How Sanitation Methods Have Taken Center Stage in Shared Mobility
Since the advent of the virus outbreak, public modes of transportation have taken a serious hit and lost ridership due to the proximity at which commuters travel. The CDC requested employers to offer incentives to their staff to choose alternatives such as personal mobility and biking, to mass transit. Regular cleaning and sanitation is one of the best ways to assure customers of the shared mobility that the service is safe to use during an ongoing pandemic.
Ride sharing and car sharing services serve as a balance between personal car ownership and mass transit and have taken various sanitization measures in order to keep their fleet clean and virus-free. A majority of companies have adopted frequent cleaning and disinfecting with EPA recommended disinfectants and chemicals.
This article will discuss:
- Why operators should take a pro-active approach to sanitation.
- What new cleaning technologies are tested.
- How new materials and technologies are being used in vehicle manufacturing.
Active SANITATION bolsters trust in shared mobility
Scooter sharing companies such Bird, Lime, Jump, Voi and Spin have increased the daily frequency at which they disinfect their scooters and are cleaning the common touch points after every use and when the vehicle is taken to be charged/serviced.
Major car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and Sixt are cleaning and sanitizing the vehicles before someone rents them. This includes all sanitation of key fob, steering wheel, gear shift, centre console, door handles, rear view mirrors, fuel lid release, trunk release and other high touch areas.
Peer-to-peer car sharing platform Turo has started sending its active car hosts with sanitation kits and also partnered with third party cleaning services to give hosts a discount of 50% to have the vehicles cleaned professionally. Turo also partnered with Spiffy, a leading provider of hospital grade disinfectants for cars, to provide its car hosts with an exclusive service and free disinfection with first service.
Gig Car Share, one of the largest free-floating car share platforms in the USA, are making use of steam cleaners as their primary mode of sanitation, similar to Yego from Spain, that also uses steam cleaners capable of temperatures upto 300 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, they are providing every vehicle with a hand sanitizer for its sharing community, which is something Evo is also providing its customers with.
New cleaning technologies are being tested widely
UVC light is a known disinfectant with the ability to kill viruses and bacteria. It has the power to disinfect air, surface and objects. UV lights have been used in the healthcare and HVAC industry to sterilize the environment and tests are being made to use them in the aviation sector. There is a strong use case for UV disinfection on the inside and outside of vehicles, particularly for shared vehicles or taxis.
Mevo Car Share based out of New Zealand, is using a UV germicidal light in order to inactivate the virus and bacteria inside a vehicle, while also using alcohol wipes to help in thoroughly cleaning their fleet.
Octo Telematics, one of the leading players in smart telematics, has created solutions to help the world adapt to a ‘new normal’. PurePlace makes use of the Octo OBD device and a NASA patented purifier to sanitize the vehicle after each use. The device makes use of the 12V supply inside a car and is quick to install. The system allows a user to check if the vehicle is sanitized before hiring/renting the vehicle, while also maintaining the sanitized environment during the journey.
GHSP, a global supplier for electromechanical systems for the automotive and transportation industry has announced a UVC technology brand called grenlite. The system uses UV Angel technology and an array of smart sensors to detect when the vehicle is unoccupied and uses UVC light to disinfect surfaces that have been interacted with. This technology was showcased in a Ford Transit van during CES 2020, simulating ride-sharing use.
Magna, a global automotive supplier, has developed a sanitizing box capable of using ozone that is capable of killing viruses and bacteria. Magna is looking at ways to leverage this technology for future mobility applications such as ride-hailing and car sharing.
Yangfeng, one of the top suppliers in vehicle cabins and interiors, has developed a smart cabin design called Wellness Pod, which santizes vehicle interiors with UV light while also dispensing scent in the end. The company sees this having increased use cases in the sharing and ride-hailing markets. Major automaker, Hyundai Motor Group, on the other hand, has plans to develop an interior cabin light that also comes with a sterilization feature. The headboard mounted light could have a UV light unit that could sterilize the seats, floor and dashboard.
