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News Roundup: California DMV Proposes More New Mandates for Driverless Vehicles, Tesla Plans Level 5 Autonomy By Next Year, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of interesting headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-vehicle industry this week:

Companies are once again concerned that California DMV rules will delay autonomous transportation progress

It seems California still can’t strike an effective balance when it comes to laws governing the manufacture and testing of autonomous vehicles. Previously, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said it was relieved and happy when the federal government released official policies and guidelines for states regarding self-driving vehicles, because the state felt it did not have the expertise or technical knowledge to design its own rules. Yet, despite the recent release of the federal government’s new policies, the California DMV this week held a public workshop about state rules, and industry folks say they were blind-sided by even more new state mandates, which make them concerned that once again, progress in the state will be hampered. The Los Angeles Times reports that under new rules, manufacturers would also have to obtain an ordinance or resolution from local authorities “that specify the roadways, speeds and other conditions that their vehicles are designed to operate in to ensure that communities have input on where testing occurs.” Perhaps even more surprisingly, E&T Magazine reports that companies would have to submit a full year’s worth of driverless data before being allowed to apply for a testing permit. Read more from the LA Times and E&T Magazine.

 

Tesla News: By end of next year, all cars will be fully autonomous–but we will only take responsibility for accidents in certain cases

A lot of news came out of the Tesla camp this week. First, on Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk announced that all new Tesla models will be capable of complete autonomy–that, is Level 5. All current Tesla owners will also be able to update their car’s software to turn their semi-autonomous cars into Level 5 vehicles, which Musk said will require no interaction from the “driver” at all. Musk said the company hopes the Level 5 updates will be ready by the end of 2017, barely one year from now. In other news, though, Musk blasted the media for making such a big deal over the few recent Autopilot crashes that have taken place, one of which killed the driver of the vehicle. He said the few accidents should not overshadow the numerous miles Teslas have driven safely while in Autopilot. Based on that, Musk said, Tesla as a company will only be taking responsibility for crashes caused by “design flaws.” That declaration comes amid a still-brewing argument within the auto industry over where liability for crashes in semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles should fall. Read more about Tesla’s announcements from the Business Journal and WIRED magazine.

 

Moscow still sees self-driving buses as 5-10 years away

Russia broached the subject of driverless transportation this week, suggesting that the nation is still wary of the concept. Representatives from the Department of Transport said they still see self-driving transit buses as being at least five to 10 years away, “after they have been recognized as safe and beneficial in other countries.” In particular, officials pointed to Singapore as a country they are following with interest. Singapore is in the process of rolling out connected-vehicle bus control systems, and just recently starting testing self-driving robot taxis in a small downtown area. Moscow isn’t ruling out the concept of driverless transportation completely, though–officials said research and development is already underway involving driverless car sharing and artificial intelligence systems for vehicles, as well as semi-autonomous features such as emergency braking and driver fatigue monitoring. Read more from Mos.ru, the Moscow City news website.

Daimler Moving on Mobility with MyTaxi, Moovel

Burney Simpson

Daimler used its Moovel subsidiary in July to continue its aggressive approach to new mobility with investments in Europe and hiring in the U.S. The two actions suggest Daimler won’t stop moving on its ridesharing and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offerings.

The auto OEM bought 60 percent of Hailo, a ridesharing firm with a checkered past that has a strong presence in the United Kingdom, TechCrunch reports.

Daimler then merged Hailo with MyTaxi, a ridesharing app owned by its subsidiary Moovel. The merged firm will be known as MyTaxi and headquartered in Hamburg.

Connected-Car2The new MyTaxi claims 100,000 registered drivers serving 70 million customers in 50 cities across nine countries in Europe, making it one of the leading ridesharing firms on the Continent.

MyTaxi will be led by Andrew Pinnington, the current CEO of Hailo. Daimler named Niclaus Mewes, the founder of MyTaxi’s parent, a managing director of Daimler Mobility Services.

Terms of the deal weren’t released though Pinnington told Reuters that under the all-share deal Daimler will own 60 percent of MyTaxi, while Hailo stakeholders will hold 40 percent.

Hailo had been strong in the U.K. and Ireland while MyTaxi has operations in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Hailo closed down its U.S. operations in 2014 while facing tough competition from Uber and Lyft.

