The Endless Possibilities with Shared Mobility6. April 2018
KEY TAKEAWAY: Each shared mobility service has a critical success factor that needs to be solid in order for users to stay interested in using the service. From interruption-free access to GPS accuracy, the need for reliable technology is key.
Shared mobility. The word that often floats around in transportation, urban planning, congestion, and autonomous vehicle conversations. The industry that grew from local co-operatives and now involves OEM-investments. In short, shared mobility is changing the way people choose to move. Instead of just being a transportation option, it is being highlighted as how people should be getting around.
There are many good reasons to adopt shared mobility – it puts the full costs of transportation into perspective and makes people more aware of other non-personal vehicle options like walking, biking, and taking public transit. If people are going to forego a personal vehicle, then they need options, which is why scooter sharing has grown exponentially, dockless bikesharing has supplemented station-based bikesharing, and transportation aggregator apps are on the rise.
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At INVERS, we were fully aware of the potential of shared mobility back in 1993. Our co-founder, Uwe Latsch, was not satisfied with the manual key management process that was found in current carshares and created INVERS to improve the carsharing experience.
Shared mobility is not a trend or a fad – it’s here to stay. Since 1993, we have supported car2go’s pilot program, built up the first all-electric free carsharing service, enabled the launch of Germany’s largest scooter sharing operator, and built a blockchain prototype to envision the future of mobility.
By using the right technology, there are endless possibilities with shared mobility, both from a use case application and a business model perspective. Shared mobility has the potential to make cities more livable and improve equitable transportation access. Because one option may not suit everyone, there are numerous services that can come from shared mobility – carsharing and even scooter sharing are just the beginning of what is possible in this space.
For these reasons, we believe the INVERS Shared Mobility OS platform opens up the opportunity for shared mobility to grow even more in the next few years.
Unveiling the Shared Mobility OS
We are confident in our leading technology platform, the Shared Mobility OS, which serves the highest volume of carsharing and scooter sharing fleets in the world. Based on our 25+ years in the industry, the Shared Mobility OS has evolved within our product line and continues to stay ahead of marketplace needs. The experience and insights from the hundreds of projects we implemented and our first-mover advantage into the scooter sharing world solidifies our position as the market-leading technology provider in shared mobility.
The Shared Mobility OS is a comprehensive platform that includes numerous aspects of running a successful shared mobility service – end user interface, vehicle management, payment integration, reliable mobile network communication layers, and more. With our comprehensive and durable vehicle technology, the Shared Mobility OS also delivers vehicle data to gain insight into trip usage and patterns, further building a path towards success for any shared mobility service.
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Vehicle communication is at the core of any shared mobility service, helping automate workflows and enabling a seamless user experience with the highest reliability. The strength of our backend software is in modular features and integrations, giving operators the flexibility to develop their own user interface and specific features for end users, fleet managers or other stakeholders with our open API.
As we will now explain, there are numerous applications for the Shared Mobility OS both in use cases and business models. This is not a comprehensive list of what our technology can do, but rather a starting point to get you thinking on what is possible.
Interruption-Free Access in Carsharing
With the exception of carpooling, the notion of shared mobility began when carsharing services hit the streets in Europe, then North America. Different models have since emerged – round-trip station-based, one-way station-based, and free floating.
Both versions of station-based carsharing involves dedicated parking locations where the vehicle must be parked at the end of the trip. With the station-based models, those who plan trips ahead of time or are looking for a car at a specific time would benefit from these services.
For those who are spontaneous and decide last-minute that they need a car would benefit from free floating services. In this model, cars can be found almost anywhere in a set operating area, giving the user more flexibility in their trip.
Now, imagine in any of these models, that the vehicle loses connection – a nightmare for any carsharing service, because this means the car cannot communicate to the backend that someone wants to access the vehicle. All of a sudden, member Ashley is not able to use the car to get to her doctor’s appointment, and because she wasn’t expecting this inconvenience, she would be late by taking the bus.
To avoid this, we developed SmartAccess, available within our Shared Mobility OS. SmartAccess enables a communication fail-safe back-up of a Bluetooth token, which is created when a reservation is made and it is stored via the app. When the user approaches the vehicle, the Bluetooth token gets shared with the vehicle, which then knows authorized access should be granted.
Even though there is no cellular signal for neither the vehicle nor member Ashley, the Bluetooth token is able to transfer the user information to the car. The vehicle can then be accessed, allowing the user to drive. Any vehicle data collected during the trip will then be sent to the server once cellular signal is re-gained.
This is a use case Toosla has happily avoided after integrating SmartAccess into their user experience. By putting their members first, Toosla knew they could gain more loyal customers by providing a reliable workflow that will continuously meet their needs.
