2019 was an interesting year in shared mobility and one that makes one wonder if shared mobility is here to stay: Large automotive players such as ShareNow pulling out of entire markets altogether. Uber and Lyft IPOs flopped and with no profit on the horizon any time soon we don’t expect this to change. The micromobility hype has flattened out with cities tightening regulations and putting vehicle caps that make it difficult to run a profitable business.
Yet not everything was doom and gloom. Local, independent players have expanded into new markets, collaboration is becoming the new norm and at long last, we are seeing some major movements in Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) with projects and pilots launched in Berlin, Vancouver or Madrid. 2019 has also seen the biggest growth for electric vehicles. Whilst there is still hesitation and a lack of much needed infrastructure, the adaption of EVs has been undeniable.
2019 was a learning curve and its legacy will be how we as an industry manage to learn from the successes and failures that transpired within the industry throughout the last twelve months. The foundation for CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) vehicles are being laid and failure is part of such a fundamental shift of how we move around in communities. Heading into 2020, we expect to see more solutions to the problems asked in 2019. This article, however, takes a look over the last year and we discuss the top trends and technologies of 2019.
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Top Mobility Trends of 2019
1. learning from success and failure
Over the past twelve months, we have seen the number of shared mobility operators grow. As of May 2019 carsharing is offered in 59 countries, which equates to 30% of the entire world. There were 236 carshare operators in 3,128 cities worldwide. Micromobility options also have continued to grow, for instance moped share Revel has expanded to several new markets in the United States. Tier, Circ or Lime finally seem to have hit mass adoption with Americans taking more than 84 million trips.
Unfortunately, even though the demand for shared mobility grows, we have also seen many major players drop out of the market. When BMW/Daimler Mobility brand merged at the beginning of 2019, they went public with promise to expand their carsharing service to a further 19 cities, only to be shutting down their operations across all of North America and three European cities. Running a shared mobility service isn’t easy, in fact it is hard. Transportation is a slim-margin business and the complexities and challenges involved in operating a free-floating service are daunting. Each market has its own idiosyncrasies and you have to understand them to optimize supply and demand accordingly. Providing shared mobility is a major shift from selling products to providing a service that members can rely on for their everyday life.
That being said, there are shared mobility services that are performing well and capturing the attention and loyalty of their customers. Most of them are untethered from the automotive industry. For example, Getaround is adding sharable branded cars to its peer-to-peer-centric fleet, ekar just launched services in Saudi, Sixt is making a play for market domination with its to multi-modal car renting/sharing/hailing and micromobility services.
With a decline in car ownership, the need for successful and reliable shared mobility services is at a high. And moving in to 2020, we hope to see new and reliable mobility options emerging, especially if we want to move towards a future where connected, autonomous, shared and electric technology is used to provide our cities with less congestion and pollution.
2. 2019 MOBILITY-AS-A-SERVICE
A big development this year has been an increase in Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) technology and platforms. As mobility solutions grew, so to did the need to combine all these services into a user-friendly system. While this has been a learning process, it has created better collaboration and understanding between the public and private sectors. This work is still on-going on local and international levels. Building relationships between city governments/public transportation and private operators is difficult – with competing business interests – but rewarding work if it’s aligned along a shared vision.
MaaS is essentially the idea of a the ‘complete trip’. It is the convergence of technology and mobility to get from point A to point B. At each stage of the trip, a traveller’s need for information using technology will change. Understanding these needs grew considerably in 2019. Taking a look back at Translink’s Future of Mobility Speaker series on MaaS, guest speaker David Zipper defined a ‘pure MaaS’ system as having these four components; multimodal Trip Planning, multimodal ticketing, a subscription feature and great customer support. Currently, there are no systems available that contain all four.
The best known example of a third party Mobility-as-a-Service system currently in place is Whim (Helsinki). The federal government in Finland mandates all transportation companies to have an open API (application programming interface). Any company, whether that is MaaS Global, Moovel or Free2Move (all of them offer MaaS apps) can then tap into the transportation data which helps them provide their service. MaaS Global built the app Whim, which allows users to see all different mobility services available from public transit to car and bike share. While some of the early results of Whim have been impressive, it still has a way to go with fewer than 1% of non-vehicular trips being booked through the app so far.
2019 has seen several MaaS projects launched with public transit operators as the backbone. For instance transit operator BVG in Berlin launched Jelbi earlier this year. They have created an app that includes car share, bike share and multi modal public transportation options. The user pays for their entire trip using this app and then the transit agency distributes the money to the partnered companies. The issue is, that on app stores, transit agencies usually have low ratings, so the question is ‘will they be agile enough to create a viable MaaS application in every city?’
TransLink in Vancouver also launched a pilot program together with two local carshare and one bike share provider. Less technologically advanced it is built on the existing fare card used in Vancouver. However, the pilot has a laser sharp focus on a specific use case (work-relate travel), something that we predict will become more prevalent in the next years.
