Nine Solutions for Connected Mobility

June 24, 2013 by Nicolas A. Zeitler 0

Foto: myTaxi

Photo: myTaxi

Planning a journey from A to B using more than one mode of transportation has always been rather like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Each item on the itinerary has to be booked separately: the taxi or train ride to the airport, the flight, and the train ride out to the suburb where your business meeting is due to take place. Not only is this process tedious and time-consuming, but a carefully planned itinerary can suddenly go completely “off track” if something unexpected happens, like a traffic jam, or a delay or cancellation caused by flooded railway lines or drifting snow at the airport. Experts at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants estimate that traffic-flow problems in the world’s 30 biggest megacities alone cost the global economy a whopping 266 billion dollars.

Roland Berger investigates the situation in a study entitled “Connected Mobility 2025”, but they are not content with merely describing the problem. Their aim is to sketch out a “new, optimistic picture of the future of passenger transportation”. While today’s transportation service providers tend, they say, to stick to their own particular patch – be it car rental, passenger flights, or cycle hire – the future belongs to “mobility managers” that cover each step in the journey, from planning to payment, under one roof. The study’s authors define “mobility managers” as mobile online platforms that allow travelers to change their route and mode of transportation whenever they choose, in order to fit their personal preferences or the current traffic situation.

New model for personal mobility

The basic conditions for establishing this new model of mobility are more favorable today than ever: This is down to the already widespread use of smartphones and the fact that public transit networks can now be managed intelligently in real time. The authors of the study divide their vision of “Connected Mobility” into nine segments, each with a different goal and mode of operation. Several providers are already active in each segment; some international, some regional. What they all have in common is that they are turning the fascinating vision of integrated, networked mobility into reality in relatively simple and pragmatic ways – though the individual solutions are not all-embracing. Some focus more on networking – on matching privately owned cars to occasional drivers – others on travel planning across several modes of transportation, from local public transit to air travel and taxi rides.

An overview of the solutions:

  1. Integrated travel booking (Multicity)
  2. Multimodal navigation (Moovel)
  3. Community-based navigation (Waze)
  4. Multilocation carsharing (car2go)
  5. Networked carsharing (tamyca)
  6. Corporate carsharing (Fleetster)
  7. Parking information (Parkopedia)
  8. Ridesharing (PickupPal)
  9. Taxi app (myTaxi)

Next page: Ticket booking, various modes of transportation, and community navigation

1. Integrated travel booking: The authors of “Connected Mobility 2025” define this as the integrated management of ticket booking, issue, and payment. These services are offered by providers such as Multicity, a mobility portal operated by carmaker Citroën for customers in France and Germany. In Berlin, Multicity also provides a carsharing service that operates a fleet of electric vehicles. The mobility portal promises to identify the cheapest, fastest, and most eco-friendly connection by comparing train, air and car travel. You enter your departure point and destination, your date of travel, your age, and whether or not you are eligible for a discount on rail travel (a German BahnCard subscription). Multicity calculates the cost, total duration, “useful time”, and environmental impact of the journey (in our test, the calculation took 25 seconds). If you want to travel from Munich to Aix-en-Provence for a ten-day vacation, for example, your cheapest option is to fly. However, the flight has the greatest environmental impact. Traveling by train would generate the smallest amount of CO2 emissions (54.2 kg) and provide the largest proportion of useful time for reading or snoozing (86%). If you travel alone by car you obviously have zero useful time, but − at just under twelve hours − the car journey is the quickest choice. Our test did reveal a couple of minor drawbacks: The portal couldn’t determine the price of the train journey and when we clicked “Book”, the screen suddenly and inexplicably displayed our departure point as Cologne Exhibition Center and our destination as Düsseldorf Airport.

2. Multimodal navigation: The authors define this category as navigation across various modes of transportation with integrated, real-time information. Providers in this field include Baidu Navi (China) and Moovel (Germany). The Moovel portal is available as an Android, iOS, or Web app and can therefore be used on most smartphones. It links up travel information from various providers in a number of Germany cities – “on an equal footing and without ideology”, as it states on its website. If you want to take a trip from Hegelplatz in the center of Stuttgart to the nearby town of Fellbach am Neckar, the portal shows you the train departure times and (via a link to myTaxi) the cost and journey time if you travel by taxi. This service currently covers Stuttgart, Berlin, and the Rhine-Ruhr region. As well as local public transit and taxi services, Moovel is also linked to the mitfahrgelegenheit.de ridesharing website and the car sharing service car2go. At the regional level, the offering is currently still rather limited, but the operators have promised to gradually add more options.

Community navigation: accident alerts in real time

3. Community-based navigation: These services aim to distribute traffic more evenly by analyzing traffic flows within a network. One example is Waze, an app that is available free of charge for iOS and Android. It combines global navigation with a “common good” approach. The 30 million or so drivers who use Waze automatically or manually contribute data about their journey, which the system uses to identify where traffic is moving slowly. Drivers who pass a police check, accident, road hazard, or traffic jam, for example, can enter that information and alert the other members of the driving community. Or they can log reports about new roads being built in their area to help ensure that Waze’s road maps are always bang up to date. The app also contains a world map showing real-time traffic alerts online. One glance at the map shows that the system is currently used almost exclusively in the eastern half of the United States.

