Who could have predicted that the simple act of getting from one place to another would one day become a dilemma for humankind? While there is a need to make transport safe, accessible, and affordable for every stratum. There is also an urgent need to reduce the emissions from the transport sector. It is, the second biggest contributor to global emissions accounting for 40% of the total emissions. And 75% of this comes from road transport alone. Amidst all the gloom, 'Sustainable transport' has emerged as a possible solution to man's mobility problems.
The United Nations describes sustainable transport as "the provision of services and infrastructure for the mobility of goods and people— advancing economic and social development to benefit today's and future generations—in a manner that is safe, affordable, accessible, efficient, and resilient while minimizing carbon and other emissions and environmental impact." Sustainable transport includes walking, cycling, green transport, and shared mobility. The latter consists of the integration of technology and transport to move more people with fewer vehicles. Shared Mobility is convenient, affordable, and aligns with sustainable development goals three and eleven. Research done by UC Berkely's transportation sustainability research center in 2016 states that a car-pooling service cuts down the vehicles on the road, the number of vehicle miles traveled, and the greenhouse emissions.
Though not a new concept, shared mobility has gained prevalence over the past decade because of the faster adoption of technology and decreasing popularity of car ownership among the millennials and GenZ. A recent study estimates that while 70% of urban households owned a car in 2019, only 35% are likely to own a car in 2040. According to McKinsey, US and China are currently the biggest markets for shared mobility, followed by European countries. And the sector is expected to grow at around 30% till 2030. What does this mean for the vehicle manufacturers? Original Equipment Manufacturers are witnessing increasing consumer interest and growth in the shared mobility space. While many have developed their shared mobility models to retain younger customers, others are currently in the discovery stage.
One of Asia's leading car manufacturers developed an omnichannel digital car rental platform with help from Nagarro. The car rental platform offers long-term and short-term rental options. The client witnessed a shift in customer interests towards a shared economy, commoditization of cars as a product, and increased car ownership costs in one of its major markets. They wanted to create an empathetic ownership platform that utilizes the automaker's vast dealer network & inventory in a better way. Our team created a platform that provides a host of features like digital customer verification, model selection over an extensive network of dealers, seamless payment, usage and settlement services, vehicle geo-fencing and immobilization, insurance, and service center integration. This made car renting convenient, economical, and digital.
Making a shared mobility platform comes with its own set of problems, especially in a post-pandemic world. The fear of getting the Covid 19 virus has made people apprehensive about sharing a vehicle with strangers. There are concerns about the subscription models and the tedious documentation process. On the supply side, the service providers are still figuring out cost-efficient models that maximize customer comfort, safety, and convenience. From engaging with the customers to understanding their needs and developing a product that meets those needs, the OEMs have the task cut out for them. To that end, Nagarro has developed a Shared Mobility Toolkit that serves as a framework for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) interested in the shared mobility space.
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Five key points to consider while developing a shared mobility model:
• Learn - Understanding commuters' preferences to ideate a vision for the product
Understanding the customer's needs and demands is the first step when making a product or service. The OEMs need to identify and analyze the customer goals, challenges, expectations, behaviors, and parameters relevant to vehicle subscription. To achieve that, they can ask questions like are the customers subscribing to the vehicle for daily commutes or occasional travels? What are their criteria for a subscription? The information received through these answers will be an input for the customer research process that captures a customer's thought process, actions, and emotional state.
• Co-Create - Leverage customer insights to create an intuitive mobility solution
Once the customer's needs and preferences are established, organizations can compare them with the existing services, if applicable. If developing a service from scratch, they must imagine how the customer interacts with the product from exploration to purchase to subscription management. All stakeholders must come together to innovate, ideate, and assess car-subscription use-cases by pooling knowledge from multiple functions and building rapid prototypes for quick value verification. Once the customer's needs and preferences are established, organizations can compare them with the existing services. In the case of any existing service, organizations must uncover opportunities to improve the stickiness of the current subscription app. They then create a subscription road map and define the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
• Validate - Evaluate design decisions with actual customers through usability testing
Once the product/service concept is in place, the OEMs must test the prototypes with customers to recognize any usability issues and assess the customer satisfaction levels. It will help identify a range of topics such as the time spent by a customer finding a particular vehicle type, intuitiveness of the UI design, the average time customers spend in uploading the documents, and customer experience while exploring the subscription homepage. The inputs on these points will reveal unforeseen insights about the target consumer's behaviour. By identifying other possible loopholes, this step reduces the cost of correction and failure.
