Multimodal mobility

The race to build an integrated mobility system of the future is still wide open.

Tons of ideas and billions of funding are flowing into ride-sharing, software and hardware for autonomous vehicles and even designing personal air taxis. But the race to build the mobility system of the future around multimodal options that really meet customer needs is still wide open.

That’s according to mobility and automotive experts speaking at this year’s CES trade show in Las Vegas. They pointed out the so far unmet needs for unbiased mobility advisors, data partnerships across many players, and the lack of guiding principles for cities to enable more sustainable transportation models that are also financially viable.

The search for the big idea

Renowned management thinker John Hagel noted that a lot of experimentation to better move people and goods is taking place. However, he doesn’t see anyone articulating a comprehensive view what the mobility of the future will look like. ‘There is a big opportunity to pursue shaping strategies.’

Hagel said the state of mobility innovation reminds him of the tech silos of the IT industry of decades ago where individual players held on to their data and were not willing to connect them.

What’s needed, though, is a disruptive visionary who defines a system of systems, similar to what happened with global standards for container shipping in the 1950s. ‘These shapers usually come from the outside and are not leaders of a major institution,’ Hagel explained.

A huge market

Consultancy Ark recently pegged the value of the entire autonomous mobility as a service market at $10 trillion by the 2030s.

Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer with San Francisco-based ride-hailing service Lyft, agreed that it will be several years before such a ‘shaper’ emerges. The fact that most automotive and technology players pursue their own autonomous driving projects while entering multiple alliances and investment deals shows that they’re all hedging their bets.

He also shared recent data from a survey among 30,000 Lyft customers in 2017 that he said document a quick and significant shift in transportation preferences. Extrapolating from those numbers, Kapoor estimated that 250,000 people in the U.S. got rid of a vehicle in their household because of ride-sharing options. Half of those polled said they significantly cut back on their individual car use. ‘Now is the time to get rid of your second car. You don’t need it.’

The number one destination for Lyft rides in San Francisco is the regional rail station

Even more important is the fact, Kapoor argued, that already 40 percent of all rides on the platform are shared, a behavioural shift that requires customers to feel comfortable about getting into a vehicle with complete strangers. The strategist also pointed out that the number one destination for Lyft rides in San Francisco is the regional rail station—underscoring the need to coordinate future mobility offerings with public transit providers and personal activities such as walking and biking.

John Moavenzadeh, head of mobility with the World Economic Forum, warned to consider the rise of robo-taxis as the silver bullet for solving modern mobility problems. Rather, they create new problems. ‘You can’t take the ridership of the London Tube, stick it in autonomous vehicles and expect a better mobility solution,’ the WEF manager warned.

How to transform a transportation system wisely

Cities that want to build an integrated system made up of different modes of transportation should push ride-sharing trough dynamic pricing for road usage based on parameters such as a vehicle footprint, its weight or driving during special events. It would also make up for revenue lost through decreased public transit ridership, less parking revenue and tickets—losses that many cities already anticipate.

The WEF, Moavenzadeh said, has been working on developing a system for smart, integrated mobility (SIM). Its goal is to offer cities a set of guiding principles to quickly and easily implement a mobility operating system, among them the notion to think from the user’s or citizen’s needs outward. He expects at least one pilot in a major city base on SIM for this year.

Deloitte, which had organized a series of panels around smart cities at CES, released a global mobility index ranking major cities.

It might be more realistic to see change driven by large fleets than by individual owners

Even though mobility is undergoing a revolution, changes will still take time given the average life expectancy of 15 years, pointed out Craig Giffi, who runs Deloitte’s US automotive practice. It might be more realistic to see change driven by large fleets than by individual owners.

One way to engage users and bring about change, suggested Hagel, is an unbiased ‘mobility advisor who knows me better than anyone else.’ He wasn’t talking about a mapping app that may be pushing promoted destinations as a pay-for-play, but about a holistic service that goes beyond routing suggestions.

Are holistic services the solution?

Instead of taking people from point A to point B, it would recommend what point B to go to. ‘That’s a huge white space. I’d pay for such advice,’ Hagel said.

What such a neutral platform could look like was also on display at CES. Mapping platform Here, spun out of Nokia and now owned by the major German car manufacturers and a growing list of other players, unveiled a new multimodal transportation platform called Mobility Marketplace.

It’s supposed to aggregate the supply from as many providers as are willing to come on board, from airlines to ride-hailing services, taxi fleets and public transit. End users would be able to consult the platform for free to research and book the service they want, from a short ride across town to a flight, even hotel rooms and other retail services.

It’s about democratizing the mobility ecosystem.

Irit Singer, Marketing Manager Here Technologies

While Here plans to take a cut from service provider revenue, it would offer all businesses a rich diet of analytical data to see trends over time and fine-tune their services—valuable insights that right now only the dominant ride-hailing platforms Uber and Lyft and a few cities possess.

‘It’s about democratizing the mobility ecosystem,’ explains Here Technologies marketing manager Irit Singer. While wooing service providers to join, Here plans to release a consumer app later this year.

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