Urban mobility faces several challenges and opportunities, which arise from changes taking place in the sector along with external trends and pressures affecting the broader socio-economic environment. A smarter and more sustainable approach to mobility is needed to absorb the increased demand for transportation as urbanization grows at a rapid rate and cities become more congested and polluted, with overcrowded public transit systems in need of improvements and new infrastructure. The Sharing economy (shared mobility) has played a huge role in relieving some of this pressure in the context of Smart mobility with the help of new business models and initiatives such as car sharing, carpooling, and short-term rentals of bicycles and electric scooters.
When combined with technological innovations in smartphones, websites, social media, and algorithms, these alternative modes of transportation allow for the facilitation of access to third-party properties meaning people can now rent or borrow and share vehicles as well as provide “door-to-door” services whenever needed. Let’s go over some of the ways in which Smart mobility is changing the industry with the help of the Sharing economy and what these newly emerging trends can achieve on a global scale when local efforts are implemented correctly.
What is Smart Mobility and why is it important?
As the Earth’s population grows, new policies and strategies are being put in place as a way of ensuring citizen’s mobility needs are being met along with sustainability and economic goals. Smart Mobility can be defined as an intelligent transport and mobility network that integrates various transport modes with cutting-edge technologies like sensors, big data, artificial intelligence, and telematics. It’s the foundation upon which Smart Cities are being developed and built, with innovative mobility solutions that focus on sustainability, efficiency, safety, and equity.
Smart mobility incorporates the use of alternative modes of transportation, including traditional gas and electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, public transportation systems, and rail lines, as well as technologies such as Intelligent Transportation Systems, Smart Parking, and on-demand ride-sharing services for bikes, scooters, and car sharing programs. Through the application of modern technologies and solutions, more accurate scheduling for the transportation of people and goods can be achieved, with improved efficiency, safety, precision, and estimation.
Furthermore, internal systems and processes can be reorganized, and optimized so that there is better workflow across all networks resulting in better services, improved customer experiences, savings in fuel, money, resources, and a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions.
The Role of the Sharing Economy in Smart Cities
The sharing economy is a significant business phenomenon that is reshaping many industries and challenging multiple traditional business models. Also referred to as collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer-based sharing, it represents the ability and preference toward renting or borrowing goods rather than buying and owning them. The sector’s growth has been facilitated through technological advances in big data and online platforms, becoming one of the fastest-growing markets in history. It’s reported that since 2010, investors have contributed over $23 billion in venture capital funding to various start-ups, implementing share-based business models. According to research, the sector, which also includes carsharing and carpooling, is expected to be worth over $335 billion by 2025, having grown from $15 billion in the last decade.
Urban planners, developers, private operators, automakers, tech companies, and transit authorities are starting to focus on how they move people, not vehicles. The paradigm shift that we’ve seen takes place now promotes accessible, inclusive, and equitable transportation for everyone. Newly emerging technologies such as those present in automated vehicles, app-driven mobility services, and micro-mobility have the potential to transform the way we move around, with some experts claiming they could do one of two things. The first is that they will propel nations into equitable and resilient futures with communities that have smarter mobility systems or cities could face the reality of an even more congested and chaotic future, accelerating suburban sprawl and disconnection.
How Shared Mobility is changing the industry
Changing patterns in consumer behavior like the decline in private car ownership coupled with the technological developments and innovation in the mobility sector are rapidly changing the way people in cities are getting around. By connecting different elements in technology and transportation and applying them to reshape and enhance the way we use transportation infrastructure daily, new trends have emerged in mobility ecosystems that favor transportation modes that emphasize on providing access and services over ownership. This attitude has had a profound influence on mobility patterns, particularly in urban areas, where ‘’sharing’’ of transportation can take on many forms.
Shared mobility refers to the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other low-speed transit mode that enables travelers to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis, often serving as a first- or last-mile connection to other modes, such as public transit.
Shared mobility refers to the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other low-speed transit mode that enables travelers to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis, often serving as a first- or last-mile connection to other modes, such as public transit. Ride-sharing involves purchasing a service or paying for a ride and can include various methods of carsharing, personal vehicle sharing (peer-to-peer carsharing and fractional ownership), bike sharing, scooter sharing, traditional ridesharing, transportation network companies (or ride-sourcing), and e-hail (taxis). The Shared mobility sector is part of the wider collaborative and sharing economy model which aims to influence the path toward sustainable development in cities by promoting equity and access by removing the financial burden of having to purchase, own, and maintain a personal vehicle.
The sharing of Automated Vehicles can increase safety and accessibility
Shared automated vehicles (AVs) come in various shapes and sizes, with some examples including rideshare-style vehicles that appear as personal cars, low-speed shuttles that resemble public transit vehicles, and compact-sized buses that seem like paratransit vehicles.
As these technologies become more dominant on our streets, it seems certain that the ‘’sharing’’ of vehicles is the future of transportation. The most common application for shared AVs is first/last mile solutions or other alternative transit applications in dense, compact environments that allow for the usage of existing roads and the reduction of capital costs. An example of this could be a transit plan consisting of cars using designated corridors while a fleet of shared AVs circulates through nearby neighborhoods, using existing road infrastructure and bus stops, to feed the streetcar line with passengers.
