COVID-19 has had a significant impact on transport. But even now, people still need to get around and demand will surge when economies reopen. The priorities? Ensuring people can get from A to B safely, comfortably and as efficiently as possible. And that has to happen while improving quality of life in urban areas, reducing traffic and cutting pollution.
So, what transport systems could achieve all those aims and more? Accenture predicts a major increase in what is called integrated mobility, also known as multimodal or intermodal mobility. This is where public authorities and transport providers combine different services to encourage people to take trips that use more than one mode of transport.
That could mean using a ride-sharing company to get from your home to a station, taking the train into the city, then hiring a bike to get to the office. Integrated mobility means mobility service providers working together to offer suitable transport options for each stage of a journey. The aim is to ensure seamless connections between different modes of transport. That could also extend to a single ticket covering the entire journey. Instead of operating separately, providers work together as players in a broader ecosystem, with everyone playing to their strengths.
The collaboration imperative
According to the Accenture report Responsible transit of the future, more than 92% of leaders in global public transit agreed that transit operators need to collaborate with new mobility service providers as partners, not competitors.
By collaborating rather than competing, operators and authorities can avoid costly infrastructure investments. For instance, an authority might reach underserved commuters by teaming with partners to solve the first- and last-mile problem. What’s more, mobility players could charge a small fee when referring business to others within their ecosystem.
Making integrated mobility happen
Transport systems are hugely complex. To bring about integrated mobility, the first step must be for authorities and operators to pool their data in order to understand and enable passenger journeys.
In some cases, this is already happening. For example, ride-sharing companies Easy Taxi, Grab and Le Taxi are making traffic data from their drivers’ GPS streams available to the public through an open data license. This helps transport agencies make evidence-based decisions about traffic signal timing, public transport provision, demand for road infrastructure, emergency traffic management, and travel demand management.
Next, authorities and operators must work together to build open platforms that give users a single view of transportation prices and choices—including options like ride-pooling, e-scooters and car hailing. These will help citizens make informed choices based on cost, speed, greenhouse gas emissions, and other criteria.
City authorities and regulators also have a key role to play in enabling the integration of mobility services. They can incentivise providers too. That might mean, for example, offering subsidies to operators serving remote areas. What’s more, they can directly influence key drivers of mobility services, such as road pricing and on-street parking charges and restrictions, something we’re already seeing in London and other cities.
A chance for real change
During COVID-related shutdowns, with fewer vehicles on the road, many cities experienced short-term improvements in traffic safety, noise and air pollution. That prompted people to question the status quo.
This coincided with strong and growing public support for environmental protection and low-emission transport. It is a great opportunity for regulators to seize the moment and address the challenges of congestion and air quality facing many cities.
Will private cars be driven off the road?
There will still be a market for private cars. But it’s likely that more people will choose “close-to-ownership” models, such as subscriptions. That opens a big opportunity for OEMs to develop more flexible models to meet customers’ needs. That’s been brought home, particularly during the pandemic, during which people have valued the perceived safety of their own car.
Although subscription models have been around for a few years, COVID-19 has hugely increased their popularity in markets such as Germany, China and the US. According to Accenture’s report Unlock the value of mobility services, the market for subscription-based models is expected to soar up to US$354bn in 2030 in these three countries alone.
Subscription models are just the start. Automakers could expand into vehicle-on-demand services, such as rental, station-based, and free-floating car-sharing. Looking a little further ahead, they could move into mobility-on-demand, including ride-hailing and ride-sharing.
Where do shared vehicles fit in?
We expect to see increasing incentives to promote shared vehicles. These can help cities and regulators increase vehicle utilisation while reducing traffic, pollution and demand for parking spaces. For example, shared vehicles may be given subsidised parking or access to fast lanes, already common in the US, and springing up in other countries like the UK. To encourage higher vehicle occupancy, authorities can also implement emission-based transport pricing.
As shared vehicles become increasingly popular, more OEMs may start to produce purpose-built vehicles designed with as-a-service models in mind. By building vehicles targeted towards heavy and efficient use, OEMs could substantially reduce repair and maintenance costs for on-demand fleets.
These vehicles could also help companies tap into new market segments and unlock higher prices. In 2018, Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing announced a partnership with more than 30 automotive companies, including Toyota, BYD and Volkswagen Group China. The collaboration aims to develop vehicles for shared mobility sectors, which will be available for car sharing via DiDi’s app.
Big problems, small solutions: the role of micromobility
The rise of integrated mobility is likely to create a larger role for micromobility: vehicles for one or two people, such as bicycles and scooters (both traditional and electric). Micromobility offers huge potential, particularly for solving the first- and last-mile problem, as well as supporting areas currently underserved by public-transport. For example, making bicycles and scooters available at train or bus stations could help increase public-transport usage, boost revenues for micromobility companies, and provide better passenger experiences.
Some cities have already embraced integrated mobility. Mobility-as-a-service has been part of the Finnish transport ministry’s strategy since 2011, and Helsinki aims to make private vehicles obsolete by 2025. The key is to shift to shared mobility and integrate all shared and public transport into one linked network that offers easy payment options through digital platforms.
SSB Flex, a collaboration between moovel and Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG (SSB), is seeking to reduce the number of vehicles in Stuttgart. The SSB Flex platform offers route planning via mobility services, including ride-hailing, public transport and demand-responsive transport (shared private transport for groups, where vehicles alter their routes based on demand, rather than using a fixed route or timetable). The city subsidises the service, ensuring prices stay competitive.
Over in Switzerland, SBB’s SmartWay app acts as a one-stop-shop showing options from all travel providers—including the real-time location and battery levels of e-scooters and e-bicycles. Users receive personalised push notifications alerting them to disruptions on relevant routes.
Elsewhere, Singapore Mass Rapid Transit has worked with start-ups and strategic partners to provide mobility-as-a-service. It is meeting the needs of a broader range of commuters by providing alternative travel options such as e-scooters and electric-driven pods.
There’s a vast amount of innovation in this space. And transit authorities can look forward to a future transport ecosystem that may arrive faster than expected. For example, autonomous vehicles will be a game-changer for the ride-hailing and car-sharing industries.
But there’s real progress being made in other areas too. Take Hyperloop, for example. Its vision of pods carrying passengers and freight at very high speeds inside vacuum tubes could transform how we get from point to point. Since Hyperloop requires a fixed route, it could offer a far more efficient way to transport passengers between two airports, for example, easing the burden on other modes of transport.
Regardless of when or if these new technologies come to fruition, one thing is clear: by working together, market players can usher in a new age of mobility, one that is not only profitable, but also of benefit to citizens, cities, vehicle manufacturers and mobility companies alike.
Juergen Reers is a managing director and leads Accenture’s Mobility X practice globally. He is based in Munich, Germany. Pierre-Olivier Desmurs is a managing director and Accenture’s global public transportation lead. He is based in Paris, France.