• Jessica Zimmermann

Sustainably Setting Our Suburbs & Rural Areas in Motion

Updated: Aug 1

Why haven’t we managed to bring new mobility outside of our major cities? What's it going to take to do it and who's leading the charge?

Bringing sustainable mobility to cities has its fair share of challenges such as availability, affordability, and road safety, all of which the mobility industry is innovating around and adapting to on a daily basis. However, the transition to sustainable mobility can not start and end with our metropolises, it has to reach out to our suburbs and rural areas if we want to curb the effects of climate change. But bringing sustainable mobility to the suburbs and to rural areas comes with its own, and oftentimes entirely different, obstacles. We need more solutions, which is why the industry has been talking about suburb/rural based mobility a lot lately. So here’s our take on what the sustainable mobility transition is really up against on the outskirts of our major cities.


Navigate your way through this blog:


Our emotional connection to privately-owned vehicles

Movement is defined as the act of moving and/or a change or development. It would seem then, that by definition, people are always in motion and that movement is at the heart of all of our experiences. In other words, mobility inspires experiences that we, as people, give meaning to through our thoughts and feelings. And we become attached to our experiences, both good and bad. So much so that we are finding it hard to part ways with privately owned/unsustainable modes of transportation, even in the face of a global catastrophe, simply because we associate feelings of joy and freedom with them.


Take the car, for example. There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road with some good friends whenever you want and where the destination is unknown. It’s that really funny story that so-and-so told, the terrible car karaoke, the feeling of the wind running through your fingers as you place your hand out the open window, and the excitement of arriving somewhere new. These are the experiences that we never forget. These are the experiences that make the transition toward sustainable mobility difficult to implement, both within and outside of our major cities. This transition is just as much about fighting mindsets as it is about building up a sustainable mobility ecosystem through innovation in hardware and software.


If we want to bring the sustainable mobility transition to our suburbs and rural areas, we have to think about mobility as an experience and seek out ways to offer people less restricted, purposeful, and more enjoyable ways of moving.


What’s Holding the Transition Up?


An Unprofitable Recipe

As we strive to make our cities sustainable, we’ve adopted new approaches to urban planning. One of the most notable concepts is that of the 15 minute city which posits that people, at any given point in time, should be able to access everything they need to live within 15 minutes. By developing our cities in this way, we decrease the distances being traveled and make it possible for sustainable transport like micro-mobility to thrive.


However, this type of urban planning is nearly impossible to develop in the suburbs and in rural areas as they do not have the same foundational infrastructure. Distances are much longer for people to get to where they need to go and for mobility operators, who have designed their business model around urban centres, it means investing more resources (vehicles, service workers, customer support, etc.) for little to no return because the demand doesn’t match the supply needed to run operations.


We Need More Insights

There is a uniqueness to every city that operators have to consider, however, for most metropolitan cities, the building blocks are the same. As mobility services start to move outward, they encounter a lot more variability in terms of infrastructure development, number of inhabitants, terrain, etc. We simply need more data and research to be conducted to figure out what types of mobility models could succeed in the suburbs and in rural areas as well as the kind of infrastructure that would need to be built to accommodate them. Perhaps, these insights will lead the industry to think about how to create more personalized mobility experiences?


Little to No Options

For mobility operators, it’s a double-edged sword. Either go into the suburbs and rural areas without a true understanding of the need and hope your business model is agile enough to adapt as you learn or don’t go in at all. The latter seems to have been the case up until now (more on exciting new services below).


A Persistent Mindset

Without access to new mobility how can we hope to inspire people to participate in the sustainable mobility transition? Our lack of involvement in the suburbs and in rural areas has supported the “business as usual” mindset where privately owned, combustion engine vehicles are the vehicles of choice. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.



Neighborhood-Based Mobility?

According to a poll that we conducted via Linkedin, the majority of votes (55%) felt that neighborhood-based vehicle-sharing is the best model to bring sustainable mobility to the suburbs and rural areas.


We also think that neighborhood-based vehicle-sharing could provide a lot of value to people living in suburbs and rural areas. However, operators have the additional challenge of needing to engage these people to participate in the sustainable mobility transition. That’s where StreetCrowd™ comes in.


Our StreetCrowd™ API matches fleet vehicles requiring repositioning, charging and/or unplugging, as recommended by our operational intelligence platform, with the CROWD - our decentralized crowd-sourced service team, that then carries out the required mobility services. The CROWD is made up of ordinary members of the public, recruited, managed and paid by Ubiq to execute operational tasks when and where it suits them best.


We see the StreetCrowd platform as the perfect avenue for helping facilitate positive sustainable mobility experiences because it incentives participation (flexible work and monetary compensation), and as a result, impacts communities on a political, economic, and cultural scale.



More Smart Mobility Solutions

There are some companies/services that are willing to take on the challenges and we would like to share a few of them with you.


ME Energy was created in early 2019 and is known as the first provider of off-grid fast charging stations. The company obtains charging power from sustainable raw materials such as bioethanol, enabling them to charge vehicles in minimal time and not connect to a power grid. Since there is no need to stop at a specific location, people have the flexibility to stop and charge anywhere in their cities. The goal of ME Energy’s innovative solutions is to contribute to the decarbonization of our nature.


 

Savvy Mobility is on a mission to make sure no vehicle runs emptier than it should by providing a mobility solution for every use case, from rural to accessible transport. Their software solution encourages carpooling by matching demand for transport with available vehicles (shared taxis, mini-buses, etc.) and also optimizes routing to get the most out of each trip.


 


Deer Mobility has been working towards the goal of making mobility in rural areas more accessible. They encourage car-sharing rather than private ownership to help with the conservation of our environment. Deer Mobility acts as a station-based extensive service provider to enable the connection of high traffic points with rural and urban areas. They offer a variety of services such as fleet management, e-car sharing, charging infrastructure, and billing and tech support. Deer Mobility’s range of services allows them to support customers from the very beginning and guide them through their mobility solutions.



Are there companies we should add to the list? Feel free to add them in the comments.



Let us know what your thoughts are on bringing sustainable mobility to our suburbs and rural areas. We’d love to hear from you!


 

Ubiq enables operators to effectively position fleets to serve strategic goals. For more information, contact sales@ubiq.ai