SmartAccess is important to guarantee a seamless user experience in any type of shared mobility service. With SmartAccess, member Ashley would not even know that the vehicle has lost signal, and would just go about accessing the car like she has done during her past trips. Meanwhile, the operator has already noticed irregular vehicle events in the backend, and can take steps to mitigate the issue without impacting the user experience.
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Vehicle Security in Peer-to-Peer Carsharing
Like its name suggests, peer-to-peer carsharing involves sharing one’s own vehicle with another individual through an online platform like Drivy. A driver would join the peer-to-peer program and set the dates and prices the car can be used for. To access these vehicles, an individual would have to join the peer-to-peer program and then be able to find a vehicle that meets his or her needs.
Peer-to-peer carsharing programs foster sharing within a community, which is especially great when personal vehicles are in excess capacity. Studies show that cars sit idle for 95% of the time; if someone other than the car owner can access the car during these idle times, then two goals can be achieved – the excess capacity of the vehicle is reduced, and an individual has access to a vehicle to get around the city as needed.
Peer-to-peer carsharing programs run on private vehicles and community needs, so operations are not limited to urban areas. By not owning a fleet of vehicles, peer-to-peer operators do not need to worry about working with city officials for parking permits, or making sure per vehicle revenues are met. Instead, in peer-to-peer programs, any extra usage the car is getting is a bonus for the owner, and the operator is not worried about maintaining any capital assets.
Sharing a car is easier said than done, especially when a personal vehicle will be used by someone who is essentially a stranger. As a result, there is value when peer-to-peer carsharing operators provide vehicle security and tracking options.
By installing in-car hardware like our CloudBoxx, the vehicle immobilizer is activated until authorized access is granted to a user. This feature can be applied as a theft prevention mechanism, because the car will not be able to start even with the key. As well, if a rogue member tries to steal the vehicle, the operator can track the vehicle’s current location.
For both the owner and driver, in-car hardware provides additional convenience by allowing the car to be shared without any in-person meeting because the vehicle keys are locked securely in the vehicle. With key-less access via the app, the process of getting and returning the vehicle is simplified.
This was a feature Drivy added to their peer-to-peer carsharing platform, resulting in a new service line called Drivy Open. In Drivy Open, car owners opt to install the CloudBoxx into their vehicles, which makes the sharing of vehicles easier. No longer does the owner and driver need to schedule a meeting time or location, but instead access can be gained as long as a reservation is made. As a result, this makes sharing a car easier if the owner is unable to step away from work or another engagement for the traditional key exchange.
Reliable Backend in Scooter Sharing
The concept of scooter sharing is a fairly foreign concept in North America, but has exploded in popularity in Europe. Riding electric-powered two-wheeled motor bikes is being positioned as another way to meet intra-urban mobility needs, and at a lower start-up cost than a carsharing service.
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In North America, scooter sharing is not that prevalent, with the exception of Scoot in San Francisco. Besides Scoot, the closest model to scooter sharing falls more in line with bikesharing – VeloMetro and Lime Bikes. However, that does not mean scooters are not destined for the North American market. In fact, we may know of a few operators who are preparing for launch soon.
Majority of scooter sharing services, such as emmy, follow the free floating model, allowing scooters to be parked anywhere within an operating area. Its strength over carsharing is that on-street parking permits are not required, since scooters can be parked out of the way on a sidewalk.
Because scooters can be found almost anywhere in the operating area, GPS accuracy is crucial. The flexibility of minimal parking restrictions is great for users who can choose where to end the trip, but this can prove difficult for the next user if the GPS position is inaccurate. The reliability of GPS locations is key to building trust among members – the last experience you want them to have is the frustration of not being able to find a scooter.
Similarly, the growing number of trips made with scooters mean there is no room for service interruptions. The backend needs to be managed 24/7; when the server or firmware needs to be updated, the downtime needs to be minimal. In fact, our customers often do not notice any difference in operations when these upgrades happen.
A reliable backend will also allow you to scale up your operations as needed, whether that be with a growing fleet or membership base, or expanding to a new city or country. The Shared Mobility OS supports third-party integrations, giving you the flexibility to grow on your own terms. If you need to add automated marketing campaigns or add a new fee structure, we have you covered.
There are many aspects that go into building a successful shared mobility service, and technology is always at the core. By using proven technology in your service, you can feel better about your promise to deliver a great experience to your members and stay competitive against other operators.
Anything Can Be Next
The examples we shared highlight the opportunities technology opens up within the shared mobility industry. Shared mobility still evolving and people’s innovation and passion for changing the way people move around is gaining grounds and making an impact on the cities we live in.
We are excited for what is still to come in the shared mobility space. We invite anyone who is interested in getting started to check out our open API and see the endless possibilities you can have when building a shared mobility service.
If you would like to see if our technology will work for you, please contact us and we would be happy to learn more about your plans for shared mobility.
Next article: The Future of Mobility is with the Next Generation
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