ITEA Blog

Smart Mobility, the next big move?

Philippe Letellier · 23 May 2019

Smart mobility is the next big change in our daily life and an important topic in the ITEA Community. What does our future hold?

Autonomous cars

A dream: I give an order to the car and worry-free I will arrive home safely.
A nightmare: Will I be tracked? In case of an accident who is responsible? Which choice will be taken? To protect the owner of the car or the kids crossing the streets?
Innovation is always a bi-faced U/Dis-topy. But autonomous cars raise some other important questions:

  • Why should we own a car if it is sufficient to call one and it arrives by itself. I will no longer lose any time for parking.
  • Who owns the car? Some fleet operators? Who are they? The traditional manufacturers?
  • Who commands and controls the cars to serve the final customer but also to follow some city mobility policy.

New vehicles for mobility

For centuries in our cities we have been used to:

  • pedestrians,
  • some kind of public transport (underground, buses, …),
  • a major focus on automotive with some cities designed for automotive transport overwhelming the other means of transport.

The end of this era comes because the fluidity of cities is totally destroyed by the number of cars and the associated pollution.

These last years, we have seen the birth of numerous new means of transport to solve this problem.
Rather than owning a car in cities and becoming annoyed having to park it, many shared car solutions are appearing like car sharing, VTC or free fleet of cars, and the future autonomous solutions will speed up these opportunities.
A trend is also appearing concerning the soft mode of transport like free bicycle fleets or free scooter fleets. There is a huge number of different brands. The unicorn Lime has a valorisation around USD 2.5 billion. These new actors have a lot of money to impact actually the market in the long term even if this is not so easy in their daily life. Check out ofo and Mobike, two Chinese brands who have to close their European branches to focus on their internal market. We begin to see some intermediate solutions like the autonomous shuttle that, tries to offer a more personalised line and since it is electric, it is a softer mode.

All these new means are more complementary than actually competiting, but it opens the door to a new demand for Mobility as a Service to optimise the travel. This requires building some models of strengths and weaknesses of each of these new transport means to allow each mode of travel to be optimised and booked.

Sharing economy

For a while, we were used to own our personal car. The sharing economy is entering the mobility arena and actors like the BlaBlaCar unicorn (with SNCF a shareholder and the OuiBus operator integrated) are changing the game for long distance travel. The short-range travel (from home to office) remains a challenge cf. Karos and Blablaline.
Some other actors like OuiCar (with SNCF a shareholder) and Drivy are inventing new games to take advantage of the low car use and offering some sharing opportunities to reduce the cost for the owners.

Mobility as a Service

The explosion of different transport means in the cities requires new tools like Mobility as a Service to master these different means in an optimised way. This optimisation covers different meanings:

  • Programmability: I need to know in advance how I will move from one place to another. I want to be sure the transport means will be there when I need it, to reduce the waiting time between usage of two different means as much as possible;
  • Optimisation for the final users: the final user wants to have dedicated advice, in a simple way, to ensure his travel in a quicker, safer and more comfortable way;
  • Optimisation for society: cities want and need to master the control of the city to ensure free flow, safety and minimal pollution.

This multi-optimisation engine is challenging, especially in a context of a multi-operator case. For the cities a dedicated ontology is needed to describe a transport policy as input for such an optimisation engine.

Time for the cities to take back the control of mobility in their area?

There are plenty of different operators driving urban mobility. There are numerous new vehicles to ensure that urban mobility, generating their own nuisance. The responsibility of the city is to ensure free flow, safety and minimal pollution. The users require simple applications for Mobility as a Service to ensure inter-modality synchronisation (real-time timing, prediction, booking and buying) in a context of multi-operators.
This is a unique opportunity for the cities to be back in the game as it will require a trusted intermediary and generate a unique set of data to build a mobility policy to serve the local community as a whole.
The challenge is to be back and let private operators innovate (the game has not yet been stabilised at all) and to let them to deploy some profitable business models to allow some large-scale sustainable deployments.

Regulations

The cities’ streets are increasingly rare shared resources, used by the different transport means: cars, buses, autonomous shuttle, pedestrians, VTC, free fleet, bicycle, scooters, …
All these usages must share this rare resource in a way that doesn’t inconvenience others. Furthermore, as a system of systems, the democratic cities’ governments need to master command and control of these usages to optimise them globally in the interests of the different kind of users of these shared rare resources.
This requires the ability to access to some data to dynamically model the usages in order to define transport policy and to be in position to command and control the global mobilities.

Once upon a time when cars appeared and multiplied, at a certain moment it became necessary to propose some traffic rules to allow correct usage of the streets. Similarly, new rules must be defined to allow the different transport means to share the street resources in a safe way. For example, Paris ensured that 11 free scooter operators managing 15000 scooters signed a code of good practice to eradicate the most irritating usages of these scooters.
These regulations are necessary to open up the business. The challenge is to define it without blocking innovation and potential business models.

Global challenge

Mobility is a unique opportunity to acquire customer data in real time. This has been clearly understood by the large American digital leaders. They are very innovative, they master the digital economy, they have already a lot of customer data and they know how to interlink and exploit the data. Furthermore, they have deep pockets and have begun to move.
Uber has already proposed on its platform access to public transport, bicycle and scooters. Uber is in a position to propose an innovative digital platform to solve the Mobility as a Service paradigm, but what about the data?
In the large cities, Amazon has already proposed delivering your product 1 hour after ordering it. This is a unique performance and as usual Amazon will propose this infrastructure as a service for the other players, but what about the data?
And the Chinese champions are moving in the same direction calling for their market share, but what about the data?

This “but what about the data” is the key question for Europeans. The data is the engine of the future economy and if you don’t control it you are under control. Looking at all the other businesses already digitalised it leads systematically to a 30% toll on the business developed over these platforms. None of our European champions are able to compete alone against these large digital champions and we know that this digital economy leads systematically towards a kind of monopoly or oligopoly.

This game is definitively global when you see big actors like:

  • Google and Apple investing massively in autonomous VTC and signing alliances with big players like Volvo, Renault, just like their counterparts in China Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba.
  • Softbank investing massively in Uber, some autonomous logistic vehicles and the autonomous cars of GM, signing a big alliance with Toyota.
  • Tencent with the Mobike bicycles.
  • All the large automotive companies as digital industries investing in VTC operators to master the management of fleets of vehicles.
  • Uber is experiencing difficulties on the stock exchange as its business model has not yet stabilised but its valuation remains around USD 70 billion when Renault’s valuation is around EUR 15 billion.

Is it time to cry? Or is there another path?

What about some kind of open multi-tenant platform that is more protective of privacy, allowing some kind of data sharing, simplifying life for the users but also generating some global data for other kinds of actors like cities to master their public policy to ensure fluid mobility in a safe environment, protecting against pollution?
It is clearly more complex, from both a technical and business point of view, and it will be slower to deploy than a proprietary solution, but do we have any alternative in Europe?

All that will be discussed during our next ITEA international customer workshop on Smart Mobility, ensuring that ITEA R&D projects start from actual painpoints observed in the market rather than having to invent a new problem. It is our way to ensure big impact on the market; ITEA intends to be even more customer oriented.

Tags: Innovation · Smart mobility · Solving Challenges · Intermodality

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