Learn more about the practical uses of UVC light technology within the shared mobility industry here, in this short webinar with Jesse Halfon and Rafael M. Acevedo:
For more information about UV disinfection technology click here.
New materials and Technology to Future-Proof cars for Shared Mobility
Vehicle manufacturers are focused on developing autonomous and shared vehicles, and with the impact of pandemic expected to continue for a few more years, an important issue to address has always been to reduce the touch points as well as keep surfaces and interiors clean.
There are a large number of companies that have developed antimicrobial surface coatings that can help prevent viruses and bacteria from propagating, reducing the risk of spread upon contact. These coatings are not likely to completely prevent microbial spread and growth, but are capable of reducing the risk involved. Wheels, a sharable ebike company, has added a new feature – self cleaning handlebars and brake levers using NanoSeptic’s technology, which uses light and nano-crystals to create a strong oxidation reaction creating a self cleaning surface. Car interior companies such as Lear and Adient have developed antibacterial / antimicrobial fabrics they make use for their seating systems, which are expected to inhibit microbial growth and are expected to be potentially used by automakers for their future models.
Ford has created a software solution for the air conditioning units which rises the interior temperature above 55 degrees C (133 degrees F) for 15 minutes to reduce the concentration of viruses inside the vehicle. This software enhancement is being tested in the Police Interceptor Utility vehicle which is used by law enforcement through North America. This enhancement has the potential to be used in other first response vehicles and in future in vehicles of shared mobility.
Digital keys & remote unlocking is another way to reduce the number of contact points before hiring/sharing a vehicle. Automakers designed key cards and mobile phone apps for unlocking the vehicle using the smartphone. This feature has been seen in automakers such as Tesla, BMW, Lincoln and Hyundai on selected models and is expected to expand to their entire fleet. This makes it easy to adopt these vehicles for car sharing fleets and eliminate the need for a key fob or key card.
Apple announced the Car Keys feature for the new BMW 5 Series, allowing the iPhone to remotely unlock the car. This feature is soon expected to be expanded to vehicles that support CarPlay, following which can be easily leveraged for car sharing networks to provide digital keys to their users. This technology has been developed by other technology providers such as Turo with their Turo Go and Octo Telematics with their Octo KeyLess, as well as automotive supplier Bosch with its Perfectly keyless for passenger vehicles. Smartcar, a car API developer for mobility applications and have the capabilities to allow car manufacturers to make use of digital key sharing for car sharing and car wash use cases.
Another feature that is expected to reduce the touch points outside the car is in-vehicle payment. This payment method leverages the infotainment screen to help users pay for services used during a commute, such as toll, parking fees, fuel, drive through restaurants and grocery delivery.
Moving forward, the best course of action from a mobility operators’ perspective is to deep clean their fleets and increase the frequency of cleaning. With a recommended list of cleaners and disinfectants, the EPA also provides a step-by-step guide to making frequently touched surfaces virus free. Most of the service providers in the mobility space have adopted this method for quick disinfecting their fleet and this is expected to keep the users and maintenance crew safe until the pandemic settles.
Experimenting with new sanitation techniques such as UV-C Light, Ozone cleaners and steamers are expected to bring about chemical free cleaning methods, while also being able to disinfect surfaces quickly and effectively. More and more mobility providers are future proofing their cleaning methods and it is likely to be adopted by a larger number of providers by the end of the year.
An increasing number of vehicle manufacturers and parts suppliers are developing antimicrobial features for their products, and the strong interest from consumers is more likely to be the trigger for these solutions making it to new vehicles in another 2-3 years. These features paired together with keyless entry/digital key solutions are expected to make vehicle ownership and usage with minimum touch points possible, right from the factory.
If shared mobility companies choose this direction, it would make it easy for people to trust shared mobility services in the future and in the event of any other future risks surrounding personal and community hygiene.
Guest article written by Balakrishnan Venkata who has a postgraduate in Automotive Systems Engineering, with experience in market research and strategic consulting, who has a strong interest in vehicle dynamics and low-carbon transportation, particularly electrified vehicles.