Sharing is in, even in the world of cars. In North America for instance, the number of registered users of car sharing services is expected to rise to 6 million by 2021. Car sharing, however, is only one aspect of shared mobility. More and more people are relying on professional mobility services that cover a wide range of requirements. Mobility as a service is the buzzword for services offering maximum flexibility. And in most cases, users can access the nearest service simply by tapping the screen of their smartphones.
But what do concepts like multimodality and the so-called last mile actually involve? And what’s the difference between ride sharing and ride pooling? To give you an overview of the relevant terms, here is our glossary of new mobility.
What is “car sharing”?
Person-to-person car sharing – also known as peer-to-peer car sharing – was the very first kind of scheme that enabled people to car share. With peer-to-peer car sharing, individuals simply share a car with other users. They coordinate via private networks or car pool agencies. This business model is closely aligned with traditional car clubs, but replaces a typical fleet with a virtual one made up of vehicles from participating owners. So here, private car owners charge a fee to rent out their vehicles when they are not using them.
However, so-called commercial car sharing is far more popular today. This involves transportation providers, such as ShareNow, which rent out vehicles professionally. Unlike traditional car rental operations, car sharing companies often calculate the rates for their services based on the precise number of minutes or miles driven.
With car sharing, a distinction is made between free-floating and station-based services. Station-based car sharing is when users pick up their vehicles from fixed locations – just like when you rent a car – to which they generally have to return them afterwards.
By contrast, with free-floating services vehicles are simply parked on public roads and can be found with an app. After driving the car, users don’t need to return it to the place where they picked it up. Instead, they can park it in any (legal) public parking spot within the car sharing company’s business area. These zones tend to encompass city centers and areas with heavy traffic on the edge of the city, like airports. Mind you, the business area demarcates only where you’re allowed to park the car when you’re done; you can drive it anywhere you want.
What does the “last mile” mean?
The term last mile comes from the electricity and gas utility market. It refers to the final stage of the connection linking a household to the overall public network.
In a similar way, in the context of future mobility, last mile refers to the final leg before the destination. For example, after a driver has parked his car in the garage, he might travel the remaining short stretch to his office on a rented bicycle. Or he might travel the last mile from the station to his home by electric scooter.
Pedestrian conveyances like skateboards and scooters are especially convenient for the last mile. Here too, there is a trend towards electrification, as shown by the booming e-scooter market.
What does “charging” mean?
Electric vehicles are gaining importance, as is the question: Where can I find the nearest charging station? Apps like ChargeNow provide the answer. They not only lead drivers of electric vehicles to the nearest free charging point but also provide them with a convenient mode of payment.
The concept of charging therefore refers to much more than just the actual charging process. It also implies comprehensive e-mobility services that make traveling so much easier for drivers of electric or hybrid cars – from searching for a charging station to paying the fee.
What is a “mobility flatrate”?
Most people know the term flat rate from their cell phone bill. Flat rates work in a similar way in the world of new mobility: For a fixed rate every month, a subscriber is provided with access to a car. Depending on the service offered by the subscription model, this may also cover maintenance, repairs, insurance, and taxes. Since this is an (almost) all-inclusive package, the only extra things the user has to pay for are services that depend on how much you’ve used up, like refueling or charging.
The advantage of this solution is that costs can be calculated on a fixed basis, while bookings can be made quickly and conveniently online. As a bonus, users often have the option of switching to a different model while the contract is valid. That’s why the flat-rate model represents an alternative to purchasing, leasing, or financing your own car. It is offered by a number of different service providers.
What do we mean by “multimodality”?
Multimodality apps like ReachNow are like a sort of jack-of-all-trades of mobility planning. Instead of switching between several apps and payment methods, users get everything from a single source. For example, a person might use a vehicle from a car sharing provider to get to a business meeting and travel from there by bike to their next appointment, before using public transport to get home. Bookings and payments are made via a single app.
In addition, multimodality apps allow multiple means of transport to be combined within one trip. For instance, a user might ride the subway to the train station, take the train to the next city, and use a car sharing vehicle to reach their hotel. The app navigates through all stages of the journey, while also allowing the user to purchase all necessary tickets and reservations.
What “smart parking” options are available?
A typical scene in the city: You drive around the block to find a parking space. And drive round again a second time. And then a third time. Now, thanks to smart parking services, you can save yourself the stress.
The ParkNow app, for example, will both show you the nearest free parking spot and direct you to it. And you won’t need to display the parking receipt on your car’s dashboard anymore. Instead, the parking fee is paid in a convenient, cash-free way via the app. But what happens if your meeting takes longer than expected? In that case, you can simply extend the parking time on your cell phone.
As well as saving time, reducing stress, and offering greater convenience, smart parking offers a further benefit: It helps protect the environment. This is because, according to expert estimates, congestion caused by drivers looking for parking spaces makes up around 20 to 30 percent of total city traffic.
What is the difference between “ride hailing” and “ride pooling”?
Ride hailing, carpooling, ride sharing, ride pooling... All these transportation options sound pretty similar. But the small differences are actually crucial.
Ride sharing, for instance, is a collective term for journeys shared by individuals. Person X drives from A to B while giving a ride to person Y, who wants to get to the same destination. Users can now identify ride-share opportunities like this one by digital means. The term carpooling can also be used for this kind of arrangement.
The concept of ride hailing, on the other hand, is basically similar to a traditional taxi service. Using an app such as FreeNow, for example, you simply book a shared ride in a car. A professional driver then picks you up at the agreed meeting place in his or her vehicle and drives you where you want to go. Payment is taken on a cashless basis via the app. The journey is exclusively for you and isn’t shared with other passengers.
With ride pooling on the other hand, several passengers share a professional driver. For example, person X has booked a ride-hailing service in order to get from point A to point B. Coincidentally, person Y places a request for the same or a similar route with the same service provider. The provider’s algorithm combines the journeys so that person Y gets into person X’s ride pooling taxi, or vice versa. While each person’s drive might take a little longer, the ride hailing provider is able to offer cheaper rates because the service is shared. What’s more, every shared taxi trip makes for one less burden on both traffic and the environment.
What the future holds: everything in motion
So sharing doesn’t necessarily mean settling for less. Rather, solutions that see mobility as a service offer users a high degree of flexibility so they will always receive the precise form of transportation they require. For many users, this advantage is combined with lower transport costs and a considerate use of scarce resources – including parking spaces in the city. While a private car is typically left unused for 23 hours a day, car sharing vehicles are used for up to six hours a day on average. This says a lot for the benefits of shared mobility – despite the complexity of some of the terms involved.
Illustration: Bratislav Milenkovic