Auto OEMs are moving on ridesharing firms this year with GM investing $500 million in Lyft and Volkswagen putting $300 million into Gett.

URBAN MOBILITY PRODUCTS

Meanwhile in the U.S., Moovel North America spirited Matt Jones away from Jaguar Land Rover and named him its chief product officer. He will work out of Moovel NA’s Portland, Ore., headquarters.

Jones will oversee Moovel NA’s “urban mobility products,” according to a press release. While it wasn’t clear from the release what that meant, it suggested that Jones will work to create an integrated transportation service that consumers can control with their smartphones.

These services may range from public and private transit to car-sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, and other transportation offerings. Consumers will use their phones to access, research, schedule, pay for, and keep track of the services. These MaaS products may be offered on a subscription or an as-needed basis.

At Jaguar Jones oversaw global efforts to develop and implement in-dash and mobile apps for vehicle routing, information and entertainment systems.

Daimler created Moovel North America in April by combining two of its purchases — GlobeSherpa and RideScout.

C2go2GlobeSherpa is a mobile booking and ticketing service for public transit agencies, while RideScout brought the transportation app. (See “Daimler Gets Moovel-ing on Mobility as a Service”).

Moovel NA began beta-testing in Portland this spring an app that combined transit ticketing with the ability to call a Lyft vehicle or a Car2go, another Daimler subsidiary.

Car2go is a car-sharing service where consumers use an app to reserve and then drive its two-passenger vehicles. Car2go’s 1.3 million registered members can rent the vehicles by the minute, hour, or day. According to its website Car2go operates in 28 cities in nine countries.

Silicon Valley Takes On Smart Mobility

Burney Simpson

Silicon Valley is in the middle of changing the way workers get to work. Then again, maybe not.

The Smart Mobility office of Joint Venture Silicon Valley (JVSV) seeks to implement several new transportation systems that will get people out of their cars, use public transit and bikes, and spew fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

This massive change relies in part on new technology developed by the growing autonomous driving industry.

The problem is that the Smart Mobility group doesn’t have the authority to force commuters to change. Further, the new technology is still being tested or has yet to find a large group of users to make it commercially viable.

SERIOUS TRAFFIC ISSUES

Instead, Smart Mobility must rely on employers and staff to make the effort to get off their butts and make a difference. Employers have to see savings, or even revenue generation, while employees must be rewarded in some way.

No doubt the Bay Area has some serious traffic issues.

Congestion around San Francisco is ranked by Inrix as second worst in the nation, behind only Los Angeles and tied with Washington, D.C. San Francisco commuters wasted 75 hours sitting in traffic in 2015.

Steve Raney, executive director of the mobility group, believes that the best way to cut congestion and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) travel from 75 percent of travel in the Bay to 50 percent of travel.

Moovel2

Image by ridetap.io.

That would mean cutting 1 million car trips a day from the current 3 million. If that happened it would eliminate 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to a white paper from the mobility group.

Raney points to work done with Stanford University as one path to cutting SOV commutes.

Stanford began by charging its SOV commuters $3 a day to park at the school, a benefit it had previously offered for free. It then ‘feebated’ that revenue to its commuters that walked, biked, took a shuttle bus, used the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA), or CalTrans, or the ride.com on-demand rideshare.

(A feebate is a system of charges and rebates designed to reward or penalize energy-efficient practices.)

As a result, Stanford reduced its SOV numbers from 75 percent of commutes to 49 percent, according to Raney. The school then saved the $107 million it had planned to spend on new parking facilities, he says.

In essence, Stanford replaced free parking with a shared travel benefit.

“Free parking for employees is a tradition,” says Raney. “(Employers) can phase in a charge of $3 for driving alone, or make it free to bike or walk. Just shift the dollar around for vehicles.”

The feebate concept was the most viable way to implement change when compared to such proposals as increasing the gas tax or imposing road user charges or implementing workplace parking charges, according to Raney’s research.

