Technology is helping transform the future of urban transportation by influencing what mobility will look like, and how it will impact the modern city-scape. A recent article by Forbes Technology Council explained that there is a shared consensus around the four key features of future mobility: shared, hybrid, autonomous and electric. The next question becomes, what will mobility services will be available in the coming years? We have done some research to help breakdown the different perspectives on shared mobility as a mode of transportation in the future.
Recently consumers have shifted their interest towards electric vehicles as a more sustainable and environmentally conscious option for long-distance travel. Predictions expect electric vehicles to surpass traditional combustion cars within the next 20 years, with 57% of passenger vehicles and more than 30% of global passenger vehicle fleet sales being electric by 2040. With this growth also comes a need for additional charging infrastructure to allow the vehicles to travel further over long distances. Currently there are about 13,000 electric vehicle fast charging stations across the US, compared to roughly 332,000 gas stations. Companies such as Volkswagon, GM and Tesla, have announced they are working on creating charging that will help drive sales in the future. Successful expansion into the market will require cities to develop smart plans that accommodate the needs of electric mobility.
Shared mobility has grown extensively since Uber (2009) and Lyft (2012) first entered the market. More and more operators continue to emerge worldwide, offering at least one ridesharing service to people in over 700 cities. These services are expected to expand even further in the future as a result of increased urbanization, as well as growing concerns around sustainability, economic stability and emissions. A report by the Internet of Things’ analyst firm, Berg Insights, found the number of car-sharing service users will grow from 50.4 million people in 2018 to 227.1 million people in 2023. Offering mobility as a service is helping reduce the number of single-use vehicles on the road, lending itself to a more functional form of travel.
A major challenge facing urban drivers is the issue of congestion and traffic jams. In some metropolitan cities, such as London, the problem lead to the enforcement of congestion charges in their most heavily populated neighbourhoods. In effect since 2003, these charges have helped reduce traffic by 30%, will simultaneously generating funds for the city. But is that enough? Autonomous vehicles are believed to be the next step in reducing congestion. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that when a fleet of autonomous vehicles are effectively communicating, keeping traffic moving smoothly, congestion rates could be reduced by 35%.
Micro-mobility is the use of small mobility devices, designed to carry one or two people, or ‘last-mile’ deliveries. This goes hand-in-hand with the rising interest in e-scooters and e-bikes that have seen exceptional sales growth in recent years. The combination of electric with single-use, lightweight vehicles is expected to surpass traditional modes of transportation. In their annual technology, media and telecommunications predictions, Deloitte predicted more than 130 million e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023. Compared to the 1.8 million sold in Europe and 185,000 in the US during 2013, this significant increase suggests that e-bikes and other technology like it are the future of mobility.
How are city’s supporting?
Cities across the world have begun adapting strategies to assist with the future of urban mobility. Being the leader in reducing traffic, Singapore introduced Area licencing Scheme in 1975, enforcing a daily toll charge of $3 or $60 monthly for cars entering a central zone area during peak hours. The city experienced success resulting in fewer cars entering the zone during peak hours, a 35 percent increase in carpools and a minimum of $500 million saved by the city that could be used towards infrastructure improvements. The system has since been updated to an Electrical Road Pricing system in order to match the changing demands of the city’s core.
San Francisco has yet to enforce congestion pricing for its traffic heavy neighbourhoods, however, research is being conducted to determine the best solutions for the city. The Emerging Mobility Evaluation Report by the San Francisco Transportation Authority found 90 percent of all motor vehicle collisions are caused by human error, with approximately 80 percent involving some level of inattention. This has lead to a shift towards alternative modes of mobility and potential pilot projects within the city core. San Francisco has become known for its low income bike share programs. Launching in 2013 the Bay Area Bike Share Pilot requires at least 20% of stations be located in low-income communities, with an estimated 320 stations and 4,500 in 2017. Data collected by the Bike-sharing Blog estimates there are twice as many bike-sharing programs in the world as there were in 2014, with nearly 20 times more bikes available for public use.
The doors have opened for industry leaders to start making innovations within auto-mobility, influencing the modern city-scape. In addition to placing restrictions on heavily congested areas, the city of Helsinki has focused its efforts on improving the existing infrastructure and transportation options to encourage people to utilize other modes of mobility. A leader in mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platforms, the city plans to replace 2.3 billion urban private car journeys annually by 2023. One of the ways it’s begun to accomplish this is through the app Whim. An app developed specifically for Helsinki, Whim provides access to all of the city’s mobility options through a monthly subscription. The future of mobility is at people’s fingertips.
Cities around the world are beginning to explore the possibilities of e-scooters as a means to travel short distances too far to comfortably walk, as well as a potential solution towards reducing the reliance on cars. The city of Tallahassee launched a pilot program in partnership with five major e-scooter companies: Bird, Lime, VeoRide, Spin and Gotch. The purpose is to determine solutions for the major problems being faced, but to also help develop good ridership habits. The companies deployed 200 e-scooters, each capable of travelling 15 mph, under new legislation that allows them to be treated the same as bicycles. With the success of programs such as this, and companies making pledging to maintain social responsibility for user safety, e-scooters as a primary mode of mobility are on the rise.
Nuro, a self-driving start-up, is one of the few companies to currently have a fleet of fully driverless vehicles operating on public roads. In February 2019, the company secured roughly $1 billion in additional funding from SoftBank allowing them to partner with the grocery-store chain Kroeger’s for a pilot project. The pilot service has been delivering groceries in Houston, Texas since March 2019, with expansions to include other goods like Domino's Pizza and Walmart products. As of right now the fleet stands at about 75 vehicles, with plans to go public in 2020. By introducing fully automated vehicles into the market, the number of people on the road will be reduced, optimizing efficiency and offering greater protection from potential collisions or incidents.
In addition to reducing traffic in major cities, mobility companies are also focusing their resources on addressing concerns of energy consumption and emissions. The smart scooter mobility company, Gogoro, aims to leverage the power of technology in order to change the way technology is consumed and transform how cities operate to improve sustainability. Their first fleet of smart scooters launched in 2015, delivering a high performance electric riding experience to uses in Taiwan. The company also established a network known as the Gogoro Energy Network in Taipei offers more than 1,581 battery swap stations and supports over 199,478 battery exchanges every day. In Europe, a fleet of 3,500 emissionless smart scooters were released across three major countries in 2018, helping reduce CO2 emissions by 123,655 tons and displacing more than 58,731,863 liters of gasoline. By leveraging technological progress and innovations in modern infrastructure, Gogoro is becoming a leader in transportation solutions.
Companies, like Tortoise, are looking to expand the capabilities of scooters even further by introducing fleets that can move autonomously across a city and reposition themselves, without a rider. The goal is to tackle the biggest challenge currently facing operators: relocating scooters. Tortoise plans to use autonomous technology combined with teleoperation to reposition and rebalance dockless, shared e-scooters in cities. The initial deployment will include between 50 to 100 scooters per operator in each market with the intention to equip every fleet with the ability to autonomously reposition themselves. Autonomous micro-mobility like e-scooters and e-bikes are believed to be the start for creating smarter, more technologically advanced cities.
How can we help?
As both industry leaders and cities around the world are finding new ways to support the rising trend of micro-mobility, we at ATOM Mobility want to help entrepreneurs looking to enter the market. We believe that shared mobility is the future of transportation, offering assistance with integrating industry-leading vehicles ready for shared mobility, including kick scooters, scooters, bikes, mopeds, cars and more. Our customers have an excellent grasp on the current needs of local markets, and we allow them to focus on marketing and operations, while taking care of the technology.