© moovel Group GmbH

Smart and mobile around town

Feb 3, 2021

Smart mobility means a fully integrated passenger transport system for towns and cities: smart parking, trip planning, carpooling, carsharing and ride hailing. We explain it below.

Trip planning: intermodal transport

In cities there are many ways to get around, such as local public transport with subways, street cars, buses and taxis, rental bikes and carsharing. We mix and match the various modes of transport. If changing is seamless, our trips are “intermodal.” Special apps are carving a path through the mass of different options. Local public transport, cars or rental vehicles? The deciding question is no longer which mode we use, but how fast and efficiently we reach our destination. It only takes a click to find the fastest or most convenient route from all the providers with their different means of transport. The principle comes from freight traffic, where it has long been normal practice to take a connected view of transport chains. These systems are gradually becoming more intelligent. Algorithms factor real-time traffic reports into the calculation, along with the parking situation at the destination. Integrated payment systems are also being developed so customers can pay for journeys conveniently even when they combine different modes of transport. Today’s apps indicate the most environmentally friendly option, and in the future they could suggest routes that are especially healthy because part of the journey is covered on foot or using a rental bike – or routes including a drive past attractions in a double-decker bus. The app could also use previous trips to “anticipate” customers’ preferences and show options they might like.

Carsharing: owning is out, sharing is in

Cars will remain an integral part of this connected urban mobility and will supplement the mobility mix in the form of carsharing fleets. It’s a familiar principle: localize a car using an app, reserve it, climb in and set off. The car is parked either at a station or somewhere in the business district. In Germany the interest in carsharing continues unabated. At present, over two million Germans use the sharing services of various providers who are shifting increasingly to electric fleets. Furthermore, bicycle and e-scooter-sharing schemes have already expanded the sharing principle. However for longer rentals, or in areas without carsharing, customers are not forced to find a classical rental car. Peer-to-peer carsharing is a good alternative where private owners rent out their own cars. The rental is arranged online (naturally) and the vehicle is insured throughout the rental period. It’s not only easy for customers to find a car, but they also have a wide choice of vehicles – cars with very individual characters. The principle is simple. The owner decides when to make the car available and publishes these dates on a platform, along with photos and information about the vehicle. Its location and profile are shown on a map. A potential customer surfs through the profiles and enquires about making a reservation. If the answer is affirmative, the customer can open the vehicle during the rental period using a smartphone app. Chips and special connectivity boxes replace the conventional car key.

Smart parking: no more searches

Driving around town looking for a parking spot is a chronic problem. Urban motorists in Germany spend an average of 46 hours every year just searching for somewhere to park. In the cities investigated, the associated congestion costs come to 2.8 billion euros. The facts speak volumes about how important it is to optimize the search. Parking-space sharing enables the owners of private parking spaces on private property or in garages to offer them to other users for a certain period of time. In addition, a whole series of parking apps promises to end the time-consuming search. They can be used on the roadside to buy a digital car park ticket or for entering a parking garage without having to go to a pay station before leaving. The accounts are settled simply by direct debit or by credit card at the end of the month. Some startups and industrial companies are developing solutions such as sensors on lampposts or embedded in the asphalt, which will detect whether a parking place is vacant or occupied. The information is sent to a cloud and used to create a real-time parking map available to motorists via an app or on the internet. Community-based parking works in a similar way. On-board ultrasound sensors continuously scan the roadside for free spaces. Here, too, the data can be used to create maps. And the more cars there are connected, the more up-to-date and accurate the information about parking spots will be.

Ride-hailing: from door to door

Buses and streetcars are cheap, but they only serve specific routes at fixed times. Taxis are available anytime, anywhere in the city, but are expensive. The gap is now being filled by new ride-hailing providers. Customers can call a ride from and to practically anywhere in the city (just like a conventional taxi). But the shuttle optimizes its utilization by picking passengers up and dropping them off on the way. This means that passengers with similar destinations share the vehicle. All the while, in the background an algorithm monitors the fleet traveling around the city and passengers’ requests, and calculates the best journey time and route in real time. A smartphone message informs the passenger of the nearest pick-up point, which should be close enough to reach on foot. Ideally, even door-to-door trips could be arranged, or changes to other modes of transport without having to wait.

Carpooling: giving rides makes a comeback

Nowadays we no longer wait for hours stretching our thumbs out or holding up a handwritten sign with the name of our destination, sweating under the midday sun at highway rest areas or on the slip roads. Carpooling turns private cars into a form of public transport. Numerous platforms and apps make it easy to find the right people to share a ride. Until now, the offers were generally made directly to people who happened to be going in the same direction or wanted to book a ride at short notice. There was less focus on companies and commuters. But for some time now, carpooling communities have also existed for firms, universities and municipalities. Their employees can register and then search for or offer rides. The costs can be shared and settled directly between colleagues online. This reaches users who make the same journey every day. They do not always ride with complete strangers, as regular ridesharing also builds groups of people who get to know one another and expand their professional network. And in cities like Los Angeles, fully occupied cars are even allowed to use special lanes and zoom past the traffic queues.

(Stage photo: © moovel Group GmbH)

The IAA MOBILITY is transforming itself from a pure car show to an international mobility platform with four pillars: the Summit, the Conference, the “Blue Lane” and the downtown Munich Open Space. Under the slogan of “What will move us next”, it stands for the digital and climate-neutral mobility of the future. From 7 to 12 September 2021, the car, bike and tech industries come together at IAA MOBILITY in Munich.