Electrification of transportation

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

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.

Helsinki: setting the pace for the future of mobility

Helsinki appears to have found a sustainable mobility solution that will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the need for personal vehicle ownership.

Last year, an article in Business Insider identified the 18 most innovative cities in the world. Helsinki was one these cities and was selected for its “super innovative transit system – one that will soon have a real-time marketplace for customers to choose among transport providers and piece together the fastest or cheapest way of getting where they need to go”.

Cities around the world are facing issues of congestion (costing trillions of dollars annually) and challenges related to much-needed efforts to reduce GHG emissions.  According to a recent US study, growth in congestion is “outpacing the nation’s ability to build the roads, bridges, trains and other infrastructure to handle all these people on the move”.

Helsinki_graph2Helsinki appears to have found a sustainable mobility solution that will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the need for personal vehicle ownership by the city’s residents because it will provide them with attractive, accessible alternatives. The goal? To get there by 2020.

The solution? Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Very simply, this is a mobility distribution model where all of a user’s transportation needs are met using a single interface and managed by a mobility service provider. Access to all modes of mobility (including but not limited to bus, tramway, metro, train, taxi, car sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing) is gained through the use of a personal smart device.

According to one of the architects of Helsinki’s new mobility system, Sampo Hietanen (ITS Finland CEO), the goal is to create sustainable customer centric transportation. The vision of this innovative “Public-Private-People partnership” is that the various modes of transportation blend to the point where boundaries between them are “blurred” or disappear completely.

Clearly, this is a system that is very technology dependent, involving the interaction between user, vehicle and environment. According to Traffic Lab, the project launched by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications to promote a market in intelligent transport services, in the future, mobility “will be a service provided by companies and facilitated by the authorities”.

The resident-user pays a fee for mobility that reflects his/her usage. Some examples of the mobility packages are provided following.


The cost of using this shared multi-modal mobility will be less expensive than that paid by the average citizen to access such services today. That’s fantastic as there is more disposable income left in users’ pockets.

The project team undertook market research with residents and future users.  One group that was particularly researched was composed of employers offering car benefits, including company cars and parking spots, and the personnel using these company cars and parking facilities. The intent of the research was to determine interest in replacing the current transportation benefits (provided or received) in exchange for mobility credits that would be provided by employers to the accounts of the individual members of the personnel.  The research revealed that a whopping 80% of respondents indicated a willingness to try such an exchange.

What is even more interesting, but not obvious on the surface, is that this is also an economic development initiative. Finland has no automotive industry to protect and lacks domestic sources of fossil energy. The country must import both vehicles and the fuel to power them. This hurts its trade balance and creates little domestic employment.

Suppliers, managers and operators of mobility services, on the other hand, will use locals to provide the services, thereby increasing employment. Further, companies interested in entering the Finnish mobility market to provide some of these services will result in additional investment into the Finnish economy.

The use of electric propulsion will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The increased utilization of shared multimodal mobility will not only have a positive impact on reducing congestion and GHG emissions but it will lower the number of individually owned passenger vehicles that will be imported.

Congratulations to the architects of this transportation / environmental / economic vision. Congratulations to the government of Finland for having the foresight to undertake a program that exceeded their time in office and for recognizing that what’s good for the environment is also good for the economy.

Photo: Slava2009 / Shutterstock.com

Positioning for future mobility

News from GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Daimler, BMW, Google, Apple and more…

GM, like Ford, has announced greater dabbling in car sharing. In recent announcements, GM’s executives have declared a focus on car sharing, e-bikes, electric vehicles, connectivity and autonomous technology. One of the projects announced as part of this “focus” is Let’s Drive NYC, a new car sharing program that will be offered initially only to residents of a single 479-unit building near Times Square. With this program, occupants receive three hours of vehicle use per month; additional time starts at under $10 per hour, or up to $75 for 24 hours, which is very competitive with Zipcar’s rates in the city. In addition, GM announced that it will let employees ride around in self-driving Chevy Volts starting next year.

