Home Apps Why Helsinki’s Mobility App, Whim, Is No Fad…

Why Helsinki’s Mobility App, Whim, Is No Fad…

8 min read
View original post.

The last few years have seen greater changes to urban mobility than in most of the last century, the design of which was largely influenced by the automobile. The vast majority of these changes, adopted to varying degrees, comes as a result of the smartphone and its ability to be used for low-cost transportation platforms. This powerful computer, which we now carry in our pockets, means people in need of transport can be connected to others with spare capacity, to locate a dockless bike or scooter on a map, to offer or monitor routes based on traffic conditions, to buy bus or train tickets, and a growing list of possibilities.

Recent years have seen applications such as Uber, Cabify, Lyft, Didi and many others increase the availability of vehicles, creating many more mobility options, and which still represent a tiny change compared to what will happen when technologies such as electric and autonomous-driving vehicles are introduced. Automotive giants such as Daimler and BMW, and soon Volkswagen, keen to improve its image after the dieselgate, have signed on to this trend, flooding our cities with fleets of vehicles ready to be driven at any time through an app.

In addition, the number of bike sharing programs around the world has doubled since 2014, with a 20-fold increase in the number of bicycles available in cities from Spain to China. The new mobility companies have entered this segment through acquisitions that foreshadow important mergers and deployments, in the same way that has happened with electric scooters, which began with several startups, which have grown into unicorns thanks to an investment frenzy, and now continues with the emergence of these mobility monsters, generating what some have dubbed the “scooter economy” based on the idea of “everything as a service.”

Mobility in cities will evolve into a service we use as needed: transportation or mobility as a service, eliminating the idea of owning an expensive, underutilized asset that contaminates the air and has become the biggest problem in the vast majority of cities around the world. But for all this to happen we need a smoother transition; we cannot be expected to install 10 or 20 apps to manage the mobility options our cities offer, along with public transport which also plays a fundamental role in getting around our cities and that, thanks to successive waves of innovation, will continue to do so in the future.

Is it possible to create an app to coordinate them all? A key player in multimodal transportationCitymapper, has already added options such as dockless bikes and scooters to its app, recommending routes that might start on a commuter train, continue by bus or metro and finish with a short scooter ride. Even more impressive is Whim, an app originally developed for Helsinki that hopes to spread around the world, and that has combined all the city’s mobility options into a single app via a monthly subscription: bus, train, bicycle, taxi, car-sharing… What prevents us from using certain urban transportation options? Because doing so not only means downloading an app, but also signing up for it, filling in our personal details, adding a credit card and, in some cases, undergoing an approval process. It’s the same with public transport: In many cities only residents and regular users can access competitive fares.

When all a city’s transportation options are not immediately available to everybody, many will go unused and we will instead get behind the wheel, the real enemy that causes most problems in our cities. Helsinki’s Whim should be studied by city halls around the world. The issue here is so not so much about providing services, but instead about user experience, or UX: integrating all of them into a user-friendly system that allows us to navigate our cities conveniently.

Moving around cities needs to be about accessing the means of transport that suits our immediate needs, with no other process involved besides taking out our smartphone and using an app. One app, not 19, providing a universal ticketing system and a means of payment: as simple as that. This is what is slowing down a vital transportation evolution in our cities.

Enrique Dans is Professor of Innovation at IE Business School

Comments are closed.

Check Also

Lyft mixes up mobility

View original post.After taking flak for boosting city traffic, ride-hailing firm Lyft has…