In the context of alternative mobility, the market is witnessing a deluge of mobility-as-a-service startups that provide people a myriad of options for local transit, like e-scooters, car-sharing and e-cab hailing. The overarching idea here is to create a society that slowly inches away from the concept of owning vehicles for transit to more sustainable versions, wherein mobility is looked at as a service rather than as ownership.
Cities are generally the hotspots for mobility-as-a-service systems, which sits well with commuters who end up battling traffic bottlenecks on their way to and from work every day. FreightWaves spoke with Melika Jahangiri, the vice president of business development at Wunder Mobility, a mobility services startup headquartered in Germany, to discuss the advantages of going vehicle-less in an urban setting.
Jahangiri, who lives in Los Angeles, started by saying she practices what she advocates, by not owning a car and using the various alternative mobility options to get around Los Angeles. “For me, the e-scooter is a very interesting and exciting transport solution, as it has allowed me to get rid of my car and be able to get around the city quite easily. I also make use of public transit options like the Metro, as I live right beside one,” she said.
From the users’ perspective, having different mobility options and increasing the density of their availability can go a long way to users dropping the idea of owning a vehicle and shifting to mobility services for their first-mile and last-mile transit.
“If I’m going to the city center or do a couple of errands around the city, I usually take out a scooter,” said Jahangiri. “This has changed the way I get around the city and is also my favorite way of seeing a city when I’m traveling. Because I get these scooters through the app, I know there’s going to be a scooter waiting for me at the stop before I get there.”
Another visible trend is the growth of dealership networks. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have realized the importance of leveraging the relationship they have with their dealers to expand into the mobility-as-a-service segment. This translates into rental cars that have grown in significance and business models like station-to-station car-sharing and the aggregation of dealers into a network that makes car-sharing more transparent and accessible.
In her capacity as a head of business development in Wunder Mobility, Jahangiri has come across several customers who seek to develop micro-mobility solutions that encompass a wide array of services like e-bikes, mopeds and car-sharing. Cross-mobility services are attractive, as it allows users to pick and choose their method of transit based on their immediate needs.
Jahangiri also pointed out the need to create a visibility tool for mobility services. Wunder Mobility has developed applications that allow cities to have cognizance over the different private entities that operate in their markets, the location of the vehicles within the city boundaries, and if they are strategically placed for maximum impact.
Overall, mobility-as-a-service moves from being just about ease of use to making sense from a financial perspective. “When I did a cost-benefit analysis between how much I was paying per month for my vehicle versus how much I was actually utilizing it, it was not penciling out properly. I had a Mini Cooper and was paying close to $1,500 per month, including parking in my building that was $250 a month, for a vehicle that I wasn’t even utilizing as much,” said Jahangiri.
In big cities like Los Angeles or New York, micro-mobility options are cheaper and readily available, while doing away with the hassle of paying for maintenance, insurance or taxes associated with owning a vehicle.
Jahangiri contended that these mobility companies could also try to incentivize services by working with commercial businesses to encourage more people to adopt mobility-as-a-service. For instance, a scooter company could partner with a large developer that owns several apartment buildings and shopping centers around a city to bury scooters around their properties and let people who stay there utilize them at a discount.
“Such collaborations would help provide people with new forms of mobility, while also benefiting real estate developers as it helps keep their tenants happy. Companies can also look into the usage patterns to see if people are using it for commuting to work or if they are using it for leisure,” said Jahangiri. Understanding the local demographics will help as companies can tweak their business models to service their customer base better, improving retention in the long run.