Ridesharing

GM announced a $500 million investment in Lyft, an Uber competitor, and purchased the “remains” of Sidecar, the ride-hailing pioneer that folded at the end of 2015. GM will be bringing on board around 20 employees from the Sidecar team, including co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Jahan Khanna. The intent is to have driverless Lyfts in the future. With all of GM’s focus on new mobility models, maybe the acronym will stand for General Mobility 😉

Meanwhile, Lyft is adopting Waze as its default navigation app in an attempt to give the ride-sharing company’s drivers and passengers an extra advantage. In addition, Lyft announced a partnership that will enable seniors without smartphones to use their service.

A patent application published in January reveals that Facebook is looking to get into the ridesharing business. Recently, Facebook announced a partnership with Uber that would allow users to book a ride from Facebook’s Messenger app.

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Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize ridesharing services.  In BC, the government is apparently softening its criticism of ride-sharing business Uber, saying it’s only a matter of time before the service launches in the province. Meanwhile, in Québec, a coalition of taxi drivers intends to file an application for a class-action lawsuit against Uber.

Uber’s strategy in Toronto has been different. In this city, UberTaxi obtained a brokerage license while UberX continues to operate “illegally”. Also in Toronto, UberPool has arrived.

According to reports released over the last couple of months, thanks to Uber, taxi license values continue to decline. One report indicates that Toronto cabbies’ license values have dropped from some $360,000 in 2012 to below $100,000.

Uber continues to attract the interest of investors. In the last few weeks, Uber announced that it received almost $2 billion from Chinese investors to expand its business. The company’s Chinese operations are valued at $7 Billion and worldwide, Uber is valued at $70 Billion. Hmmm, that’s a whole lot of zeroes for an app with limited assets.

Uber has also partnered with TransLoc to integrate Uber into commutes with TransLoc Rider. We are inching towards Mobility as a Service. It will be interesting to see how transit and ride sharing companies evolve their relationships.

Oh, and just in case you missed it, a few weeks ago, Uber hit its one-billionth ride.

While most ridesharing offerings have been focused on urban areas, that may be changing. Mercedes-Benz and Via team up to launch a suburban ridesharing service.

And for people with reduced mobility, the Simon Mobile Application, a new application for persons is an application for navigation, orientation and parking designed for persons with reduced mobility. In Madrid, Parma, Lisbon and Reading, it provides access to important accessibility information such as the location of disabled parking spots or the location of elevators and ramps to access subway stations. With Simon Mobile, it is possible to compute walking, driving and transit routes and use step-by-step navigation during a trip. Mobility should be accessible to all, regardless of physical limitations.

The Consumer

The information that is shared by smart cars about the drivers has caught the attention of Canada’s privacy watchdog. This will increasingly be an issue going forward. Governments should start determining who owns the data as well as who can use the data and how.

A poll undertaken in Canada shows that Canadians are split with the issue of driverless vehicles. You will find here some of the statistics.

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At the end of last year, a survey of UK motorists stated that 39% of them would consider using a driverless vehicle.

Car sharing

GM has launched Maven, its car sharing service. Of course, the writing on the wall: as soon as fully autonomous vehicle technology is commercially available, Maven will go driverless.

Ford’s Credit Link announced its program that encourages sharing of vehicles among three to six people interested in collectively signing a 24-month lease of a Ford vehicle.

And in case you missed it, WaiveCar launched in Santa Monica and Venice, Calif., with a fleet of 20 compact, four-door electric cars. All you need to borrow one is a credit card, a driver’s license, and a smartphone. Rentals are made via smartphone app, and there’s no need to pick up keys—the company unlocks vehicles remotely when a user books the car, and the keys are inside.  Even more innovative, however, is WaiveCar’s business model, in which vehicles are loaned out at no charge to drivers for the first two hours. Even insurance is included for free. WaiveCar makes money because its cars are covered in advertising. The sponsor at launch is the Google-backed Oscar Health Insurance Corp.  Could this be a sign of where driverless vehicles will be going? Free rides in exchange for advertising exposure, sharing of information?  Already, studies undertaken in the US are indicating that Americans are willing to share personal information in exchange for something they consider of value. Could free rides be one these values?

Demographics, driving trends

A recently released study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute further supports the claim of the decline in driving. Here are some interesting statistics:

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Electrification of transportation

Germany is considering providing 2 billion euros to subsidize the purchase of more electric cars.

At the end of last year, the government of Ontario announced $20 million to increase the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations in the Province.

Meanwhile, in Québec, after a ministerial shakeup, the Ministry of Transportation has a new name and new Minister. Jacques Daoust will be the Minister responsible for Transportation, Sustainable Mobility and Electrification. That’s a positive signal!

More positive news from Montréal: the City has unveiled plans to install 106 charging stations for electric vehicles by next spring.

Two Canadian provinces (Québec and BC) have joined the international alliance for zero-emission vehicles.

