Smartphones vs specialized hardware
Mobility has seen a great number of innovations in the past few years with the adoption of smartphone technology by drivers and passengers. Most information technology features that previously needed expensive specialized hardware and infrastructure no longer require them. Who needs an onboard GPS now that you can use your smartphone? With millions of apps offering concierge, taxi or even food delivery services, smartphone technology has forever transformed mobility models.
How is that possible? Well, a few years ago, one had to set up a long and painful hardware design and testing procedure but now the development of smartphone software significantly reduces time to market. It also provides you with instant access to a community (colleagues, friends, volunteers, etc.) from which you will be able to spread your ideas into a full service proposition.
What is the result? A transport service that can be easily deployed by a few engineering companies with an innovative service and a web platform, making them de facto “instant transport operators”.
With increasing smartphone equipment penetration, technology can spread more easily and your ideas can rapidly become a success story.
The collaborative economy has been more and more popular in the last five years, thanks to its use of internet and smartphone technologies. By mastering tools to match supply and demand in an instantaneous manner (Uber, BlaBlaCar, etc.), it has radically changed the way people use transport services.
Collaborative economy services respond to the need for an immediate solution in an original, transparent, simple and structured way that reassures users.
VALUE vs USAGE
Collaborative economy models have a role to play in future transport trends by offering mobility alternatives and flexibility to users as well as by optimizing transport USAGE. For example, “all in one” mobility platforms such as Moovel combine in two clicks several real-time transport databases (bicycle, bus, train, car-sharing, carpooling, taxi, etc.) into one useful personal mobility tool, thereby offering scenarios that allow people to have the most efficient commute depending on time of day, budget and location.
With the arrival of new transport operators willing to move from an extensive use of cars to an intensive use of cars, we can observe the creation of several “mobility niches” in the mobility business: work carpooling platforms, airport car-sharing, parking – lot sharing, wheelchair-access vehicle car-sharing, etc.
Collaborative models can also boost technology adoption by bringing new customers to test a new service or a new product. Bollore, a French car manufacturer, adopted electric vehicles for its AutoLib public worldwide car-sharing service. BMW has done the same with its DriveNow program in San Francisco, Munich, Berlin and soon, in Vancouver. These shared mobility programs are introducing customers to the advantages of electric vehicles while reducing the number of cars used in busy metropolitan areas.
Optimizing current vehicle use
Collaborative practices can also help local businesses and communities get access to new mobility services and discover new markets. While several local or national carpooling operators are currently specializing in work commuting solutions, a trend in Europe is to implement corporate car-sharing models.
OpenFleet, a corporate car-sharing solution based in Montreal, has developed custom-designed fleet sharing technology and services targeting companies. It makes use of existing conventional, hybrid or electric motor pools.
By making company cars available, not only for professional use but also for personal use on a 24/7 basis, companies are building new mobility services that make life more flexible for their employees. As a staff member, you’re no longer borrowing a vehicle, you’re helping your own company to lower its Total Cost of Ownership and even to generate revenue through shared mobility.
A good example: a European national postal service charges its employees for using its “off-duty” vans and trucks for personal use evenings and weekends.
Such programs allow fleet owners to use their inventory of barely-used vehicles sitting idly in parking lots more efficiently. By combining these fleets with collaborative technologies, the result can be greater mobility in suburban or even rural areas, areas that are traditionally deficient in local transport infrastructure.
By developing “on demand” car-sharing ecosystems in peripheral zones, French peer to peer car-sharing operator Koolicar is progressively giving access to vehicles owned by local businesses to communities of individual users. Fleet managers therefore generate additional revenues.
Through its efficient use of information technology, the collaborative economy helps to optimize current vehicle utilization, reduce congestion in large municipalities and create new leasing services in suburban areas. It also allows for more sustainable practices by taking unused vehicles off the streets.
More than two decades after the launch of CommunAuto, Montréal’s car sharing service, and 15 years after the launch of Zipcar, most automotive OEMs are now involved with or closely monitoring car-sharing practices all over the world, adapting to new mobility trends. While automotive technology and infrastructure continue to evolve (autonomous vehicle, electric highways, etc.), collaborative economy solutions allow company fleets to be used more efficiently by businesses and individual users.
Special contribution from
Bruno is Director of Business Development (North America) for PVP Technologies, a Montreal-based company designing comprehensive corporate car-sharing technologies and services through its OpenFleet solution for fleets, cities, rental groups, pure players and car dealers.