Let’s face it! The traditional transportation system is collapsing right before our eyes. Lack of real-time traffic and parking information has made road congestion issues reach an all-time high; the same can be said of illegal parking. Add to it, the ever-soaring number of private vehicle ownership has further contributed towards environmental emissions, and then there’s the problem of seamless mobility payment options.
However, with technology influencing every area of our lives, mobility will also pander to it. And this is already happening! Thanks to the open mobility system, the movement of both goods and people is beginning to undergo a social, economic, and technological transition. This development is all set to completely change the way people have known the concept of inter-city movement. Under this ecosystem, public and private sectors offer a seamless end-to-end travel experience based on multi-modal mobility choices via easy digital planning and payment options.
What Is An Open Mobility System?
An open mobility ecosystem is a system that quite literally focuses on ‘opening up’ the way we have known transportation so far to curb traffic congestion, reduce environmental pollution, and offer a seamless and flexible travel experience, similar to that provided by private modes of transportation. Where until now, transportation was vehicle-centric, open mobility is customer-centric. Under such a system, users will be able to seamlessly switch between public, private, and on-demand modes of transportation. They can enjoy all-digital multi-payment options and real-time travel information for mid-journey changes and hassle-free parking.
For instance – the smartphone app, Transit, provides users with real-time information on all kinds of public and on-demand transportation like Uber, Lyft, buses, trains, etc. By clearly displaying upcoming departure time for each mode of nearby transport, Transit lets its users plan their trip in real-time and make mid-journey changes in case they want to take a different route or travel at a different time. Additionally, users can also smoothly share their way across town by comparing all commuting options displayed on a single screen.
What’s more is that with just a single account, users can input their payment info once, and they can buy monthly bike-share passes, transit tickets digitally. The Transit app seamlessly integrates planning and payments, even if one is commuting within a new city. After all, the company has partnered with transit agencies and authorities of over 200 cities worldwide to make commuting a breeze.
To facilitate the development of a well-connected open mobility ecosystem, there are specific drivers. The following are the three trends that are helping shape the concept of future mobility –
- Electric Vehicles or EVs, which aim at curbing the problem of environmental pollution and health concerns
- Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) aim to improve safety, make travel seamless, and minimize traffic congestion
- Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), seeks to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by moving away from vehicle ownership and towards on-demand mobility services like Uber and Lyft
Why Is An Open Mobility Ecosystem Here to Stay?
In light of its manifold benefits, an open mobility ecosystem is the future of the movement, be it people or products. Here are a few compelling points in favor of an open mobility ecosystem –
Easing curbside & traffic congestion
In an open mobility ecosystem, city authorities will be able to analyze curb usage and implement parking policies as per their findings. For example – curb parking can be digitized to permit deliveries in the morning hours, civilian parking in the afternoon, and ride-hailing parking during the evening time. The same can be done for truck loading and unloading zones, where trucks may only stay for a few hours every day. However, in reality, such spaces are generally reserved 24 hours a day – this is clearly lost opportunity. A motorist circling round the block would appreciate that space had it been available.
A strategy involving digitized curb parking has been applied by the urban mobility company, Passport, in the city of Chicago, which helped in the efficient usage of the city’s commercial loading zones via the ParkChicago app.
Moreover, data from other modes of mobility, such as two-wheelers and dockless bikes, can also be collected in real-time. This data can be used to identify patterns following which curbside parking policies can be modified to offer alternative modes of transport as first and last-mile solutions, thereby improving equity.
For example – RideKC is a first and last-mile regional transit facility for the city of Kansas, which involves the use of park-and-ride transit centers and unique integration of three fleets of conventional bikes, electric bikes, and scooters. Citizens can easily plan their trip – the app notifies when a stop arrives, and even suggests alternative modes of transport if one misses their ride.
Also, strategically-placed sensors and cameras can gather real-time traffic flow data and consequently, help motorists find the cheapest and easiest route from Point A to B. For example – mobile apps such as Moovel (Germany) and Whim (Finland) analyze a range of private and public modes of transportation, allowing users to know the most economical and traffic-less route to their destination.
Minimization of inconsistency in parking rules and rates
By its very concept, an open mobility system will aggregate all mobility information to a centralized management platform; a convenience for both citizens and the parking authorities. This, in turn, means that any change in parking regulations or rates will be uniformly conveyed to all parking systems across the city, thereby ensuring consistency of information. Doing this will minimize the regulatory impact of incorrect rates.
For instance, Fort Lauderdale has become the first city in the United States to link its entire mobility system under a single umbrella. In partnership with Passport, centralizing all forms of mobility has enabled the city to evaluate real-time parking demand, enforce parking rules and rates via real-time compliance platform, and optimize parking inventory via dynamic pricing.
Higher revenue at lower operational costs
An open mobility ecosystem will reduce administrative expenses and increase revenue for the city authorities. How? By enabling the creation of a multi-tenant environment wherein customers can pay digitally via multiple payment modes. As a result, the demand for digital payment options will increase, thereby lowering the need for the hardware involved in creating parking sessions.
Furthermore, since all data on pricing, occupancy, routing, etc. can be managed via a centralized data platform, an expenditure that would otherwise be directed towards developing multiple back-end systems can be altogether eliminated.
The environment benefits at large
An open mobility ecosystem is a boon for citizens, who, via real-time traffic and parking information provided by apps, do not need to stress themselves regarding the unavailability of parking or spending hours in long queues of traffic. However, that’s not it! As a result of electric vehicles that altogether eliminate fuel emission, smart connected cars that improve road safety, and affinity to ride-hailing services that reduce the number of vehicles on the road, the environment benefits at large. Consequently, a cleaner environment directly translates to healthier citizens.
The current transportation scenario is somewhat disconnected, given a lack of on-the-go traffic and travel information and secure digital payment options. Therefore, the mobility ecosystem is undoubtedly set to undergo another massive revolution – the Second Great Inflection Point – wherein the currently disconnected components will operate in a more inter-connected and customer-focused manner. The result? Mobility is safer, cheaper, and more convenient.