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The future will be dockless: could a city really run on ‘floating transport’?

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Citymapper now supports dockless transport options such as Ofo bikes in London and San Francisco’s Bird electric scooters, offering an insight into the future of transport in cities.

Last week, London-based transportation app Citymapper coined a new phrase: “floating transport”. “It has no set stops or infrastructure,” the company explained, “and it’s filling a mobility gap in our cities.”

It’s a useful shorthand to lump together everything from dockless cycle hire, like Ofo and Mobike’s London offerings, Bird and Lime’s San Franciscan electric scooters, to Daimler’s short-term car hire service Car2Go – all of which are now supported by Citymapper’s app, alongside fixed urban transport options like buses and trains.

These services rely on a combination of GPS and cellular connectivity to track whichever vehicle is being rented, charging users by the minute and immobilising the device wherever it is left at the end of its trip. They’ve exploded in popularity this year, riding the wave of trends like declining car ownership and increasing preference for renting rather than owning outright.

These transport systems are quickly becoming ubiquitous – but what role can they play in the cities of tomorrow? The update to Citymapper offers an insight only if the kinks can be worked out – and it’s both more and less transformative than we might hope.

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