Feebates is just one aspect of the ‘Reducing Bay Area Commuting by 25%’ white paper from the JVSV mobility group.

smartMobility2

Its Fair Value Commuting solution includes another four components, much of it relying on new technology associated with the developing autonomous driving industry:

  • The Enterprise Commute Trip Reduction (ECTR) is software from such firms as Luum and RideAmigos that allow employers to track staff commutes, and offer commute incents/de-cents.
  • Mobility Aggregation (MobAg) apps track and display multiple travel options – public/private transit, rideshare, carshare, bikeshare, van pool, etc. Vendors include Moovit, Transit App, Urban Engines, TripGo, Swiftly, Moovel, and Siemens. (In a perfect world, MobAg apps will also offer payment capabilities and update the ECTR so the employer can track employee activity).
  • Gap Filling is a catchall term for more transportation options and payment ideas, with a focus on first mile/last mile challenges. Gap fillers can range from low-income transit subsidies to Lyft/Uber peer-to-peer rideshare, escooters, public microtransit (VTA Flex3), private microtransit (Bridj, Chariot), private motorcoach (RidePal), telecommuting, and autonomous microtransit (EasyMile).
  • Systemic Obstacles refers to developing uniform payment systems and integrated routes by multiple transit agencies; developing an interoperable mobility software system.

The white paper concedes that much of this infrastructure is not in place. The MobAg apps are still gestating, the ECTR software needs to add features, and the public is catching up with all the gapfillers.

For example, payment apps do not allow for interoperability between the two dozen transit systems in the Bay area alone.

The Daimler purchase of smartphone e-ticketing firm Globe Sherpa might address this when its capabilities are combined with Daimler-owned RideScout. Still, this is a work in progress.

FEBATE FIGHTBACK

And even the feebate concept gets pushback despite its proven benefits. One Joint Venture collaborator notes that many employers don’t do feebates even when it may be in their best interest.

Raney is moving forward, saying that in September he will get an answer on four grant proposals that would allow him to expand his research and membership.

Meanwhile, he has drafted a proposal for the California legislature that would put a cap on free parking benefits an employer could provide to staff that commute in Single Occupancy Vehicles. The employer starts paying a fee when the percent of its SOV commuters tops a defined threshold.

America’s SOV mode of commuting once sold cars and built the wide-open freeways that took us to suburbia. Today it means congested highways filled with greenhouse gas delivery devices. It could take decades for the nation to break its SOV habit.

 

Photo by Coolcaeser.

Shared Mobility Cuts Car Ownership, Remakes Transit: Study

Burney Simpson

Car ownership can be reduced if public transit agencies and shared mobility firms expand their partnerships and implement new ways to track their success, according to a new report sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.

The report “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit” was designed to find if shared mobility forms can help reduce car ownership and increase use of public transit.

The study was conducted by the Shared-Use Mobility Center in Chicago. The research included participation from seven city areas: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

Self-driving vehicles are often lumped under the shared mobility platform, with ridesharing firms like Uber and Lyft making strategic plans to buy and operate driverless cars to reduce personnel costs.

carsharing2The report found that travelers that most actively used shared modes of transit were those that used transit frequently, owned fewer cars, and had reduced transportation spending.

These “Supersharers” of such services as bike sharing, carsharing, and ridesourcing report the greatest transportation savings and that they own half as many cars as people who use transit alone.

Supersharers owned 0.72 cars per household compared with the 1.05 cars per household owned by travelers that had used at least one of these sharing modes. Those that had used only public transit as a shared mode reported owning 1.5 cars per household.

The survey was conducted last September-October of more than 4,550 adults in the seven city study markets. Participants used one or more of the shared use modes, including transit.

MOBILITY AGENTS

The report recommended that public transit agencies transform themselves into mobility agencies. This includes “spreading awareness and training people how to use the full mobility menu to reduce the need for personal vehicles.”

In addition, public transit agencies have to change their metrics for measuring success:

“Current metrics that are focused solely on operational measures such as route ridership, unlinked trips, passenger revenue miles, or road capacity and congestion are not sufficient for gauging performance in the expanding mobility ecosystem.

“Improved metrics should take into account the entire mobility picture, including increases in linked, multimodal trips and reductions in solo car trips, vehicle miles traveled, and transportation-related climate impacts.”

The report examines the relationship of public transportation to shared modes, including bike sharing, carsharing, microtransit, and ridesourcing services. Paratransit and demand responsive services are also reviewed.

An earlier version of the study was released in March under the auspices of the American Public Transportation Association.

Study methodology included: In-depth interviews with transportation officials; a survey of shared mobility users; analysis of transit and ridesourcing capacity, demand, and comparative travel times; an assessment of practices and regulations relating to paratransit provision; and a compilation of current business models and public-private partnerships that build on new technologies from the emerging shared mobility sector.