• Measure – Analyze KPIs and ROI to measure outcomes and adjust accordingly
The service provider's job is not complete with the delivery of the product/service to the customer. The after-sales service is equally essential for the success of a product or service. Organizations must assess if their product/service meets the business objectives using leading frameworks. This can be measured by determining the conversion rate of customers from exploring various subscription products to considering a specific vehicle, customer's churn rate, drop-off rate at the payment step, and several support calls received for subscription process clarification. Improvements and tweaks in the product will follow the assessments.
• Scale - Engineer a robust platform architecture and design system
With the entire cycle from conceptualization to assessment now complete, the OEMs must ensure a consistent user experience while updating the app regularly. A few points to consider while scaling are assessing the speed of rollouts in subsequent releases, consistency of design elements across devices and channels, governance, and transparency measures, and if the technology choices are. Are the technology choices sustainable to enhance and enrich the subscription experience continuously? Is the platform architecture future-proof? Understanding these functionalities will help provide a single source for building UIs, save time and money by decreasing maintenance and cost, ensure consistency and faster time-to-market while scaling up.
Shared mobility for sustainable cities
Shared mobility models are a subset of integrated mobility plans. They promote the adoption of other sustainable transport solutions. For instance, electric vehicles are better for shared mobility due to their higher mileage and efficiency. Similarly, autonomous vehicles will make shared mobility models more competitive and more likely to replace private vehicles. These mobility models bundled together make the transition towards sustainable cities much smoother. The most popular ride-sharing apps available right now are struggling to reach cost efficiency and make profits. The start-ups behind these apps are currently surviving on investor money and waiting for their models to turn cash positive.
A McKinsey analysis from 2017 indicates that "in 50 metropolitan areas around the world, home to 500 million people, integrated mobility systems could produce benefits, such as improved safety and reduced pollution, worth up to $600 billion." The same study further states that dense developing cities are positioned well to make an early transition to integrated mobility solutions. This shift could realize $600 million in annual societal benefits by 2030. High-income and low-density cities will take to private autonomy models where personal vehicles will continue to be in higher numbers. Still, technology will play an essential role in making sustainable use of these private vehicles through models such as car-pooling. The densely developed cities will likely advance toward a Seamless Mobility system before other cities due to the availability of high-quality public-transit systems, infrastructure-investment capacity, and expertise with public projects.
Challenges to the shared mobility approach
Beyond the economic and environmental benefits, these mobility models will decongest the cities and improve the quality of life. However, the shift towards urban mobility requires multiple stakeholders, including the OEMs, policymakers, administrators, and commuters, to work together. And the complexity of the mobility equations would vary from one city to another depending upon the demographics, infrastructure, topography, and cultural factors. The development and deployment of these mobility models require the involvement of stakeholders at all levels, from policymakers to manufacturers. In the case of e-hailing services, utilities will also have to step in to help set up the charging infrastructure of electric vehicles. With the involvement of multiple stakeholders and rapidly evolving customer needs, the road to sustainable transport will be gradual and challenging. Unexpected events such as the pandemic will slow down the adoption of the models only to be revived again. And technological advances such as autonomous vehicles will further complicate the equation.
Technology as a saviour
The only way to beat the odds and future proof against technology is to keep up with it. Investments in the right technologies are unavoidable for organizations interested in the future of sustainable transport, be it electric vehicles or shared mobility. When developing shared mobility models, organizations will need to deploy predictive maintenance, predictive and prescriptive analysis, backend cloud systems, big data solutions, enterprise integrations, and dispatch algorithms. For mobility as a Service (Mass), OEMs can use cloud platforms and open APIs for planning and booking and the Internet of Things for unified ticketing and payments. Blockchain-based transactions will enable real-time traffic management as we move towards a future with autonomous vehicles.
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With inputs from Debapriyo Samanta, Automotive team.