Transportation for the people and the planet from CoMoUK member Ridecell
For the last 100 years, transportation access served as both a status symbol and a great economic equalizer. The automotive industry giants grew to multi-billion dollar companies by providing both to consumers – status and practical movement. With infrastructure, regulation and subsidies, governments at all levels literally paved the way for automotive dominance around the globe. Though new zero-emissions automotive leaders have emerged, only the daunting ecological crisis worsened by carbon emissions challenges the long-established status quo. Can the automotive industry slam the brakes on CO2 emissions and embrace carbon-free and accessible transportation for future generations and still remain profitable?
Despite repeated and dire predictions about the impact of CO2 emissions, the march towards net-zero 2050 targets face ongoing challenges. A few years ago, new mobility solutions such as carsharing and ride hailing were positioned as critical to emissions control and improving urban quality of life. Not only have these solutions not delivered on their promise, now in many cities more cars crowd the streets, increasing traffic delays and raising emissions.
Moreover, Uber and other ride hailing services continue to sustain massive financial losses, bringing their continued viability into question. These companies over-estimated their time to autonomous vehicles, which would cut driver costs and raise profitability. The fallout has impacted other carsharing operations such as Car2Go, Maven and Chariot who have all exited markets or consolidated operations to control costs.
While the private industry grapples with investment plans for electric vehicles and shared mobility, people have stepped up to demand a better way of moving from place to place. Ways that provide equal access and don’t harm the environment. Thanks to the Friday Climate Strikes, citizens have provoked cities to declare a climate emergency and take tangible steps to address the problem. Currently, over 250 cities in the EU have implemented Low Emission Zones. Many of these cities have introduced incentives for people to abandon their cars and walk, bike or share rides in zero emissions vehicles, and forward-looking automotive incumbents have embraced the opportunity to reinvent themselves.
Madrid has made its downtown area a zero-emissions zone by adding four successful electric vehicle car sharing programs and reducing the overall number of vehicles on the road. The city’s new Mobility as a Service program integrates public and private transportation in a single app to make mobility choices easier for citizens. The smog-choked city of Delhi welcomed an all EV ridehailing fleet, offering business travelers and students a low-emissions option. And Sacramento tackled both infrastructure and regulation changes, supporting the launch of the largest private EV shared fleet in the USA.
At Ridecell, working with shared mobility operators and municipalities over last five years, we see three common factors in-play to address the existential threat of climate change, gridlock and transportation access. As technology has become more sophisticated and local, state and federal government more experienced, these factors are fueling the drive to meet net-zero targets.
1. New business models
Traditional revenue and public funding schemes must change. Consumers want use-based, subscription transportation in place of ownership. Owning a car is costly and unattainable for many. But subscribing to a mobility service and public funding of low-emission transit services opens access to everyone. The key to success for both the private and public sector is to maximize use of each vehicle. Take the private car that is parked 95% of the time or corporate owned fleet that sits idle on business campuses and repurpose them as shared fleets, available on-demand in either ride-hailing or car sharing business models.
Ridecell is creating an ecosystem of public and private mobility providers along with city partners to create a management system that could make transportation more efficient for everyone. If a city knows both its inventory of vehicles and customer peak demand times, it can ensure trains, bikes, automobiles and scooters are all available and utilized to maximum capacity rather than sitting idly on the sidewalks or in parking spaces. A principal tenant of the Ridecell High-yield Shared MobilityTM platform is simple: enhance revenue from a shared mobility fleet by maximizing its usage at any given time.
2. Smart Data
Cities can start to learn supply and demand patterns with a mobility management system like Ridecell. Intelligent software can close some of the profitability gaps that have made some shared mobility operators cut back or shut down services. The management system can also integrate with municipal programs like curb management and parking to keep traffic moving smoothly and keep scooters and bikes from littering the streets when not in use.
Intelligent data and automation makes it easy to predict and accommodate public and private transportation needs with the same fleet. Additionally, the Ridecell platform’s innovative use of predictive and on-demand telematic data can let operators know when a car needs to be cleaned, charged, or moved to accommodate anticipated demand elsewhere. Keeping the fleet running at peak condition is expensive. Automating and optimizing the fleet service team and minimizing fleet downtime is key to making shared mobility as easy and accessible as car ownership, and profitable for fleet owners as well.
3. Open ecosystems
A municipality is an ecosystem of vehicles, charging stations, parking spaces, docking stations, roads, routes, traffic signals and other infrastructures that keep the city moving. Any change to the transportation system must be able to integrate all those systems into a single view of the real-time situation. Partnerships and the ability to connect public and private systems is essential to reinventing mobility.
To meet climate change goals, we have to launch new mobility services in weeks, not years. That requires aligning infrastructure requirements like parking and shared charging solutions, as well as innovations in everything from payment systems to safety regulations.
Ridecell launched with Blu Smart in Delhi in under three months. Our engineers and launch team worked closely with the Blu Smart team to rapidly implement numerous local adaptations and the demands of a zero emissions-based fleet. Using the Ridecell Platform,, Blu Smart can assign vehicles based on battery charge levels and route them to the nearest charging stations to minimize downtime and ensure riders always have a charged car that is ready to go.
The past decade brought us to one pressing conclusion: we must reinvent how we move so that we don’t deplete planet resources and provide mobility equity to everyone. The automotive and transportation industries are ground zero for addressing these challenges. Together we must adopt new business models that make shared mobility profitable and viable, leverage data that will make cities move smarter, and create an ecosystem that will build the sustainable infrastructure needed to usher in fast changes. Cautious optimism prevails as we turn the corner and enter 2020 and perhaps the most important decade in the planet’s history.
Author: Kenneth Malmberg, Director, Strategic Alliances, Ridecell