In an effort to accelerate its driverless program, Toyota is investing US$50 million with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in hopes of gaining an edge in an accelerating race to phase out human drivers.

Honda has announced it will be placing driverless cars on California’s roads for testing purposes.

Daimler has announced that its car sharing service, Car2Go, is injecting a little luxe into its lineup. The Daimler-owned company, which has more than 1 million registered members in 29 cities globally, is adding 75 four-door Mercedes-Benz B-class vehicles to its fleet in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the car that talks to traffic lights and other vehicles. The company also announced plans to develop luxury driverless cars.

According to Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW board member, German carmarker BMW is preparing to rethink its products, design and business models for the advent of driverless cars. He said the competitive advantage for premium carmakers will be rooted in their ability to offer a portfolio of transport options far beyond just selling a car.

Google tripled its self-driving fleet in four months. This means more testing, more learning and probably, faster improvements. According to recent reports, the company is also trying to make its cars drive more like humans (less by the book).

Google turbocharged its driverless car initiative by hiring John Krafcik, one of the most respected names in the auto manufacturing industry.

Between Krafcik and Boeing CEO Alan Mulally (now a Google board member) and ex-GM research and development boss Lawrence Burns (now a Google Auto consultant), the Google Auto is building a Dream Team to take on the century-old industry.

As Google’s threat becomes more credible, the traditional carmakers are circling the wagons. Last week, 10 automakers announced a voluntary commitment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to install automatic-braking systems as standard equipment in new cars. The manufacturers’ hope is that by offering some of Google’s promised life-saving advantages with this incremental improvement, they can create a kind of Counter-Reformation that keeps buyers firmly in the driver’s seat for years to come.

Apple, announced to be releasing what will in all likelihood be an electric vehicle in 2019, has purchased 11 map startups as part of the company’s efforts to strengthen its mapping capabilities. What are the chances that Apple is working on autonomous vehicle tech? J This simply adds to the all the curiosity surrounding Apple’s discussions with California DMV. While information about the discussions is not available, it would be safe to assume that they centred on the company’s foray into driverless tech.

And, we must not forget the numerous other players that will likely enter the market. Sony, for example, has not ruled out entering the mobility industry.

Positioning for competing in the new mobility ecosystem

Big moves in the mapping industry and Apple on the move.

Understanding the importance of maps to autonomous vehicle mobility, Uber acquired Bing Maps technology.

Audi, BMW and Daimler purchased Nokia’s mapping division, Here, for $3.1 billion US. This was a strategic acquisition as the auto manufacturers compete with Google and other tech giants for the mapping technology key to the commercialization of driverless vehicles. The auto manufacturers’ plan is to pool real-time data (example: information on icy roads). They insist Here will be run as an open platform to the benefit of all Here‘s customers.

Other reasons why the purchase of Here was important to the German automakers:

  • The auto OEMs can receive the licensing fees from major companies such as Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Flickr, SAP, and Oracle that already rely on the Here mapping platform.
  • The deal will allow automakers to take control of user location data and monetize it through local advertising.
  • Mapping is essential to vehicle automation and it makes a whole lot of sense that automotive companies will want to have control of that information.
  • Shutting out Google and other mapping giants.

Delphi announced acquisitions (including automated-driving technology producer Ottomatika and Quanergy Systems, a company that develops light detection and ranging scanners enabling cars to locate objects and generate digital maps) enabling the company to better compete in the autonomous vehicle space.

TomTom and Bosch will be collaborating on the development of highly accurate maps for autonomous vehicles.

Recognizing the value of data and that future mobility will be controlled by data, car manufacturers are limiting the data they share with technology partners like Apple and Google.

