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2020 in Review: Adapting Our Fleet Simulator to an Evolving Market

The year of 2020 will be memorable in history for many reasons.

We had the passing of the UK Brexit withdrawal agreement in Parliament, Harry and Meghan standing down from royal duties, bush fires in California and Australia, public clapping for healthcare and support workers, the Black Lives Matter movement, the normalisation of video socialising, and the 2020 US Presidential election.

But the COVID-19 pandemic provided an overarching challenge that affected most corners of our world.

Changes to Our Industry

As the rate and spread of infection grew, our industry – transportation – was significantly impacted. Public transport and wider road use dropped significantly, as many people lost jobs, started working from home and wished to maintain social distancing

The resulting combination of lockdowns, social distancing and environmental recognition has led us to rethink our relationship with transportation. COVID-19 disrupted the legacy mobility systems that existed in cities and regions around the world.

Lockdowns have driven an increase in walking, cycling and remote working, whilst risk of infection concerns associated with public transport and shared mobility services has led to private or individual modes being preferred – somewhat undoing the momentum gathered over the last few years in the sustainable, shared mobility industry.

We do believe that this shift in modal mix is temporary, with shared solutions (including public transport) rebounding and continuing to grow. An area that has seen increased focus to support the rebound, is the development of on-demand solutions that complement and cooperate with public transport. These ‘demand-responsive transport’ or DRT services will play an important role in pooling demand and increasing access to the public transport system.

Whilst modal mix may be temporary, some effects may well be permanent. Remote working may well have a lasting impact if companies can recognise efficiency, cost, and productivity benefits. The increased recognition of climate and air quality issues has accelerated the enactment of climate change legislation and the growth in sales of electric vehicles. In the UK, November’s EV sales increased by 122% compared to the same time in 2019. This is even more impressive considering that overall car sales are 27% down. We have also seen the near-term use cases for automated vehicles shifting from taxi/rideshare services to logistics (including food and medical supply delivery).

The effects of these changes can have last benefits for our environment and economy. The key challenge is helping businesses adapt to make the most of these accelerated transitions.

Market-Led Adaptations to Our Product

So, what do these market changes mean for Immense’s platform?

Back in June, we launched the first publicly accessible Immense application. Our Fleet Simulator helps operators understand the impact of future changes to their fleet – whether that be variable service demand, alternate vehicle supply or changes to infrastructure configuration. Remarkably, our launch came at a time of rapid and uncertain change for many fleet operators.

Whilst COVID-19 has benefits and disbenefits for the different service types, the one constant across all fleet operators was the rise in uncertainty. This has driven the need and interest in using modelling and simulation for improving operational resilience and planning for futures that have never previously occurred.

Whilst our early product focused on supporting ridehail and rideshare fleets (both human-driven and autonomous), we quickly evolved to supporting the rise in other service types. In general, we’ve witnessed growth in demand for understanding and planning 3 service types:

Electric Buses

Source: Arrival

Fully electric buses are being accelerated to market following the recognition that city buses are the cause of large amounts of black carbon emissions, whilst fixed route, regular bus services are a good use case for battery powered vehicles.

Even though COVID-19 has slowed down the public transport sector, global electric bus volume is expected to grow by over 10% per year to 2027. EV bus makers such as Arrival, Volvo, BYD and Proterra are all racing to produce vehicles to meet the growing demand.

This means that the time is now to start redesigning the services to make best use of these technologically advanced assets. We have seen a mix of cities, automotive manufacturers and fleet operators show interest in modelling electric buses, proving the collaborative nature of deploying these new service types.

Services to Compliment Public Transport

Source: ViaVan

Whilst ridehailing has partly clashed with public transport services over the last few years, cities and operators are starting to design collaborative network systems, where on-demand and public transport services can efficiently coexist and be cooperative.

This has the potential to plug gaps in public transport coverage, reduce demand for parking and reduce cost of running underutilised bus routes. The emergence of key players such as ViaVan (pictured right) and Uber Transit have the right mix of technology capability and brand to work seamlessly alongside public transport.

To build trust across stakeholders and design effective systems, simulation is an important tool for testing different scenarios. Again, we’ve seen interest across stakeholders – cities, fleet operators, and automotive manufacturers – to understand how best to implement this new service type.

On-Demand Delivery Fleets

Source: UberEats

The logistics market has seen a surge in demand for package delivery this year. The growth in last-mile and on-demand delivery services has been necessary to maintain social distancing and lockdown rules, whilst ensuring the public can access the goods they need – including food and medical supplies.

The explosion of growth in demand for services such as UberEats (pictured left) and Deliveroo is likely to be maintained beyond COVID-19 as the ability to order food on-demand is normalised in societies around the world.

The roll-out, scale-up and transfer of these new services is challenging to get right first time – which is where businesses are seeing the value in scenario-analysis using simulation. Playing different potential ‘futures’ for service demand and fleet availability helps an operator understand the sensitivities of different service parameters in current and new locations around the world.

 

Looking Ahead to 2021

With hopes growing for a potential COVID-19 vaccination, optimism is starting to re-enter our industry.

We expect many of the trends from recent years that have been accelerated through COVID-19 to continue to grow – including electric vehicles and on-demand logistics.

We also believe that shared mobility will rebound from the setback experienced this year, as the shared and service economy continues to expand across all areas of our lives. Whilst private vehicle ownership has been preferable to many people this year, the mid-term expectations are that the accessibility of other sustainable, cheaper, and more equitable mobility solutions will disincentivise owning a vehicle.

For Immense, we will continue to listen to our clients and industry, and keep improving our platform to help navigate uncertainty and capitalise on opportunities that exist. Our foundations of supporting autonomous, connected, electric and/or shared mobility solutions remains hugely relevant to the future of our industry, but we’re placing greater focus on supporting users to embed simulation within their business and decision-making processes.

If you’d like to speak with one of our team to see how Immense can help you in 2021, please reach out to us here: immense.ai/contact-us/

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