The newly-released study is in pre-publication form and was conducted on behalf of the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Cooperative Research Program.

The TRB is co-hosting this week the Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016 in San Francisco with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Photos by Uber, goDCgo.

Driverless SmartShuttle in Switzerland is no Cuckoo Clock

Burney Simpson

Switzerland last week officially began offering live rides on the SmartShuttle autonomous, electric vehicle from Navya in the city of Sion.

The transportation system is led by PostBus Switzerland with a fleet management platform from BestMile. The BestMile platform gives PostBus a real-time overview of the fleet, and allows for its remote control.

Navya’s ARMA steering systems use Velodyne’s LiDAR Pucks, GPS RTK navigation devices, stereovision cameras, inertial navigation systems and odometry, according to a press release.

The SmartShuttle can be tracked in real time with a smartphone app or at a kiosk at a station. It was first announced last year and has been in a test mode since then.

“In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock,” Harry Lime in ‘The Third Man,’ 1949.

France’s Navya operated its driverless vehicle on the open road last year during the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress (ITS) in Bordeaux. The vehicle can carry up to 15 passengers at a top speed of 16 miles an hour.

Switzerland-based BestMile is a spinoff from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL in English) in Lausanne. EPFL-developed algorithms enable dispatching and routing, charging management, maintenance planning, and emergency handling, according to BestMile.

OLLI SHUTTLE COUSIN

BestMile was a partner in the June launch in Maryland of the self-driving Olli shuttle by Local Motors (See “New Self-Driving Olli Shuttle ‘Talks’ with Passengers”).

The free service in Sion operates Tuesday through Sunday in the afternoon, carrying passengers on a loop between the Place du Midi and popular cathedrals. Plans call for the service to be expanded and to operate on a regular schedule through the week.

Sion, capital of the canton of Valais in southwest Switzerland, had a population of 33,296 in 2014. Most jobs are in the service sector, and it’s a popular tourist destination.

PostBus is Switzerland’s leading bus company, carrying more than 140 million passengers each year.

SmartShuttle image from BestMile.

Riders Get on the V2I Bus with Smart Stop App

Burney Simpson

A public-transit oriented smart phone application using V2I (Vehicle-To-Infrastructure) communications was tested successfully at the ITS-America 2016 conference in San Jose, setting the stage for further development.

The “Smart Stop” app uses Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) Wi-Fi technology to allow waiting bus passengers and buses to communicate with each other.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) teamed up with Smart Stop developers Renesas Electronics America Inc. and eTrans Systems to test the app through three different demonstrations with 40-foot buses.

“The test went very well,” said Gary Miskell, chief information officer for the Authority. “This was the proof of concept. Now that we passed we can get funding (and move forward) on real development.”

The waiting passenger uses her smart phone or a kiosk touch screen to send a stop request with the Smart Stop app. That stop request informs the Santa Clara system she is at a specific stop waiting for a specific bus.

The stop request goes to a Road Side Unit that transmits it to the bus on-board unit which generates an audible and visual alert to the driver.

Smart Stop will notify the passenger through her smartphone or kiosk that the bus is approaching her stop.

For connected vehicle proponents the success of the test shows that DSRC can be used to make roads safer and more efficient. Smart Stop is an example of V2I technology that connects a fleet system with infrastructure (the Road Side Unit) by using Wi-Fi communications.

That’s great for the techies, but Miskell is looking to Smart Stop as something that can help him solve a day-to-day problem.

“Sometimes drivers don’t see the waiting person. But a stop request makes the driver stop,” he said.

PASSENGER CONTROL

That gives passengers a greater sense of control, which all transit riders appreciate, but it is “especially important for those with disabilities,” said Miskell.

That suggests that the app’s capabilities might be expanded to better serve passengers with special needs, such as those in wheel chairs and those with bikes.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, cautions Miskell.

In the near term he’d like to conduct a test of Smart Stop on select VTA routes with a limited number of passengers.

“We’ll get some customer feedback, track usage, and take it to the steering committee,” said Miskell.

If they like it, the VTA could put more funding behind the technology. And that’s when you get DSRC V2I technology solving day to day problems.

Mobility As A Service in the US – Who’s the Bank?

