In just matter of months, the world has become unrecognizable to the one we once knew. For those in the field of mobility, such as ourselves, the change has been dramatic.
For large parts of the world quarantines, lockdowns and self-isolation policies are forcing people to completely change the way they go about their lives. This has had a significant impact on shared mobility and there is a fear that many will not survive the crisis with no return to normality in sight.
However, evidence suggests demand for vehicles is still there, we just need to think differently about it. While most people may no longer be commuting to work, many key workers are still required to keep society running and vehicles are still required for grocery shopping. These essential trips require safe solitary mobility more than ever.
To say that Covid-19 is restricting mobility is like stating that earth is round. The extent to which it has reduced movement, however, is staggering. Over the last week in Milan and Barcelona, for example, the cities recorded just 3 percent of usual movement. This reduction in movement is hitting mobility operators hard. This graph from Fluctuo, a mobility intelligence provider, shows that compared to 30 days prior to 12th March, there had been an 80 percent reduction in moped trips and 70 percent reduction in scooter trips.
These are anxious times for an industry where providers, such as Lime and Bird, are suspending many services across European and North American cities, just as demand would be expected to pick up in spring. Data for other modes of shared transportation suggest similar trends with ridesharing operators, in particular, facing significant decreases in revenues.
Valuable in a crisis
While usage may be down this does not mean that demand no longer exists. Citibike in New York was left struggling to cope with a spike in demand as people eschewed public transport in favour of more solitary transport methods. Evidence from Wuhan, China, shows a similar increase in demand for shared vehicles with many frontline medical workers making use of bicycles, including those from Mobike.
Our experience with car share operators’ app opening data is similar. From the fleets under our management, we have found that although the total number of trips has significantly decreased, consumers that are still active are showing very similar usage patterns. This suggests a clear demand for car share vehicles despite restrictions on movements. This is echoed by the experience of GreenCar in Korea which reported that weekly usage between February and March had actually increased by 21 percent compared to the previous month. A 51 percent increase from last year.
This can be seen in Germany, too. A survey by ADAC, a German automobile association, shows that although the number of mobility trips is down across the board — aside from walking which has seen a net increase — it is car usage that is being used more regularly compared to other mobility modes. In the same survey, they find that 40 percent of respondees are making just one shopping trip a week compared to just 13 percent before the crisis. This highlights the fact that although the number of trips may be decreasing, their value is in fact increasing.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, user behaviour has changed so drastically it is almost impossible for operators to adapt.
(Un)typical user behaviour
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, user behaviour has changed so drastically it is almost impossible for operators to adapt. Previous demand forecasting which combined historical fleet data with proxy data sources, such as public transport and weather, is no longer relevant in a scenario where people are no longer commuting to work or going out for dinner in the evenings. How then do we forecast essential demand when it is so unstructured?
It is all about speed. We are able to make demand predictions using just a week’s worth of fleet data to establish where demand for vehicles is, and not where it should be. This adds weight to sources such as app opening data, as well as historic user behaviour. While this may not be as effective in a normal scenario as preempting demand, it is an effective compromise, nonetheless. By providing demand predictions in Covid-19 scenarios we bring predictability to an incredibly unpredictable situation. With the means and speed to create real-time actionable information, we are in a position to navigate car-sharing operators through this incredibly difficult time.
One last throw of the dice — start earning again.
Our offer to shared mobility operators is aimed at getting them earning again, providing life support to overcome the crisis. We know that demand is there, operators simply need support in addressing it.
We are therefore providing real-time fleet-rebalancing recommendations through an API for existing service teams or external service providers to execute on; allowing them to position vehicles where new demand is. And if execution itself is a challenge, we are able to establish a StreetCrowd community within as little as two weeks. With existing StreetCrowd communities in Berlin, Hamburg, Washington, D.C., Warsaw, Budapest, Seattle and Portland, we are able to get operators earning right away.
Shared mobility is vital for society in times like these and with our services, we are enabling operators to survive.
If you are shared mobility provider looking to buck the trend and start earning again, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.