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Fleet Mobility – A switch in time

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A revolution in business mobility is just around the corner. Craig Thomas looks at what we can expect to help us travel more efficiently.

“Alexa, what’s the quickest way to get to my meeting this morning?”

This is going to be the kind of question many of us will be asking our digital assistants in our smart homes over the next few years. And Alexa (or Siri, or Google) will be able to draw on huge numbers of apps with access to numerous databases to help us get from home to work using various mobility options, but in a seamless and efficient way.

This convergence of different forms of transport through digitalisation, known as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), is a concept that we’re all going to have to get used to in the next few years, and is a logical extension of our use of apps such as Waze or Citymapper, or the next generation, in the form of Whip.

There are already business travellers employing technology to make their journeys as efficient as possible, who have been dubbed ‘super commuters’ by Giles Henday, a partner at CPC Project Services, a consultancy that has worked on a number of major transport programmes.

“It’s about being flexible enough in your journey planning to deal with congestion and unexpected problems,” he explained. “At the moment, the way people do that is they try to get the best information they can to enable rerouting.”

However, currently there’s no digital means of integrating information for different forms of transport. As Henday said: “They don’t get that information in a really useful, integrated way, so the more that you make the data available, and think of it as one integrated transport system, the more likely it is that the super commuter will actually really want to use that information, and will become even more effective, in terms of their journey.”

With a wealth of information at their fingertips, business travellers in the future will be able to choose from a smorgasbord of transport options – cars (including shared and autonomous vehicles), buses, trains and even bicycles – using more than one mode for a journey.

MaaS should provide travellers with integrated, flexible, efficient and user-oriented mobility services. The almost inevitable result is a shift away from personal and fleet ownership of motorised transportation towards the use of integrated multimodal mobility solutions, consumed as services. An integrated digital mobility platform will be able to manage journeys using public and private transportation providers, as well as including planning and payment functions. The MaaS concept can also be applied to the movement of goods, with the efficient maximising of freight, fleet and personal transportation likely to lead to less congestion and better road use.

Leasing and rental companies are already taking the first steps towards this multi-modal transport future.

David Brennan, CEO of Nexus Vehicle Rental told us: “If you go back five years, lots of customers had a single way of providing mobility: they either bought all their vehicles, leased all their vehicles, or rented all their vehicles. What you see now is lots of clients are doing all three, because they’re looking for more flexibility. Usership, rather than ownership, is what we see.

Leasing company ALD has been using a mobility experience centre to examine existing policies with fleet managers, HR managers, finance directors and CEOs in order to identify their ideal requirements, with a view to closing any gaps. As Matt Dale, consultancy services manager, explained: “It’s a really broad mobility experience that doesn’t just look at the car. It’s looking at the other ways, the other things we need to be thinking about at the moment with regards to transport.

“We’ve also been running a public transport trial where we have encouraged people who are travelling over certain distances to use the train occasionally. We’ve looked at it as a business to understand the impact, how it works, how it feels and how staff feel.

“We surveyed them before and after. What we found is a lot of people who do drive company cars don’t very often use the train. They have the view that the train is unreliable and it’s full of people and it might not be so clean – and they like the comfort of their car.

“However, when we surveyed them after, rather than driving four hours from the North to the South, they were travelling 20 minutes to jump on the train, and 10 minutes the other end. They didn’t have to stay overnight, they weren’t getting up so early. And they enjoyed it more, it was easier for business, and easier as a business to adapt to this sort of thing and just build it into policy.”

Technology is the key, however – and we’re not there yet. As Henday told us: “In a few years’ time, we’ll see these apps evolving. There are already plenty around at the moment, but these relate to a single mode. It’s putting all that data together to advise a driver on the best time to leave his car and use another transport mode.”

The complication – especially in light of recent revelations – is the use and privacy of all the data generated by all these users and their journeys.

Henday said: “If you share journey information on an open platform – whether that would indeed be something people would be willing to share – more controls would need to be put in place. I’m not an expert, but that’s where you ought to start to share personal journey data: if they do that, everyone would benefit, because there’s less congestion and people would actually get to where they want to, sooner.

“I think we’re seeing these data, app and technological advances coming quite quickly, because it’s only a question of combining the data and those modes together, and starting to provide enhanced information to the consumer.”

As consultancy Arthur D Little suggests in its The Future of Mobility 3.0 report, data will be important in our MaaS future, acting as a foundation for all our travelling needs and also being used for a host of applications – including increasing operational efficiency, traffic infrastructure optimisation, improved service planning, predictive maintenance, and enhanced safety and security. Big data and shared, open data will have the benefit of facilitating the development of new mobility services that can meet traveller demand, and then also individualised to take account of specific needs, habits and travel patterns.

So in the relatively near future, after leaving our smart homes in the morning, we will continue to be connected as we travel to workplace or appointment, using different modes of transport, with apps on our smartphone guiding us every step of the way.

There are now numerous smartphone apps that can guide us every step of the way

There are now numerous smartphone apps that can guide us every step of the way

Appy travels – The best apps for business travellers.

  • Whim – It’s early days for this groundbreaking app, which started in Finland, but it brings Mobility-as-a-Service to the West Midlands, enabling users to subscribe or pay as they go for a range of transport options.
  • Citymapper – A step on the way to multi-modal apps, Citymapper enables its users to navigate their way around cities, using different modes of transport.
  • JustPark – An app that allows drivers to find and pay for a parking space – and not just in traditional car parks, but private driveways, too – near their destination.
  • Waze – Using the hive mind of all its users, Waze is a navigation app that advises drivers of the best route, avoiding as much congestion as possible.
  • Uber – Yes, the ride-hailing service has its flaws, but the app is a clever piece of tech that has revolutionised cab and private hire services.
  • For more of the latest industry news, click here.

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