Burney Simpson

The time seems right for Mobility as a Service (MAAS). Travelers are looking to cut costs, congestion, and the bother of owning a vehicle. And autonomous technology and driverless vehicles could bring costs down so MAAS would be affordable for the masses.

A successful MAAS program will need a mix of transportation providers like public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, shuttle and bus services, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, car-share outfits like car2go, and others depending on the metro area.

But any MAAS project will also need three behind-the-scenes providers to grease the wheels.

Those are an app creator, a data analyzer, and a bank, said Tim Papandreou, director, Office of Innovation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“You need an entity that can create and maintain the app, (and an entity) to gather and analyze the data so transportation options are continually updated and improved, to meet customer needs and offer incentives,” said Papandreou. “Third, (there’s the entity) that will act as a payment facilitator. It will send money to the transportation provider.”

A single payments firm is essential, said transportation consultant Carol Schweiger.

“You pay one entity for all these services or else the concept won’t work. You can’t have users paying multiple providers,” said Schweiger, president of Schweiger Consulting.

Schweiger refers to a MAAS scheme where the traveler pays a monthly subscription fee to a service, covering her daily commute and a certain number of weekend and evening trips. That service is responsible for divvying up the funds to the transport providers.

LOGICAL PROVIDERS

MAAS is evolving but generally refers to a subscription-based, phone-app accessible mix of transportation options providing door-to-door service.

moovel-transit2Schedules and fees of the transportation providers will have to be online, integrated and continuously updated. That goes for weather and road condition information. The service is operated real-time, so a subscriber can preplan a journey, or find, pay for, and jump on the best option on the fly.

For now, there appear to be firms ready to step into the first two roles that Papandreou describes.

One ride search provider is the moovel app launched by Daimler this spring in Portland, Ore. It offers smartphone searching and the ability to make payments to multiple providers. But moovel is pay-as-you-go, there’s no monthly subscription service, says a spokesperson.

Second, data gathering and analysis is becoming core to intelligent transportation systems (ITS) with multinational giants like Siemens, Microsoft, IBM and others exploring the sector.

What’s missing is three, the bank.

Ford and GM are logical providers of this service though neither has expressed interest publicly in becoming a MAAS bank.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR?

Papandreou says the auto OEMs are still getting their heads around the idea of integrated mobility, so throwing in the concept of banking may be a bridge too far.

But it isn’t far-fetched.

Each has a financial arm with deep pockets.

The Ford Motor Credit Corp. provides loans through its Lincoln Automotive Service Corp. in the U.S., Canada and China. Net income for Ford Motor Credit tallied $1.4 billion in 2015, with managed receivables of $127 billion. Put simply, receivables measure the amount customers owe on loans.

GM subsidiary General Motors Financial reported net income of $646 million and total assets of $66 billion last year.

And there’s the possibility that fewer consumers will be buying cars if MAAS-style systems take hold.

“GM has to find new ways to make money if they don’t sell as many cars,” said Schweiger.

One way to do that could be to finance the system and earn income from payment processing.

“There are billions of transactions every day, this is a tremendous opportunity,” said Papandreou.

For now, the two big American auto OEMs don’t appear to be interested. GM is focused on expanding Lyft, in part with driverless vehicles it develops with Cruise Automation.

Ford’s new FordPass seeks to connect with customers through their smartphones. Millennials can do cool stuff like reserve a parking space and start their car.

But the payment angle is a work in progress. A customer earns rewards by purchasing Ford services, and the rewards can be redeemed at a Boomer brand like McDonald’s. A Ford spokesperson says FordPass is evolving, and changes will be coming.

Mobility As A Service is evolving too, and there will be different approaches in different cities. MAAS banking is a move away from an auto OEM’s core skill set but financing such a system could be quite rewarding.

Story photo – Piggy by Pictures of Money, 2014.

Many Challenges to MAAS in the U.S.

Burney Simpson

The developers behind the Babcock Ranch in Florida face challenges as they position it as the first planned community for driverless transportation. It is to feature electric-powered self-driving vehicles and public transit on-demand with an Uber-type app. (“America’s First ‘Truly Sustainable’ Town Will Run on Driverless Transit”).

Transportation in Babcock is a step towards Mobility As A Service (MAAS) where consumers give up their own vehicle and rely instead on a combination of public transit, rideshare (i.e. Uber), biking and walking.

