Traffic jams at rush hour, overcrowded cities, environmental pollution and driving bans: growing urban population spaces create constantly increasing traffic. Facing this challenge in the future will require innovative mobility concepts and sustainable solutions.
Sustainable mobility concepts are not only a matter of reducing the number of vehicles or creating more environmentally compatible designs. Alongside the vehicle itself, the usage is the primary focus. The key to overcoming the challenges of individual, motorised mobility in the future is “Mobility as a Service”. What does this mean? Essentially, this consists of sustainable services that ideally combine public and private transport offers to create a homogeneous, user-friendly service. The goal is to improve the capacity usage of various forms of transport, to reduce the amount of traffic, the burden on the environment and also the costs for the road users.
Furthermore, the potential of these services not only lies in reducing the strain on urban centres but also in improving traffic and transport in less populated areas that generally have a poorer public transport infrastructure. As such, these services have the task of reducing the number of vehicles used while offering customers both flexible and affordable mobility. These services supplement public transport which currently offers the greatest possible efficiency with mass transport systems such as subways and suburban railways.
But which services do these mobility concepts actually include? Car sharing is one of the most widespread concepts and offers significant benefits in comparison to private, individual transport. Many popular providers are distinguished by their high flexibility – the vehicles are not bound to fixed stations and you can book them at any time of day or night. In addition, they can be managed easily and simply via apps and the Internet while payment is as easy as online shopping. The concept provided station-based providers with a user growth of 21.5% in 2018. We Share in Berlin demonstrates that the market definitely still has space for new services: the car sharing service kicked off in the German capital in 2019 and relies completely on electric mobility, beginning with 1,500 e-Golfs (electricity consumption, kWh/100 km: combined 14.1 (17 inch) - 13.2 (16 inch); CO₂ emissions combined, g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+). We Share also plans to launch in other major German cities.
Above all, digital technologies have helped ideas such as car sharing to achieve a breakthrough. Ride hailing services also profit from digitalisation. These include driving services such as taxi companies. Although taxis are not a ground-breaking innovation, the integration of digital channels has transformed the market: these services improve the usability of the office by offering passengers greater comfort and efficiency. For example, customers can contact the driver directly if an appointment changes. The services are also generally less expensive than the conventional taxi service. The potential of on-demand mobility is by no means exhausted: in 2016, Volkswagen invested around 300 million US dollars in “Gett”, a global provider for arranging driving services active in more than 60 cities around the globe.
In the case of mobility concepts such as ride sharing or ride pooling, multiple passengers with similar routes share a vehicle. This is essentially the familiar carpooling concept. However, the digitalisation of the service provides both users and providers with better options: the vehicle is generally ordered via a smartphone app which processes the request in order to balance the roots and vehicle usage, optimising the conditions for both the providers and the users. These highly demand-oriented services supplement local public transport and have particularly high potential for rural areas. There are also financial reasons for ride sharing: it is generally less expensive than renting a vehicle or taking a taxi and, in some cases, even less expensive than public transport.
Ideally, Mobility-as-a-Service concepts combine a number of important parameters: firstly, they focus on the users. They decide which offers they want to use when and where. They are platform-based, enabling users to plan, book and pay for their journey via digital channels. In the best case, services from diverse providers such as public transport, car sharing and ride sharing are integrated into the same platform or app. The ideal digital mobility platform for easy planning, booking and payment combines these services, provides easier access to mobility and ensures the ideal usage of all transport options. Volkswagen’s Czech subsidiary, Skoda, operates a peer-to-peer car sharing program in Prague called HoppyGo, for example. This service enables private vehicle owners to offer their own vehicles. In addition, the service also integrates railway and long-distance bus transport. As such, HoppyGo users can receive multimodal travel plans from their apps, enabling them to combine different means of transport.
In the German city of Hanover, the Volkswagen subsidiary MOIA commenced regular operation of its new transport concept in mid-2018. With the help of software and an app, it enables spontaneous ride pooling: almost like a taxi service which picks you up and drives you to almost any point in the city. All of the potential passengers can book via an app and enter or exit the vehicle along its route. An algorithm determines the best time and route efficiency in order to guarantee that the shuttle is utilised optimally. MOIA is essentially a hybrid public transport and taxi company. As of mid-April 2019, MOIA now operates 100 electric vehicles in Hamburg, supplementing the public transport. Within 12 months, the electric fleet of the Volkswagen subsidiary will be expanded to 500 vehicles.
MOIA primarily demonstrates that vehicle manufacturers, start-ups and transport companies are working on the concept of “Mobility as a Service” and the associated conditions and factors involved in sustainable mobility – on the path toward a future with a sustainable, user-friendly services.