Chances are that not a day goes by where you do not reach for your smartphone. Sending a message to a friend on another continent or conducting a video call with a new prospect has become everyday business. Going on behind-the-scenes to make all this possible are endless amounts of data connectivity and server communication to keep us all connected. With shared mobility, it’s no different.
The concept of sharing vehicles has significantly evolved in the last decade thanks to technology advances. While people were able to get by with paper-based booking and physical key exchanges, sharing assets often just took place within closed communities. With improved technology, fortunately, sharing anything from scooters to bikes to mopeds to cars can be done at scale and with only the limitation of imagination. Even though technology providers like INVERS have covered the critical elements needed for operators to run their shared mobility service successfully, it is important to revisit why key components of the tech stack are critical before venturing into advanced features that take mobility services to the next level.
Foundational Uses of Data
Case Study: Cabana
USA-based Cabana chose to use sharing technology to improve the rental process of their campervans. They were seeking a solution that could simplify the rental process for their adventure-bound customers. Cabana understood the critical role of reliable and scalable telematics would have in ensuring the entirely app-based process would be seamless and convenient. In practice, data from vehicles is used to:
Start and end the trip
Arguably, the worst experience someone can have with shared mobility is not being able to start or end the trip. The last thing you want is to be on your way somewhere but find that the vehicle that’s right in front of you won’t open. This gets people wary about relying on a tech-based mobility service. At the core, being able to start and end the trip without any issue relies on the vehicle’s telematics being able to connect to a cellular network provider and/or communicate with the operator’s mobile app via Bluetooth. At the same time, the network provider has to deliver high availability and good coverage in the business area as well. How do you address these challenges? Robust telematics and managed connectivity can connect to any service provider on available mobile communication networks which enables the vehicle to reliably start and end trips in real time.
Properly bill the trip
Starting and ending the trip properly ties into the sensitive area of billing. People do not want to be overcharged for their trip, even if they will eventually get a credit or refund. The best scenario is to bill the correct amount and that is possible in real time with the strong connectivity mentioned above. If a trip cannot end properly, the backend doesn’t know when the customer wanted to end the trip, leading to potentially incorrect charges.
Case Study: imove
Norway-based imove also chose to use sharing technology to improve their car subscription process. With every trip providing GPS data and driving behaviour information, imove could better understand their customer’s mobility patterns. imove knew that making sure the vehicles were optimally maintained was critical to offering their users a vehicle they could count on. This meant not just maintaining and inspecting the vehicle at the end of every trip, but also having the vehicle data insights throughout the trip as well, so that imove could troubleshoot or proactively manage the issue before it became problematic. In practice, data from vehicles is used to:
Manage vehicle health
Telematics delivers critical vehicle data, including heartbeats and tracking to monitor vehicle location and connectivity. Regardless of vehicle type and size, telematics data gives operators insight as to whether or not the vehicle is still connected, is parked or moving, or if the gas or battery charge is low. Without such data, an operator would struggle to manage the fleet and maintain high levels of availability and utilization. Combined with user data, telematics data also provides insights into how often someone uses the vehicle, average trip length, and more.
More Advanced Data Applications
Case Study: GOVECS
GOVECS, a German moped manufacturer, has been part of the growing demand for shared micromobility from the early days. As fleet suppliers of moped sharing services like emmy and Cooltra, GOVECS saw the need to make it even easier for operators to manage an ever increasing and diverse shared fleet. As a result, GOVECS decided to offer their latest Flex 2.0 moped as an already connected moped for sharing to take advantage of data-driven features, such as:
Motion sensor detection
Cars generally do not tip over, but scooters, bikes, and mopeds sure can. With built-in sensors from the telematics, operators can get alerts when one of these micromobility vehicles gets tipped over or is suddenly impacted by an accident. A field service agent can then be sent out to properly park the vehicle again to prevent further damage.
The accuracy of vehicle positioning is critical to knowing where vehicles are in order to monitor lost or stolen vehicles. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to use precise location tracking to enable geofencing-based features. For example, geofencing can trigger kick scooters and e-bikes to slow down in pedestrian-only zones. However, this can only realistically be done if the vehicle positioning is accurate at all times. The last thing you want is to have micromobility vehicles slowing down in the middle of a busy intersection a block away from the geofenced location.
Future Opportunities for Data Utilization: Operators, Cities & Users
By having the right technology in place, there are limitless possibilities to what operators can do to enhance their shared mobility service. With more data points, through events or heartbeats from the vehicle, the more insights you can gain about your user’s driving behavior. This gives operators the ability to understand usage patterns and trends to further shape their service offering. Combined with business intelligence tools, they will be equipped for predictive analytics, for example where vehicles should be placed or reshuffled to meet demand, with what type of vehicle, and when they can expect the next trip to be made.
Understanding user’s driving behavior can also provide an opportunity to work with progressive insurance companies to reduce their fees. Since they will have the data to show “good” or “bad” driving behavior, this can be reflected in how their fleet gets charged for insurance as well.
While data sharing brings up privacy concerns and ownership rights, it is important for operators to share some level of data with cities to further improve the infrastructure to support the growth of shared mobility services. Cities that have reliable data on how the curb space is used can better plan for dedicated space and balance the needs of pedestrians and shared mobility users. Data sharing can also help speed along the process of cities implementing dedicated bike lanes and a strong network of electric vehicle charging stations if they can see the demand exceeds the current supply.
Operators can further support the development of healthy, livable cities in a public-private partnership where sensors are equipped to vehicles to help measure air quality or other environmental measures. This takes advantage of vehicles already being driven around the city and does not require the city to invest in the vehicles themselves, just the sensor technology.
Policies and regulations are growing to protect users and their data. The balance between essential and excessive data remains subjective and a work in progress between operators, cities, and regulators. As long as users understand how their data is being used, there are benefits to users for having this data shared as well. For example, mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) integrations are built on the ability for operators and transit agencies to share data in order to enable a convenient trip planning and booking process all in one mobile app.
Steps to Take Now
Data is a broad term and encompasses many different aspects of a shared mobility service. While it can be an overwhelming task to understand and leverage all these data-driven opportunities, there are paths to materialize these opportunities more seamlessly. It starts with having a strong technology core that is developer-friendly. This will allow you to get started with the essential aspects of making sure the vehicle communication is solid. As your operations grow and develop, a strong and flexible core will allow your developers to build your ideas into more custom workflows. At the same time, having the key pieces of data will make it easier for your fleet manager to keep an eye out on the fleet and proactively address vehicle needs before they become an issue.
Article by INVERS – INVERS provides the reliable technology solution for leading shared mobility services worldwide. The components needed to run data-driven operations are embedded in all aspects of our sharing solution so that we can confidently enable mobility operators to successfully run their shared mobility service with a data-driven approach.
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