We are looking forward to seeing more widespread MaaS systems develop in 2020 on an international level.
3. 2019 mobility: NEW DATA SHARING STANDARD
Data sharing continues to be vital for mobility and tools that facilitate mobility systems, such as MaaS. As we mentioned before, it has been challenging obtaining and sharing data between private mobility providers (such as ridesharing companies) and public transportation agencies as well as city municipalities. This data has been critical to understanding not only the market share of various mobility services in a city or region, but also the impact that these services have on public transport and as well as user behaviour.
At the beginning of the ride hail revolution, cities missed out on their chance for data collection. However, with the rise in micromobility, it became a second chance to use data to answer the questions they had. The main data they request from the micromobility provider are:
- The number of trips taken and vehicles on the road. Are they complying with caps etc.
- Maintenance logs and the lifecycle of equipment, such as scooter and bikes.
- Complaints from users and from the general public
- Have their been many injuries are they complying with safety regulations?
In terms of data, there are two main standards within the industry:
- GTFS – The General Transit Feed Specification defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information
- GBFS – The General Bikeshare Feed Specification which shows in real time data on the availability of docked and ‘dockless’ bike sharing services.
This rise of multimodal solutions such as scooters, bikes and mopeds on city streets has created a need and demand for tracking. In an effort to avoid sidewalk clutter, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation developed a groundbreaking digital tool called Mobility Data Specification, or MDS, to collect data on individual dockless vehicles and notify companies when vehicles are parked illegally.
The main issue with data sharing is ensuring privacy. There are several potential solutions that enable cities to protect against unnecessary risks associated with free-flowing, unprotected personal trip data. One of which includes secure third party data platform solutions, such as Populus, that allow for cities to efficiently harness mobility data for important policy and planning decisions. Moving into 2020, we expect to see an increase in data analytics platforms that broker the relationship between public and privately owned transportation companies.
4. Electric cars had their biggest year ever
Electric cars had their biggest year ever in 2019. The numbers were huge. Automakers committed $225 billion to electrification in the coming years. Electric vehicles (EVs) made up 2.2% of the global vehicle market over the first 10 months of 2019 as new models hit the road. Ford showed off the upcoming electric Mustang Mach-E (a crossover SUV) and an electric F-150 pick-up. Tesla, of course, shocked the world by making a profit and previewing its latest vehicle design, the “cybertruck”.
While shared mobility pivots around evolving tech so too are EVs. That being said, throughout 2019 we saw carshare operators adding electric vehicles to their fleet and full electric car share services becoming more popular. For example Volkswagen launched WeShare all-electric car sharing service this year. Closer to home, a developer in South Surrey/White Rock BC recently announced their plans to launch an all-electric car-share company with 2,000 shared vehicles available in White Rock and Surrey next year. The potential for autonomy, efficiency, and zero emissions, as well as showcasing their responsive, smooth, and quiet handling are the major benefits for incorporating EVs into shared mobility systems.
However, even though we have seen a definite uptake in the adaption of electric vehicles, in order for carshare operators to increase their electric fleets a few things need to happen over the next few years:
- Charging infrastructure needs to grow. Although range anxiety is a thing of the past for modern EVs, electric scooters, cars, buses, bikes all are in need of recharging. This demands public charging infrastructure investments and major grid upgrades by governments. However, these could be offset by curb-side charging stations, installing chargers in public parking lots towards a shared mobility services.
- Demand needs to increase. EVs are simpler to build. EVs could potentially be far more economical to build too given the interchangeability of the vehicle architecture. Higher demand generates high volumes and economies of scale in EV and battery production. With the current costs though, it is difficult to generate those volumes and hence production costs remain higher. One of the best ways to introduce consumers to EVs is in a shared service where the higher costs are absorbed by the fleet owners.
- Incentives need to be revised to include shared service providers. Current incentives on EV purchases are targeted at the individual consumer buying a vehicle. If the objective of governments and municipalities is to reduce vehicles on the road, they need to think about creating incentives that support shared fleet operators more. There are some examples that provide such incentives, for instance Madrid has a Restricted Access Zones and EVs benefit of parking privileges (whether they are in fleets or not). We need more of these types of incentives if we want higher adoption rates.
Moving forward into the next decade, we as leaders in the industry need to ensure that the ‘S’ in ‘CASE’ (Connected Autonomous Shared and Electric) is given just as much attention as the C, the A and the E.
What we have learned in 2019 is that legacy doesn’t always equal value and reliability. So perhaps moving into 2020, it’s time for big corporations to listen to the success stories of smaller local players, for all of us to collaborate more to create seamless experiences and push governments to launch incentives that support the shared mobility industry better.
Because having successful shared mobility systems in both urban centres and rural areas is vital for a sustainable future for the next generation.
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Note: This article has not been endorsed or sponsored by any of the providers mentioned and there is no affiliation between movmi and them.