Brendan Keegan is the CEO of Merchants Fleet, which provides fleet management and leasing solutions to a range of clients. Park My Fleet caught up with Keegan on Zoom to discuss all things mobility and electric vehicles, and to get Keegan’s unique perspective on where the industry is headed and how it will get there. 

What does the future of mobility look like from your perspective?

The future will look electric. We’ve seen huge announcements this year from companies making a pledge towards zero emissions. What I find fascinating is that over the years, there has been change within the automotive industry, but not transformational change. 

You get in a car today and it may have a better design, but fundamentally it’s an internal combustion engine vehicle. 

I think we will see more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50. We, as consumers, have stood up and said we want to change and improve the world for future generations. To be in an industry where that happens, there’s nothing more exciting.

Are we prepared to transition to electric vehicles?

If we weren’t in the US, then maybe. We’ve got a few ideas of how to do it from countries that have been extremely successful with the transformation. 

But why haven’t we been in front? 

We have some unique challenges. Our geography is much broader than, say, Norway’s or the UK’s. Another factor is our government has not been as receptive as other countries’ governments have been.

I look at the last year and think to myself: “If we can create a Covid-19 vaccine in a year, what can’t we accomplish?” There will be challenges — not in the vehicles, but the infrastructure. 

Can we put enough chargers across the country to make this viable?  Absolutely. It will take [help from] government, utility companies, big companies and start-ups alike coming together to make it happen. But it will.

Do you think automakers are taking the necessary steps?

The billions and billions of dollars getting invested into these initiatives is intense. We have two different groups: traditional OEMs like GM, Ford, Mercedez, Chrysler, and then you have other companies coming at this that are brand new startups such as BrightDrop, which helps companies move goods more efficiently, and Lordstown, which builds electric pickup trucks. 

Then, we’ve got the dark horse itself — Tesla — out there leading the transition. 

If you can put a man or woman into space, you can accomplish a ton when it comes to the progression towards electrification. I think in 10 years, it will be interesting to analyze the OEMs that exist…other than Tesla. We haven’t really had a new EV car manufacturer in a number of years. 

Are self-driving vehicles going to take over the roads anytime soon?

I actually don’t believe full autonomous driving capabilities are coming anytime soon. I believe in a term called IA or Incremental Autonomy. Your car currently has autonomous features, like cruise control, AVS brakes, safety features of lane changing. All of these features are [examples of] incremental autonomy. I think every year, there will be a new feature that comes into our vehicle to help IA. 

Now, where’s autonomous really going to happen? Autonomous driving will happen within long-haul and mid-haul driving first, where you’re going from point A to point B in delivery services. We’re already seeing this within the trucking sector where they are following fixed routes and typically travel on the highway. I think that’s where autonomy is really going to break ground and it already is and will do exceptionally well. But I think it will be a good 10 years until we’re headed to work in a vehicle we are not in control of.

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