Next page: Carsharing schemes

4. Multilocation carsharing: A large number of providers are already offering short-term rental cars that users simply pick up from multiple city locations and drive. car2go is a subsidiary of the Daimler Group and operates in several countries including the USA, the UK, and Germany. From Austin, Texas to London and Munich, the white and light blue-liveried car2go Smarts can now be seen in 21 different cities around the world. This rental car concept is tailored to city-based car travel. You can locate a car via the iOS and Android app, on the website (via Google Maps), or simply by looking for one parked at the side of the road. There is no fixed monthly fee. You only pay for the time that you actually use the car. And, if your car’s tank is less than a quarter full and you fill it up again before returning it, you get 20 minutes’ driving time for free.

5. Networked carsharing: In contrast to the previous solution, this peer-to-peer model enables car owners to rent their vehicles to each other. Worldwide, there are a handful of active providers, including RelayRides in the USA and tamyca in Germany. According to tamyca, the idea behind the service is to serve the interests of both car owners and occasional drivers. Car owners whose vehicles stand around unused most of the time can rent them to other drivers and earn some extra cash to help meet the cost of upkeep. Occasional drivers benefit by saving themselves the expense of buying and maintaining a car. Are you planning a leisurely drive starting in the center of Munich? A search covering a radius of two kilometers brings up about 20 hits – including a practical Fiat Doblò, a stylish BMW Z4, and a laid-back Opel Astra. Spur-of-the-moment trips are not always possible however. The providers quote response times for rental requests of up to four days. Plus, the renter must arrange to meet up with the owner to pick up the keys. The rental fees are paid by credit card, direct debit, bank transfer, or PayPal. During the rental period, the renter is covered by tamyca’s full or liability auto insurance.

Streamlining company cars via SaaS

6. Corporate carsharing: This category covers car- and ridesharing that is tailored to corporate customers and company fleets. One example is the “Avis On Location” program launched by car rental company Avis in the United States in 2011. In Germany, Fleetster specializes in corporate carsharing services. Company cars are no different from private cars in that − with the exception of vehicles used by the sales force − they stand around unused most of the time. Fleetster helps companies maximize the capacity utilization of their entire company fleet − from bicycles to trucks − and reduce the size of their vehicle pool, while still giving employees the opportunity to use fleet cars for private weekend leisure trips whenever they’re not needed for business purposes. Companies use the platform on a software-as-a-service basis, without having to install it locally. Employees simply reserve a vehicle on the Internet or via a smartphone app and pick up the keys from reception or a key safe. The “Pro” version for an unlimited number of users and vehicles costs ten euros per month; the monthly fee for the “Eco” version, which offers additional range management for electric cars, is 15 euros per month.

Next page: Parking, ridesharing and taxi apps

7. Parking: Looking for a parking space in a big city can eat up valuable time. But help is at hand, because there are special services available that provide information about free spaces; some even provide brokering and peer-to-peer rental services. Parkopedia‘s directory contains information about more than 28 million parking spaces in 40 countries and over 6,000 cities worldwide, including public parking garages, roadside parking zones, and private driveway parking that can be used for a fee. When you click one of the colored flags shown on the cit map you have chosen, detailed parking information appears: opening times, tariffs, and other features (video surveillance, covered/uncovered parking), and user ratings. Some parking spaces can be reserved online. Most can’t, however. And this is one of the drawbacks of the service: it does not provide real-time information about where free parking spaces are available. So, in some cases, drivers will arrive at a parking garage only to find that it is full and that they’ll have to begin their search all over again. Parkopedia can at least instantly suggest where there might be free parking spaces available in the neighborhood. This app, which was originally programmed for iPhone, is now also available for Android and Windows Phone, and as a Web app: according to the operators, work is also in progress to develop a BlackBerry version.

8. Ridesharing: This mode of carsharing was popular long before the Internet age began, so it is by no means a new concept. However, the proliferation of the Internet and smartphones has made it possible to organize rideshares in near real-time. With PickupPal, you can organize ridesharing activities all around the world. The network has more than 168,000 members and offers more than 140,000 ride-shares in over 120 countries. However, searching for a rideshare at a particular time is not straightforward. The search screen only asks for a destination, and the results list displays all the trips to that destination. You then have to search through the entire list to find a ride that is being offered at the time you want to travel.

Taxi app now with card reader

9. Taxi apps: Within a very short space of time, taxi apps have begun to make life very difficult for traditional taxi control centers. Founded in Hamburg in 2009 as a start-up, myTaxi is now well established in many other cities around the world. Whether you’re in Zurich, Barcelona, or London, you can use the myTaxi app to order a taxi direct from your smartphone. And, with myTaxi Payment, you can pay for your ride instantly via smartphone too. myTaxi recently introduced a card reader function as well. The taxi driver attaches the card reader to his or her smartphone, where it exchanges data with the myTaxi app. The passenger swipes a cash card or MasterCard through the reader and then signs the driver’s display screen to confirm the transaction. Currently, the car reader option is available in Germany, Spain, and the United States, and will also support payment by VISA card in the future. These apps are available for iPhone and Android smartphones; the passenger version is also available for Windows Phone.

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