When you’re at a party, how do you explain to people exactly what you do for a living?
Sandra Phillips: I tell them that I’m a kind of architect, except that it’s not buildings I design, but mobility networks. And we have a huge need for these right now. On the one hand, we already have public transportation networks and good mobility services, but except for in megacities such as New York or London, they have huge gaps in their coverage. On the other hand, we have privately owned vehicles, but a lot of people can’t afford or don’t want to buy a vehicle of their own – or simply don’t want to use their car on occasion. Children obviously can’t drive yet, and many older people can’t use their cars any more either. Shared mobility can bridge these gaps. This makes sense not only economically, but also environmentally. It’s mainly about sustainability.
And how exactly does it work?
My agency provided consultancy services to BMW for the launch of REACH NOW in North America, for example. We were directly involved in the implementation of the ride sharing service and we trained the management team. REACH NOW not only has a premium car fleet for car sharing but also an app-based ride-hailing service. But the shared mobility network can be taken much further, for instance with bicycle or scooter rental services. And of course there’s ride sharing services, where passengers make use of the same minivan and driver, to name only one possibility. The next step could be an autonomous minivan.
It’s my vision to provide better mobility options for everyone – and by doing so to improve their access to healthcare services, education opportunities, and a richer cultural and social life.
Shared mobility expert
So you’re looking forward to the opportunities that autonomous driving will bring along?
Absolutely. Sion in Switzerland has had an autonomous bus running on a dedicated route through the city since 2016. The whole idea of autonomous driving is in fact hugely important for shared mobility. It’s part and parcel of car sharing that vehicles are often not left in places where they will be needed again, so it would be good if they could drive themselves to the next user or a charging station.
Where do you see the greatest need for improvement at the moment?
Right now, shared mobility is primarily focusing on large cities, simply because this is where a large number of people live in a relatively small area, meaning there are lots of potential customers. It’s smaller cities with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants that usually have gaps in the coverage of mobility services. And then, of course, we should be thinking more of markets such as Africa, South America or Asia, where the potential is huge.
Who would you describe as shared mobility’s main target group?
Up to now, it’s primarily been fairly well-educated, highly-paid men that the idea has appealed to. It’s my vision to provide better mobility options for everyone – and by doing so to improve their access to healthcare services, education, and a richer cultural and social life.
About Sandra Phillips:
Sandra Phillips grew up in Switzerland, where she studied computer linguistics, English literature and economics before moving to Vancouver in 2008. There, she realized how limited the public transport infrastructure was. In 2013, she founded movmi, an agency specializing in shared mobility. She won the 2017 “Next Visionaries” ideas competition jointly organised by BMW i and TED.