A user will pay a monthly subscription fee to access with their smartphones the MAAS door-to-door transportation service.

Once onboard, the subscriber researches, books, and pays for their best transportation option among a slew of transportation providers, which may also include car share (i.e. zipcar), van pool, cabs, bikeshare, and possibly a limo service.

The real-time service means the subscriber can preplan a journey, or find, pay for, and jump on the best option on the fly.

top-slides-maas4A MAAS subscription may prove cheaper than the money spent buying or leasing a vehicle, along with gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, various state licensing fees, tickets, ad nauseam.

Savings alone makes MAAS intriguing but it comes with large challenges. Selling the concept in the U.S. may be especially difficult as car ownership is ingrained with 80 percent of all trips taken in personally-owned-vehicles.

In Europe, MAAS Finland plans to offer a monthly subscription and a single journey payment system, though it hasn’t launched yet. This video from the Finish Ministry of Transport and Communication neatly describes MAAS in animated form.

Information is vital to a MAAS system.

For example, schedules and fees of the transportation providers will have to be online, integrated and continuously updated. That goes for weather and road condition information.

The subscriber’s payment account and any special transport needs must be on hand.

That presents a hurdle for any MAAS operator in the U.S., according to transportation consultant Carol Schweiger’s presentation “Bringing Mobility as a Service to the U.S.: Opportunities and Challenges” where she outlines issues.

  • In practice, some public transit providers don’t share information with other providers, whether internally or externally. That is, the bus division doesn’t communicate well with the subway system, and neither talks to the bus system operated by the county next door.
  • Can a transit system with this kind of institutional mindset share its performance data with an Uber or a Velib bikeshare program?
  • Public transit organizations will also have to find the funds to build and maintain this 21st Century communications system, and to accept electronic payments.
  • Should there be a single regulator for an entire MAAS system, or do you keep separate offices such as one for transit and another for cabs?
  • Publicly-owned transportation providers must determine how to include travelers that don’t have smartphones and a payment card.
  • And then there’s such technical issues as cybersecurity, and providing service in the event of a system failure.

There are efforts to address some of these issues.

The transit app Moovit announced this month it would be integrated into Uber’s app in 131 cities in 22 countries.

MAAS COLLABORATION

Moovit users plan local travel options by checking their transit provider’s route data. Adding Uber is designed to help Moovit-ites better navigate the first mile/last mile of their journey.

A number of transit systems are considering using Uber to provide some part of their service for riders with disabilities.

The largest MAAS project in the U.S. now may be the one conducted by Joint Venture Silicon Valley that focuses on commuting in the San Francisco Bay area.

Joint Venture’s MAAS is collaborating with Palo Alto, San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).

It seeks to integrate mobility apps with work transportation programs provided by employers like Enterprise Commute Trip Reduction (ECTR). It claims six important stakeholders in its commuting ‘ecosystem’: cities, transit agencies, mobility service providers, large employers, small employers, and ECTR software providers.

It plans this year to launch a Mobility Aggregation smartphone app that might support public and private transit, Carma ridesharing; Motivate bike share; Lyft Line and Flywheel; Car2Go, DriveNow, and Zipcar car sharing; and smartphone e-ticketing.

A second app might support public and private transit; Motivate bike share; UberPool; Car2Go and DriveNow; and smartphone e-ticketing.

Graphic is by Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MAAS Finland; One Seamless App by Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

Daimler Gets Moovel-ing on Mobility As A Service

Burney Simpson

Daimler launched a Mobility as a Service (MAAS) firm in North America called moovel, with promises to offer a choice of transportation options at the push of a smartphone app button.

Moovel is designed to link riders with providers of public transportation, car-sharing, ridesharing, bike sharing, and other forms of transportation.  

Moovel was launched as a pay-as-you-go service, with consumers having the ability to use their smartphone as a payment device for trips.

The concept of MAAS is evolving. In general it refers to a subscription-based, phone app-accessible mix of transportation options for users. The mix can include public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, and car-share firms like car2go.

Major auto OEMs are investing in MAAS-style services following the growth of non-traditional transportation offerings, especially among younger consumers.

Daimler operates car2go in about 30 cities in Europe and North America. Rival BMW announced this month it had begun operating its ReachNow car-sharing service in Seattle, and would possibly expand it to nine more cities (See “Siren of Mobility Entices BMW, Jaguar, Peugeot”).