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed more signs that Apple might be getting into the auto business. The tech giant has hired two individuals: Doug Betts (formerly Chrysler’s quality chief & SVP) and Paul Furgale (Swiss autonomous vehicle and robotics expert). Apple also hired a senior engineer Jamie Carlson from Tesla Motors, as part of Apple‘s effort to build a team of experts in automated driving. At least six others with experience developing self-driving technology and systems have joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Further potential evidence: Apple boosted its R&D budget by $1.5 billion. In addition, Apple representative visit to a BMW factory have fuelled rumours of a possible partnership between the two companies. Further, The Guardian claims to have accessed documents indicating that Apple engineers from the company’s “secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles”. While no confirmation has been provided by Apple, the signs are indicating that the company is in fact working on the development of an electric, self-driving vehicle.

Microsoft has reportedly agreed to invest in Uber as part of a funding round that values the ride-hailing company at about $US51 billion.

Delphi Automotive bought Ottomatika, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that supplied software used to pilot the self-driving Audi across the US earlier this year.

The world’s largest automotive company by revenue is redefining its strategy regarding manufacturing and distribution of automobiles. Toyota believes the future of mobility for urbanites lies in covering distances between transit and destination (home / work). It therefore wants to rebrand itself as a public transport provider, not merely a vehicle manufacturer.

Hoping to grab a piece of the driverless car investment pie, Australia is gearing for autonomous vehicle trials. We learned that Audi could be preparing to test autonomous cars in this country. Meanwhile, in the UK, the government has released rules to get self-driving vehicles onto public roads.

In the US, a variety of stakeholders from numerous industries (including auto manufacturing, insurance and telecommunications) have come together to develop a “fake” city in Michigan for the testing of connected and driverless vehicle technology. Michigan is only one of the states looking to attract automakers and tech companies to undertake testing of driverless vehicles. Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Texas and California are but some of the states all vying for a piece of the R&D pie.

In the last month, it was revealed that Google set up Google Auto in 2011. The company is a licensed auto manufacturer. The company’s self-driving vehicle technology is being tested in Texas. Google sees several benefits to doing this, including testing in a new environment with new challenges, being exposed to viewpoints beyond those of Silicon Valley and a relaxed regulatory environment with no reporting requirements.

The CEO of SNCF, the French railway company that runs the high-speed TGV has stated that he wants the company to offer door-to-door mobility services: “We can’t just provide trains; we have to consider those last few miles people want to travel as well. So we want to offer bikes, electric cars, car sharing, carpooling, light rail systems.”

Also from France, Ségolène Royal, the Minister for Ecology, confirmed driverless vehicles would soon be tested on France’s roads and highways.

Photo: Here

Vehicular connectivity: exponential growth

By 2020, one in five vehicles in the world will have wireless network connectivity built into their systems.

By 2020, one in five vehicles in the world will have wireless network connectivity built into their systems. The opportunities for product development and collaboration between various stakeholders in the telecommunications and mobility spaces are great. The implications with respect to intelligent transportation systems and cyber security are enormous.

From managing to optimizing: “Collaborative” Technologies are Re-Inventing Businesses

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.

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.


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. logo_koolicar_HD

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.


Creative car sharing programs and their impact on insurance

Audi recently announced its UNITE program

Audi recently announced its UNITE program which lets participants choose up to 4 people with whom to share a lease, using beacons and mobile apps for tracking usage, scheduling and coordination. How would this work from an insurance perspective?


Data Driven Insurance … by Ford

Ford will collect driver data from a large fleet and assess how they “could use driver profiles to personalize insurance rates”.

The newsletter’s editorial focused on Ford’s 25 mobility projects, announced by CEO Mark Fields.  One of these projects relates to insurance. Fields asked the CES audience to consider what it would be like to own “a database of [their] driving behaviour for all of the years since [they] got their driver’s license”. He continued: “what if this driver score passport could go with you from car to car, no matter the brand? Imagine that you could share that data with insurance companies to get better rates”.

