11th January 2019
From car-sharing rivals joining forces to robotic dogs being explored as a last-mile solution for future deliveries, the mobility space is becoming ever more exciting
Over the next few years, fleet managers “will have gone on a journey from initially managing grey fleets, perk cars and commercial vehicles, to outsourcing and leasing, ending with car sharing, mixed mode mobility and even overseeing shared autonomous fleets. Almost cliché, the fleet manager will become a mobility manager”.
This is the view of Lukas Neckermann in his report ‘The Mobility Revolution: a primer for fleet managers’1 – and one that is shared by many other leaders and organisations, as mobility as a service (MaaS) sweeps the world, with corporate entities and individuals equally in mind.
A time of collaboration
One of the perhaps most surprising headlines in the car-sharing sector came in late December in the form of official confirmation that historically staunch car-making rivals BMW and Daimler received approval to merge2 DriveNow and Car2Go, their respective offerings in this burgeoning space. Together, their free-floating car-sharing platforms serve in the region of 4 million customers and encompass around 20,000 cars in approximately 30 global cities, enabling MINI, Smart cars and other BMW and Mercedes-Benz models to be rented by the minute. This somewhat unlikely merger will almost certainly see taxi and parking space apps, electric vehicle charging points and other mobility services merged as cities scramble to improve their air quality, maximise accessible mobility and reduce congestion.
In the peer-to-peer (P2P) corner of car-sharing, the news that easyCar Club’s 80,000 customers will now be serviced by the Turo2b platform was very welcome, softening any feelings of frustration from those who placed their confidence in Sir Stelios’ concept from the start. Turo enables car owners to make extra money by renting them out while they’re not being used, and prides itself on a holistic approach, from an app clearly designed with customers foremost in mind, to a simple system of providing ‘before’ photos of the car before it’s driven in order to help service users avoid unfair damage claims.
Shared & electric vehicles
Shared mobility solutions and electric vehicles are individually some of the hottest avenues of development in the automotive sphere, so any ventures combining the two are to be taken notice of. The German city of Hamburg3 is a veritable beacon in terms of conduciveness to EV adoption, its 1.8 million population presented with 785 public charging points, showing a clear commitment to such vehicles’ necessary infrastructure. MOIA, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, will unveil in Hamburg in April this year a 100-vehicle fleet of electric VW vans with the intention of the service flourishing to 500 by spring 2020. The app-based ride-sharing service underpinned by electric vans with a 300km battery range aims to provide an alternative to private car ownership and also to augment public transport4.
Multi-modal transport mobility
Multimodal mobility is another segment into which much impetus is being poured, and in Vancouver, Canada, the city’s transportation authority, TransLink5, is looking to partner with other services to make end-to-end travel seamless for its region’s residents. Rather than letting the city’s transport network, car and bike-sharing services essentially compete, it’s great to see that people are being put first, bundled mobility becoming a reality through partnerships between TransLink, Evo Car share, Modo Co-operative and bike-sharing provider Mobi by Shaw Go.
Last-mile mobility receives as much focus as other parts of the chain and, over in South East Asia, the impressive e-scooter sharing fleet operated by Neuron Mobility6 has just expanded its reach to the city of Cyberjaya in Malaysia, home to the region’s ‘Multimedia Super Corridor’. The company’s primary aim is to improve personal mobility in urbanised areas by linking with smart city technology and enterprises. Geospatial simulation models and real-time telematics are incorporated into Neuron Mobility’s electric scooter-sharing offering and it’s impressive that they require new users to complete some safety training before a scooter can be used – although this may prove a barrier to adoption for some prospective users.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas never fails to host an abundance of remarkable developments, unveils and concepts and, following a poll7 of circa 3,000 Americans by the U.S. Postal Service identifying that more than half would welcome robots making deliveries, household tyre brand Continental has certainly pushed the conceptual boundaries. The company envisages fully-electric driverless pod vehicles piloting up and down streets with several deployable robotic dogs on board, working as an efficient team to effect flexible deliveries right to the door. Scalability is cited as a massively important part of refining and making a future success of Continental’s Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE)8, and although concern over gig economy workers losing income as a result of such technology is fair, its 24/7 customer-focus will certainly prove attractive to many end consumers.
Car subscription services remain a niche in the MaaS industry but continue to improve, with Drover, for example, partnering with BMW9 last year to enable customers to taste the brand’s models including MINI on an entirely flexible basis, followed by an announcement this December that Citroen, DS Automobiles and Peugeot are also joining the Drover fold10. Some voices justifiably question the financial benefits of car subscription services like Drover11, rightly pointing out that monthly fees are typically much higher than financing or leasing a car12. It must be remembered, though, that Drover and similar operators are proving a superlatively flexible service with just a month’s cancellation, while prices include maintenance, repairs, insurance and sometimes other welcome perks such as breakdown and recovery.
Smart and connected urban areas
Smart cities full of autonomous, electric vehicles shuttling people and parcels around are becoming ever more exciting, but question marks could be raised over whether the race to reshape urbanities is financially wise at a time when local authorities face a wide range of challenges. Observing OEMS, tech’ firms and others channelling endeavours into making mobility more accessible and affordable while the world’s roads lie in a poor state is somewhat incredulous to observe, Deloitte putting a figure of $7.5 trillion on the funds13 required to modernise the global road infrastructure by 2040.
Operators will continue to come and go in the MaaS world, Paris’ Autolib EV ride-share platform, for instance, recently ceasing business after expenses proliferated, usage became chronically low and vandalism concerns escalated – but the gap left by this particular seven-year-old scheme was essentially filled by Renault, a car manufacturer with a clear focus on EVs. One hundred Zoe cars and twenty eye-catching Twizy examples have been made available via the Moov’In.Paris programme, its members enjoying free parking and charge point use.
Concluding our look at some of the latest developments in mobility, it was encouraging following the release of ‘Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 report – Delivery Plan 2020-2025’ that Andy Burham, the region’s metro mayor, is infectiously keen on driving down congestion and emissions pollution while improving air quality and resultant health, and aims for half of all feasible daily journeys to be made using public transport, switching to riding a bike and/or walking.
The clearly multi-pronged approach to developing mobility solutions for the world we live in and the decades ahead is welcomed as it continues ensuring that as diverse a range of products and services as possible are continuously being devised, including concepts as remarkable as the aforementioned robotic courier dogs. Gone are the days of traditional vehicles solely being acquired by purchase, finance or lease, and technology permeates so many aspects of manufacturers’ models and indeed the streets and even buildings around them, Lukas Neckermann’s assertion quoted at the outset ringing true.
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