MOBILE TICKETS AND PAYMENTS

Daimler said its launch of moovel is in response to the growth of urban populations worldwide, and to the rise in rides on public transportation. In 2014 there were nearly 11 billion public transportation rides, the highest ever, says Daimler.

For riders, moovel will offer mobile ticketing and payments for public transit agencies. For transit agencies, moovel helps them integrate with ”last mile/first mile options like bike share and on-demand car services,” according to Daimler.

The creation of moovel comes from Daimler’s 2014 purchase of transportation app provider RideScout. Last June, RideScout bought GlobeSherpa, a mobile book and ticketing service for public transit.

Moovel inherits from its two parents a number of agreements with public transit agencies in major metropolitan areas.

For example, in the Chicago area moovel has a relationships with the Chicago Transit Authority, the suburban PACE bus service and the metro-wide Metra train service.

In California, moovel has deals with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District.

Plans call for moovel to eventually offer Ridetap, a software development kit or SDK, that app developers can build on to assist users get to their final destination.

RideTap is currently operating only in a private beta mode in Portland, Ore. A program there allows users to request a Lyft ride, or reserve a car2go. Moovel says RideTap will be launched more widely later this year.

In Germany the moovel app offers access to car2go, the car-sharing firm Flinkster, the taxi booking and payments app mytaxi, the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, and public transportation, says Daimler.

Nat Parker, co-founder and former CEO of GlobeSherpa, is now CEO of moovel NA. Joseph Kopser, co-founder and former CEO of RideScout, is now president of moovel Group GmbH.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Growing in the EU

Burney Simpson

The Mobility as a Service concept is gaining adherents in Europe.

The start-up MaaS Finland garnered 2.2 million Euros ($2.4 million) in an early funding round last month with hopes of going back to investors for more this fall, according to release from the firm.

French transportation giant Transdev and Turkey’s commercial auto manufacturer Karsan Otomotiv Sanayii and Ticaret AS, each own 20 percent of MaaS Finland.

MaaS Finland officially opened its doors in February. It plans to deliver its services in Finland and two other countries this year, then expand in 2017.

Proponents believe MaaS will bring greater efficiency to transportation services, lower public reliance on autos, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Mobility as a Service Alliance says that MaaS offers travelers “tailor made mobility solutions based on their individual needs. … for the first time, easy access to the most appropriate transport mode or service will be included in a bundle of flexible travel service options for end users.”

HOW IT WORKS

Consumers access their MaaS provider through a smartphone app. The provider creates and manages a trip for the user by finding the right solution with a combination of public transport, car-sharing, ride-sharing, taxi, and bicycle-sharing.

In one business model the gateway firm purchases the rides/transport on a volume basis from the individual providers. The gateway firm also conducts data analysis on the subscriber’s preferences, and uses the information to develop more efficient trips for the customer.

The consumer receives either a single bill for the trip, or becomes a monthly subscriber to the service.

The MaaS concept takes advantage of the move away from car ownership by millennial consumers, and the corresponding growth in transportation sharing services like Uber and BikeShare.

“(A)sk yourself: ‘What would happen if I gave up my car?’” MaaS Finland CEO Sampo Hietanen, who holds a 10 percent stake in the company, said in a release.

“For one hundred euros [per month], you could have unlimited access to public transport services plus limited access to taxi rides and a rented car for a given number of kilometers.”

Other MaaS Finland shareholders include InMob Holdings of Cyprus; Neocard; Korsisaari; GoSwift; MaaS Australia; Goodsign; IQ Payments; and Delta Capital Force, according to a company release.

The European Mobility as a Service Alliance was launched at the 2015 ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, France. The Alliance was founded by 20 organizations, including AustriaTech, Ericsson, Helsinki Business Hub, Connekt, MOBiNET, Xerox, and ITS Finland and ITS Sweden.

The early provider UbiGo tested its MaaS service in Gothenburg, Sweden. It reported 70 subscribers made 12,000 transactions in six months. No customers cancelled the service after the test. Volvo was one of the partners in the test.

UbiGo says consumers pay only for what they use, without the hassle of owning a car.

Last May UbiGo was awarded the Promising Innovation award by the International Transport Forum of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Photo: (Untitled) by Caitlin H, 2011.

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