The way we perceive mobility is rapidly changing. Looking back a generation ago, a car was more than just a vehicle. It was a symbol of status and liberty and users had an emotional connection to it – in some cases the vehicle was even part of the family. This sentiment has been true for almost 100 years. These days, however, millennials and younger generations view mobility more as a service than a product and car ownership is becoming increasingly less of a priority.
This behavioural shift that prioritises usership over ownership is often referred to as MaaS, or Mobility-as-a-Service. Technological progress is playing a large part in driving MaaS forward. Gadgets, apps and platforms are changing the mobility sector and paving the way for hybrid concepts between public and private transport, such as on-demand mobility or demand-responsive transport (DRT) and self-driving cars.
High demand for on-demand
Just like on-demand entertainment, on-demand mobility is about choice and availability. This is not a new concept; in fact, most people have already used on-demand transport in its earliest, most basic form – the taxi. You call one, get picked up and easily get to the destination of your choice – very practical, but usually neither cost-effective nor environment friendly. Modern on-demand transportation tackles both of these issues simultaneously. Car-, ride- and bike-sharing solutions as well as e-hailing (the process of digitally ordering a car or taxi) offer the same flexibility, comfort and availability as a classic taxi, but reduce costs and emissions by allowing people to share vehicles. So much so, that market forecasts predict new mobility services to outgrow taxi enterprises completely by 2035.
The need for disruption
For cities that are reaching their capacitive limits all over the globe, on-demand mobility could mean fewer cars on the road, effectively reducing traffic, parking, congestion, and consequently noise and air pollution. Rural areas on the other hand could profit from on-demand closing the mobility gap. As they tend to be more sparsely populated, it’s usually not profitable for public transport providers to completely cover these low-demand but wide-range areas. Therefore, most inhabitants in these regions rely on car ownership. On-demand transport cuts down on empty journeys, because vehicles are explicitly booked when needed and don’t have to stick to predefined schedules, meaning this could be a great alternative. Mobility providers often focus on urban areas, but whether in the city or the countryside, the need for change is evident.
Where is mobility headed?
Car- and ridesharing providers, such as Drive Now, are already very popular, especially in cities where the demand for mobility is constantly high. Since 2006 the numbers of users have consistently grown and are expected to make a big leap within the next five years, as seen in the graph below. This clearly shows that people are willing to embrace new mobility concepts and are looking for alternative ways of travel.
On top of this trend more and more last mile options are emerging. Deutsche Bahn for example – Germany’s state rail company – is testing a new on-demand concept which combines connected, electric and – as soon as legal and technical requirements can be met – autonomous mobility, which could pave the way for the next step for on-demand mobility.
In the south of Sweden VÄSTTRAFIK is operating a similar service for passengers with special mobility needs, such as disabled and elderly people, covering 49 municipalities with around 1.6 million inhabitants. Several other countries are currently exploring how on-demand can complement their existing mobility mix. For all of them it’s about solving the last mile problem and allowing people to easily switch between means of transport. Much like AlphaCity, offering a customised fleet solution to companies and their employees, or AlphaFlex, which provides optimum flexibility by combining various forms of mobility in a single concept.
With new possibilities like these and Mobility-as-a-Service, efficient, inexpensive and eco-friendly mobility for everyone everywhere might just be around the corner!