For this particular project, that will take place in London, Ford will collect driver data from a large fleet and assess how they “could use driver profiles to personalize insurance rates”.

It looks like insurance is also part of the “mobility services” that Ford is considering as it repositions itself from an auto manufacturer to something more as it branches into related areas.

We know that in the US, Ford is working with State Farm in a number of areas. In May 2012, we learned that the two companies “teamed up to track drivers for cheaper insurance rates”. At the end of 2013, Ford announced that it was working with State Farm and the University of Michigan on autonomous vehicle research.

If the experimental project in London meets the company’s expectations, how long before it is introduced into the US? Will State Farm be involved in such work in the US or will Ford, in an attempt to expand its mobility services forward integrate into the insurance space? In a world of shared driverless vehicles, could Ford be considering self-insuring or providing mobility insurance to the customers it will have a relationship with?


Photo credit : Dmitry Kalinovsky – Shutterstock

From auto manufacturing to mobility services

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show was once again attended by over one hundred thousand people looking to discover the next great thing.

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show was once again attended by over one hundred thousand people looking to discover the next great thing. Over the last few years, the show has attracted some of the most innovative prototypes and concepts created by the auto industry.

At this year’s show, Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche, delivered a keynote, during which the Mercedes F015 electric driverless concept car was introduced.  It can only be described as one thing: luxury in motion.


Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO, gave a morning keynote at CES during which he introduced Ford Smart Mobility and the 25 mobility experiments that the company will be undertaking in cities around the world.

According to Fields, four megatrends are shaping the way Ford sees the future:

  • increasing urbanization
  • rapid growth of the middle class
  • issues of air quality and related health risks from congestion
  • changing consumer attitudes and priorities.

Combine these megatrends with three enablers (connectivity [in two years, 80% of world’s population will have a smartphone], software and sensor technology and big, smart data) and Ford sees a major opportunity for innovation and a “higher purpose”, as Fields explains.


The 25 described experiments fall into three categories:

  • creating a better customer experience
  • developing more flexible user-ship models for customers
  • connecting with every customer in a socially collaborative and rewarding way. 

Many of the experiments to be undertaken relate to vehicle sharing and many involve electric vehicles. Fields also mentioned “user-ship” experience, multimodality and the company’s priority “in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses” although Fields does expect the first driverless vehicles to be available in five years.

He spoke about shared and electric as well about autonomous and multimodal. Fields also talked about making mobility information accessible to consumers through their smart phones.  Doesn’t this remind you of the SEAMlessTM Mobility model that has been promoted by the Transportation Evolution Institute?

The megatrends identified by Ford are clear to everyone in the mobility space.  The combination of population growth, urbanization, an aging population, millenials’ relative disinterest in vehicle ownership / driving and finally, the congestion and pollution issues faced by most cities would make any auto manufacturer and transportation planner realize that a more sustainable transportation system is required.

Strained government finances in most countries means that limited resources can be invested toward new road infrastructure. As Fields stated, “the existing infrastructure for motor vehicles simply cannot sustain the sheer number of vehicles expected to be on the road in the coming years”.

Given a low vehicle utilization rate (average of 4%) means that vehicles can be shared. The growth of an increasingly urbanized population means they HAVE to be shared.

Despite Fields’ continued emphasis on a “higher purpose”, we are all aware that auto manufacturers are in business to deliver a strong return to shareholders.  It is fantastic to see that at least some of these auto OEMs are recognizing that a strong ROI will not necessarily only come from auto manufacturing but from an expansion into other areas of mobility.

In the future, surviving auto manufacturers will need to adjust to the new mobility ecosystem and become mobility service providers. Such mobility services may include operation of car sharing programs, ride sharing services and mobility insurance.

Will today’s auto manufacturers, seeking to generate revenue from activities other than vehicle manufacturing, look to expand their operations into areas that are currently the domain of transit properties? How will governments react in such situations?