How to Build a City Selection Strategy for On-Demand Mobility
The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the deployment of new types of mobility service around the world.
As our economies continue to reopen and rebuild, transit systems will need to manage their capacities to continue social distancing measures. Given the uncertainties surrounding traditional public transportation and the increased cycling and private car trips, transit agencies and private operators are examining new on-demand solutions. These will leverage existing infrastructure to move people safely, cost-effectively, and flexibly in our cities.
Crucial to deploying profitable and customer-centric solutions, we have examined how technology companies, automotive manufacturers and fleet operators can improve their city selection capability.
The first precondition and often the largest barrier for an appealing city deployment is regulation.
Working with cities that are willing to embrace technology and innovation are going to be the earliest opportunities to deploy new urban mobility solutions.
On the other hand, public agencies that are not willing to adapt their transit systems are unlikely to be early adopters of innovative solutions.
The key signs of a progressive region are comprehensive open data initiatives, a history of translating innovation to business-as-usual programs and a leadership team empowered to improve local transit systems, not just maintain existing.
Next, we look at the number of trips occurring within a potential service area.
Of course, population movement has been significantly affected by the pandemic. We therefore must consider trip patterns pre-2020 and project what trip patterns may look like post-COVID-19. Will commuting patterns shift to reflect flexible working hours? Does the aversion from fixed-route mass transit services continue to increase private trips?
Trip density has a direct impact on potential revenues for your new service, so considering many potential scenarios will improve confident decision-making.
Related to trip density, traffic levels and related road speeds will have impact your service operations.
At peak times, slow road conditions will delay passenger collection and create further uncertainty about the time of arrival.
The ultimate outcome is reduced levels of trust in your ability to provide an effective service.
Traffic levels vary between cities, but navigating trip densities and road speeds will be crucial to effective operations.
Socio-economic information including employment, education and income must be used to design the most appropriate service and estimate service popularity.
Places with more college students, elderly and low-income households without access to vehicles make for ideal markets for lower-cost autonomous taxi services. High-income regions with regular business travellers into the central business district will benefit from premium, on-demand commuter services.
The existence of effective public transit systems within a city can have positive and negative effects on new mobility services.
On one hand, the availability of strong public transport options means travellers are accustomed to accessing services rather than using private vehicles.
But on the other hand, the market opportunity for flexible, shared services is reduced due to existing solutions. Transit agencies are also potentially more resistant to enabling ‘competitive’ services.
The key is to design new services that will complement the existing. For the city’s benefit, it should push latent demand into the public transit network and provide last-mile travel for those exiting the public transport network.
The physical and digital configuration of cities is a key enabler of effective mobility services.
If running an electric mobility service, the availability of charging infrastructure impacts the efficiency of your fleet. You will also need to ensure enough local grid capacity to support the additional power load.
In the future, digital applications such as dynamic kerbside management will reduce friction for picking up and dropping off passengers, whilst advanced road infrastructure may support seamless vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications for autonomous vehicles.
If the above conditions are conducive for deploying efficient mobility solutions, you should design the right service to effectively operate.
You need to consider: the right number and type of vehicles; the right location and power output of charging locations; and the right algorithms for allocation, dispatching and charging your fleet.
How Digital Worlds and Mobility Simulation can help
The good news is that understanding and negotiating these factors is now relatively straightforward.
It does not require small, expensive, and time-consuming physical pilots to know whether a concept is going to work.
The ability to accurately test mobility solutions in a digital replica of the real world has improved exponentially over the last 5 years. Mobility professionals with any professional background can now integrate simulation-driven decision-support systems with their workflows.
Users can: select road network conditions; test different trip patterns; set up alternative fleet configurations; and design supporting infrastructure in order to deploy the right on-demand mobility service, first time.
If you would like to see how simulation can support your city selection strategy, reach out to our team here!