, middle-mile, last-mile, agricultural, marine and amphibious, among others. In addition, drones, eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing transports) and autonomous delivery vehicles are shaping an evolving system of urban air mobility (UAM) and urban ground mobility (UGM).  

In the last decade, advancements in telecommunications and computing have dramatically altered mobility. Today, when we speak of transportation we are also speaking of automated vehicles, smart cities and dozens of other innovations that possess the ability to not only move people and goods but to reshape our lives and societies, while also influencing the fate of our planet.  

At SAE International, we pride ourselves on being the mobility organization. When we state our mission to “advance mobility knowledge and solutions for the benefit of humanity,” we don’t limit it to just the obvious manifestations of mobility or its traditional interpretations. At our inception, automobiles were starting to replace the horse and buggy and the first aircraft was just taking flight. Since that time, we’ve seen the modes of mobility evolve drastically with the emergence of autonomous, electric and urban air vehicles. We’ve observed new markets, like the defense and commercial industries, applying new technologies to differentiate their positions in the mobility sector. As we look to what’s next for mobility, it is critical to identify the most impactful technologies, especially those that may have initially matured in different sectors but offer promise for the future of mobility. 

SAE International is expanding the scope of mobility and focus areas to include these adjacent technologies: 
  • Advanced manufacturing

  • Advanced materials

  • Advanced propulsion

  • Automated and unmanned

  • Blockchain

  • Cybersecurity

  • Connectivity

  • Electrification

  • Quantum computing

As we expand and evolve mobility, the industries we can serve are also expanding. Take the medical device and pharmaceutical industry, as an example. The technologies being explored and applied to automotive and aerospace mobility have immense importance to provide mobility to those with physical or cognitive challenges. Whether it’s delivering lifesaving medications and vaccines, transporting those with limited movement to jobs, healthcare or education, or even providing those with orthopedic ailments, who hitherto were unable to walk or move their arm, a chance to perform basic biological mobility functions, calculating the value of the mobility ecosystem is nearly impossible. 

We are respectful of all forms of mobility, and to the engineers who are working to enhance every aspect and industry in which mobility plays a vital role, whether that be motorized or biological. Through the technologies that we are exploring as part of the mobility ecosystem, the relationship among all areas is closer than one would think. Take advanced materials, for example. The standards in titanium and composites that we have developed have a become a global benchmark in the aerospace industry, but they’re also readily applicable to the medical device industry, especially in orthopedic devices and surgical implants. Our AMS2488 Standard is a perfect example of this. The standard covers Type II anodizing anodic treatment of titanium parts associated with the aerospace industry. As the advantages associated with this process have become increasingly apparent, the popularity and acceptance has stretched beyond aerospace and has grown considerably in favor with the medical device industry, especially in terms of its applications for finishing orthopedic implants.  

We are engaging with biomedical engineers, medical device manufacturers and regulatory agencies, like the U.S. FDA, as well as with NASA to continually expand the impact of our work so that we continually add value to ever-expanding forms of mobility, from human tissue level transport to inter-stellar transport, and everything in between.

By embracing a broad spectrum of enabling technologies, exploring their applications and applying to diverse markets, we can truly enhance what mobility means. Human mobility is diverse and complex and is evolving beyond conventional industry lines. As we prepare to engage in new ways to broaden the scope of mobility, it is of utmost importance for those within all industries to look not only inward, but outward as well, to share a strategic vision of cross-functional partnership that advances how we perceive and understand mobility for the benefit of all humankind. SAE International is well prepared to serve as the platform for such world-changing collaboration and innovation to enhance human mobility in all its forms and functions.