CES 2016: A look at the future of mobility

Some of the members of the Transportation Evolution Institute attended the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Thanks to our friends from BlackBerry who made it happen!CES-PASSES

Obviously, lots to see and experience related to mobility. From drones to autonomous vehicles, a walk through the Las Vegas Convention confirmed that we will see more changes in mobility before the end of this decade than we have over the last fifty years. Following is a photo wrap up of our experience with some commentary.

 

Expect the dashboard to be converted to an enormous screen and the front windshield to be extremely intelligent with integrated GPS and more.

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Drones, drones and more drones of every size imaginable – from the hardly perceptible to the heavy duty.

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More EV models from more manufacturers are on their way.

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Despite the hype, we were disappointed with the Faraday Future vehicle. Yes, it made an impression but more concrete, pragmatic would have been appreciated.

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The vehicle is being re-designed to accommodate more comfortable long-distance travel, meetings and comfortable workspaces. VW is also thinking that its e-Buddy will also accommodate drone deliveries.

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Logistics

The future of deliveries may involve the use of drones zooming above pedestrians and traffic. Google X hopes to launch drone deliveries by 2017. The company’s “Project Wing” promises to deliver items via drones anywhere in a 5-mile radius within 5 minutes. project wing

Amazon released the latest design for its Prime Air delivery drone. A narrated video explains the service.prime-air_03-554x383

Meanwhile, Drone Delivery Canada, a Canadian delivery drone service is claiming that drone delivery services will be possible within two years. And, the Uber of drones has arrived: Future Aerial.

The future of deliveries may also involve small robot vehicles that travel on sidewalks. This is the vision of Starship Technologies, a London based startup. Starship Technologies says the 40-pound robot could make local deliveries in 30 minutes or less. The technology could be useful for neighbourhood restaurants and retailers. Because the robot is largely automated, requiring almost no human involvement, Starship Technologies thinks the costs of delivering goods will drop by an order of magnitude. The slow speed and grounded approach also removes some of the safety concerns with drone delivery.starship1

Dispatch is another organization with a vision of making robotic deliveries. Unlike Starship Technologies, Dispatch is targeting university campuses with hopes of scaling into other private locales.

Yet another company with a similar delivery robot vision is SIDEWALK. The company claims its robots can provide “instant (±15 min)” first/last-mile city delivery service of packages weighing up to 20 kg.

Transit

Transit has been ambivalent about some of the newer mobility options, including ride sharing. While these mobility options have the potential of taking riders away from transit, they also can contribute to an urbanite’s decision to give up vehicle ownership. In the latter case, transit ridership would be helped. The STM, Montreal’s public transit service, is making improvements to lure back some riders who are opting for the convenience of car-sharing services.

In Chicago, a cease-fire is emerging between mass transit and an array of sharing services, a striking change from when public officials searching for solutions to traffic gridlock generally bowed to a simplistic formula advocated by the transit agencies.

Do ridesharing services, like Uber and Lyft, reduce or add to the number of car trips undertaken in major cities? The Natural Resources Defence Council has announced that it will partner with UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) to assess the environmental impact of Uber and Lyft across the US.

Insurance

Who should pay for a self-driving crash?  Bastiaan Krosse, who heads the automated driving programme at research institute TNO, said decisions on insurance need to be taken now, before the self-driving car becomes a reality. 

USAA is offering insurance for ridesharing drivers in three more US states.

Japan’s Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance have jointly developed a new insurance product to cover risks involved in demonstration tests of self-driving cars. The new policy will cover possible risks involved in demonstration tests of self-driving cars in a comprehensive manner. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance believe the new product will encourage more companies to demonstrate their technology. Insurance premiums will differ, depending on the number of vehicles used in a demonstration test and the test period. They are expected to be between tens of thousands of yen (hundreds of dollars) and hundreds of thousands of yen per test per year. The two insurers expect to sell policies to automakers, research institutions, parts suppliers, telcos telecommunication firms and software companies. 

Daimler has established its own warranty insurer: Mercedes-Benz Versicherung AG. This move is likely an indication of how Daimler will support its driverless vehicle introductions.

Driverless integration

BestMile, a spin-off of EPFL that offers a solution to control fleets of autonomous vehicles, has signed up with its first customer and formalizes its partnership with CarPostal as part of a two-year project in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The consumer

Safety features are increasingly introduced into vehicles. This however does not mean that motorists understand these features. In a survey by the university, a majority of drivers expressed uncertainty about the way many of the safety technologies work. About 40% reported that their vehicles had behaved in unexpected ways. The least understood technology was adaptive cruise control, which can slow or speed up a vehicle in order to maintain a constant following distance. That technology has been available in some models for at least a decade. As additional features are introduced into the vehicles, will it become necessary for drivers to be trained on using the technology?

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In a recently released survey, 62% of young city professionals would consider using a self-driving vehicle if one was available. The research, conducted by the Transport Systems Catapult, shows that 39% of people in the UK would also consider one.

Another recently released survey from the World Economic Forum and BCG indicates that 58% of consumers are open to trying self-driving cars.