Our CEO Alexander Kirn shared his insights on how INVERS makes shared mobility viable on CoMotion’s Fast Forward podcast. In this recap, we highlight how mixed fleets, diverse business models, autonomous vehicles, local mobility cultures, and innovation are shaping the future of shared mobility.
INVERS is not only the inventor of automated vehicle sharing, but has now been deemed the “brains behind shared mobility” by CoMotion. INVERS CEO Alexander Kirn recently joined Greg Lindsay on CoMotion’s Fast Forward podcast, which you can listen to here. They talked about the history and development of INVERS, how the tech and industry has evolved, and what’s in store for the future of mobility.
In this blog post, we’ll recap the conversation and highlight five trends we see currently developing in the shared mobility space and what this means for operators who want to adapt and grow alongside these changes.
1. More mixed fleets
Mobility is a fast-moving space, which isn’t news to anyone, but the market dynamics have recently been shifting drastically. In the early days of shared mobility, the focus was on providing shared cars to users who did not want to purchase their own car. This is even how INVERS got started. Then with better technology, peer-to-peer carsharing developed into an opportunity for car owners to rent out their own vehicle to others in the community. Thereafter, five years ago we saw two-wheelers in the form of shared mopeds appear in urban European cities and slowly spread worldwide, becoming even more popular than shared cars. Now, scooter sharing has taken off and bike sharing is surging in popularity like never before.
Most recently, however, we’ve seen shared fleets become less homogenous. Lime brought back bikes and added mopeds to their operations, Revel now offers bike subscription in addition to ride-hailing, and TIER added mopeds to their fleet of kick scooters. This points to the direction of shared mobility operators understanding there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting people’s different travel needs. As a result, operators are adding different form factors (ie: vehicle types, makes and models, etc.) to their fleets to be able to offer users the right vehicle at the right time. While this adds both technological and operational complexity, it can be easily managed with the right tech solution.
2. Different business models
Traditionally, shared mobility services have been offered by consumer-facing businesses. Operators are typically solely focused on providing a reliable, convenient mobility service to users while trying to achieve profitability through maximizing utilization and reducing costs. However, as the availability of shared mobility options increases and consumers are shifting their habits towards usership instead of ownership, it makes sense that other businesses are looking to get some skin in the game as well.
The opportunity here is for businesses with existing fleets to maximize the vehicle’s utilization. By expanding their business scope and sharing the fleet for other business purposes or consumer uses, vehicles could be creating revenue instead of sitting idle in the parking lot. We’ve seen fleet providers work with delivery companies and professionally managed fleets add IoT to make the vehicles shareable. The key here is to work with the connected vehicles, manage the data efficiently, and enable sharing across different groups.
3. Autonomous within the sharing ecosystem
For most people, autonomous vehicles are a far-fetched reality. For INVERS, we see it as an innovation that can improve the operational efficiency of shared mobility operations. One challenge that operators currently face, regardless of whether it’s carsharing or scooter sharing or something in between, is rebalancing the fleet and ensuring there’s enough supply of vehicles to meet the demand at different locations. Currently, this is a manual, labor-intensive effort. However, if vehicles could drive themselves to a different location, that could improve the overall availability in popular areas and become an even more reliable and convenient mobility option for users.
4. Adapting to local mobility cultures
There is no single, optimal urban design for shared mobility to thrive. Instead, it’s about finding the right operating model and vehicle type to serve different cities. There is also no universal rule or playbook to starting a shared mobility service, but ones that succeed often have a good relationship with the city. Operators need to figure out whether people in the selected city would see the value in a shared versus subscription model, and whether a car, moped, bike, or kick scooter would be the preferred vehicle to start off with. Every city is different in how it’s built, which influences what mobility option works best for users.
Moped sharing, for example, steadily grew in popularity in Europe. But in India, adoption exploded when Bounce entered the market. People in India were accustomed to riding mopeds, and having access to a shared moped provided an additional option to the owned moped many people already had.
5. Innovating using data
When asked about advice to future entrepreneurs, Alexander Kirn highlighted the need to try things out and experiment. Because there is no universal rule to starting up a shared mobility service, entrepreneurs need to understand the local mobility culture, test different options, and use data collected to shape strategic decisions going forward. Data collected can then be leveraged to figure out how to scale and identify gaps in the service. Differentiating from other mobility providers is also important, and that can be done by using technology that is modular and flexible to meet changing needs and requirements. The last thing an operator needs is to be locked into a set process or tech stack that doesn’t work for users or doesn’t meet the changing market conditions.