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”.

Helsinki-graph1
The resident-user pays a fee for mobility that reflects his/her usage. Some examples of the mobility packages are provided following.

Helsinki_table

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

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.

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. 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.

 

Car sharing and its impact on auto sales

ARK Investment Management estimates that “a rise in car sharing to 5% of all journeys could almost halve US auto sales”.

ARK Investment Management estimates that “a rise in car sharing to 5% of all journeys could almost halve US auto sales”. Given the rapid expansion of car sharing programs around the world, it is understandable that auto manufacturers are interested in expanding into car sharing and other mobility services.

CES: autonomy, car sharing, car swapping, keyless access to vehicles and more

For its car sharing DriveNow program, BMW also introduced a new MasterCard credit card that makes on demand car sharing even easier.

At CES, numerous manufacturers showed off their advances in autonomy, including Bosch, Audi, Valeo, BMW and Delphi . For its car sharing DriveNow program, BMW also introduced a new MasterCard credit card that makes on demand car sharing even easier. The card communicates with vehicles using near field communications, allowing users to just get into the cars and drive away. The card is a key for the car. No additional identification requirements because the card already contains all that information.

Keyless access to vehicles was also demonstrated by Audi as it unveiled a smartwatch to unlock your car.

Ford announced a car swapping experiment, to be undertaken in Dearborn MI, that is aimed at allowing people to use the right vehicle for the right job.

The car sharing boom continues

In the first month of car2go’s operations in Brooklyn, over 13,000 members joined.

In the first month of car2go’s operations in Brooklyn, over 13,000 members joined. Car2go also informed the world that it officially has 1 million members, marking its spot as the largest car sharing company in the world. Japan’s car sharing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 60% by 2018.

Sharing: friend or foe of public transit?

As we move further towards fully driverless technology, the transit model requires rethinking.

Much has been written about ride sharing and car sharing and their impacts on the use of public transit. Many in the public transit space consider these mobility services as competitors. However, these services are complementary to public transit. “Sharing” may actually result in an increase in public transit use. Why? As we increase the number of mobility options (including transit, walking, biking, ride sharing, car sharing, etc), we decrease the need for vehicle ownership. As vehicle ownership declines, the rest of these forms of mobility get to be used. The more integrated these forms are and the greater the access of information regarding options that users have, the greater the possibility that they will be used. Tomorrow’s mobility will certainly be different from that of today and transit has an opportunity to carve a relevant spot for itself. The question is will transit properties seize the opportunity and plan for remaining relevant?

As we move further towards fully driverless technology, the transit model requires rethinking. Are transit agencies avoiding the subject as a way to appease unions or are they being honest with stakeholders, inviting them into a constructive discussion to ensure transit survives into the driverless era where self-driving vehicles may become public property?