The application of AVs in this way could improve travel experiences for citizens and increase equitable access to options for getting around. Shared AVs are not limited or affected by driver shifts and availability and can be programmed to provide on-demand service through off-peak hours, servicing shift workers not working regular 9-to-5 schedules or those with flexible schedules. They can also be deployed to less populated areas, bringing more people to the main arteries of transit systems. This could be a game-changer for people living in neighborhoods further away from transit stops. If AVs aren’t needed for transporting people during off-peak hours, they can be deployed for overnight delivery, efficiently limiting the number of delivery vehicles on the road.
Hubs for Shared Micromobility could fill in the gaps in transportation systems
Micromobility, in the sense of e-scooters and bike-sharing programs, could have a positive impact on first and last-mile connections, shifting people away from the use of private vehicles. In cities with an established or developing subway or light rail transit system, micromobility could effectively boost ridership by being deployed in neighborhoods and commercial districts near transit stations. Incorporating this type of mobility into cities’ transportation networks does not necessarily compete with public transit but rather boosts the opportunity to shift transportation modes and improve connectivity.
By combining a smart mobility hub with other shared, electric, and connected modes, transit arteries could become more accessible to residents of cities. It also means that there will be significantly fewer cars on the road and the need for parking will also decrease, particularly in the case of light rapid transit (LRT) stations. Micromobility could further serve as a mobility equalizer, where cities partner with private companies in the creation of low-income pricing plans. Portland, for example, has successfully launched a low-income e-scooter pilot, and it’s expected that other cities will follow in the future.
The impact of Ridesharing is still unfolding and has a role to play
Ridesharing app services are one of the most common things people think about when they hear the term shared mobility. The popularity of these services has made people more comfortable with the idea of ‘’sharing’’ transportation and has played a big role in showing the public the benefits that come from an app-driven service such as convenience and efficiency. Although these are mainly privately owned and operated services, they do reduce the need to own a personal vehicle, meaning that people who are unable to afford a car but need to get around, particularly in areas where public transit is unavailable, can use these types of services on an as-needed basis.
Ridesharing enables younger generations to have the option of not owning cars and to look toward alternative modes of transport that are more sustainable but were unavailable in the past. It also provides an option for the older generations who are no longer driving whilst removing the need for expensive parking which benefits the urban lifestyle of residents. As ridesharing grows in popularity, transit agencies have been working on integrating these services, which are referred to as micro-transit as well as contemplating the idea of establishing agreements with private companies to fill service gaps or support population segments that don’t have proper transit access.
It’s widely thought that this could extend the agency’s reach of servicing larger areas, increasing transit access for more residents. If attitudes shift toward making these services complimentary to existing structures rather than seeing them as competition, a more creative and smarter approach to mobility could be achieved, with more shared mobility options.
Shared Mobility can be beneficial in addressing mobility challenges
Getting around hasn’t always been easy for people with mobility challenges, whether that’s a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability. While transportation authorities have put a lot of effort into prioritizing and improving accessibility standards, innovations that come from shared mobility have the potential to reshape the entire system, making it accessible and of value to more people. On-demand, flexible routing, whether through ridesharing, automated vehicles, or micromobility could become like current paratransit with an extended focus on quality-of-service options. Similarly, ridesharing through microtransit has shown great potential for the future. Options that include micromobility are also expanding to involve modes suitable for those with disabilities, like wheelchair-accessible e-scooters.
One of the most important aspects of shared mobility should be providing shared options that are safe for users and can increase the feeling of independence. For instance, with shared AVs, the reliance shifts from another person (the driver) to a machine (the vehicle) and there is no fixed schedule or limited range. It becomes possible to nearly mimic the convenience of owning a vehicle when you cannot drive yourself.
The growth of the sharing economy, and specifically carsharing, has resulted in what some claim to be a serious threat to public transit systems. On the one hand, passengers have become more demanding in recent years as they expect flexible transport systems, with more options and convenience, as well as a better overall experience when traveling. On the other hand, journeys within highly urbanized areas are constantly increasing, creating a severe strain on public transport networks that struggle to meet the demand for capacity and to provide adequate services to the public.
Social issues regarding the equity of such services also remain somewhat unanswered at this point, with some conflicting opinions. As shared mobility options continue to expand in the future, the public sector must install and revise appropriate legislation that protects public safety and equity and provides guiding policies to maximize benefits.
The future of Smart and Shared Mobility in cities
One of the best things about Smart Mobility is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s an adaptable and flexible approach that can be tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges of different communities. In this ecosystem, transportation networks are no longer just systems of roads and rails; they become a connected, intelligent entity that learns and evolves. Smart Mobility also plays a crucial role in the development of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and their adoption as more cities are aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and moving toward sustainable mobility. When it comes to Mobility as a Service (MaaS), users can gain access to a variety of mobility services – from ride-sharing to bike rentals – through a unified MaaS platform. It’s convenient, intelligent, and it’s the future of urban commuting.
We’ve seen city planners and officials struggle for years with issues such as congestion, subsidizing new freeway constructions, and widening old freeways. While building new roads and infrastructure is important for cities, shared and smart mobility options carry the potential to move a lot more people than traditional modes, more efficiently, and with better convenience and ease. Advancements in technology have shown great potential in terms of future achievements, however, it’s important to remember that there is not a single technological solution or policy that will solve all of the mobility problems we see in the industry. Through the collaborative work and efforts of experts in different fields, professionals, and innovative thinkers we will be able to reshape and revolutionize mobility as we know it and create new models that are adaptable and suit the needs of each community. One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that an ecosystem of smarter solutions with a people-focused approach will accelerate the next generation of mobility.