The impact of digital technology on mobility
2020 was a year marked by the global pandemic, which slowed down people around the world as well as the French in their mobility. We had to learn to live without the heavy use of mobility means with which we had built our lives. The explosion of online commerce, the big boom in teleworking and the use of videoconferencing tools… Digital tools enabled us to adapt and reorganize our lives during this particular period.
For a few years now, the term mobility has replaced the notion of transportation. Mobility refers to the use of different means of transportation, moving from point A to point B. It therefore refers to all the infrastructure that we use for our daily journeys but also for wider use.
In fact, mobility encompasses our trips in a more comprehensive way, i.e. the information we need to get around. From a point of view of road traffic to which transportation to use for last mile mobility.
Long before this crisis, digital technology had a profound impact on the mobility market. This is particularly evident with the online presence of a large number of players, such as with VTC/Taxis applications. Carpooling and the emergence of new micro-mobility solutions such as free-floating services (scooters and bicycles), electric vehicles, etc., have also had a profound impact on the mobility market. So much so that nowadays we can see that the market for last mile mobility is a fragmented market.
But digital has not only impacted the mobility sector with the arrival of new operators and new offers. It has also transformed our relationship with mobility, the way we consume these services, and many other positive but also negative aspects that we are going to develop. So much so that digital is now playing an important role in user mobility.
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Impact of Digital technology, a real tool for mobility
First of all, it acts as a tool for optimizing and managing transport infrastructures in general. Indeed, it allows the fluidity of the customer relationship. It is now possible to interact with the transport operator’s site or the city as a whole in order to get answers to our questions or even our complaints. Management is then simplified for both users and the company behind them.
The customer’s journey has become much simpler since the rise of new technologies in our lives: it starts by directly ordering his transport ticket online from his home or any other place without having to go to the station or to the store, through the provision of real-time information to the passenger throughout his journey.
This information will also influence the user during his trip by keeping him informed of the different routes, possible breakdowns, timetables, etc…
In addition, during the current health crisis, digital technology has enabled many companies to continue their activities. Among other things, this continues to limit the spread of the virus. Indeed, it has made teleworking possible thanks to the many tools available: videoconferencing, 100% digital living room… And has made e-commerce, which exploded during this period, evolve. Digital technology has thus reinvented mobility, created a new form of work, consumption and transportation.
Digital, a lever for multimodality and greener mobility
Among other things, digital technology has also facilitated multimodality for users. Our friend Wikipedia has designated the term multimodality by the presence of several different modes of transportation between two locations. Briefly, you have the choice between different modes of transportation for the same trip, which is where MaaS applications or comparators come into play. They make it easy to switch from one means of travel to another.
To date, there are several examples of MaaS applications. The best known case is Whim, which was developed in the city of Helsinki. This app enables users to plan, compare and book a mobility solution from among all the urban services we know: cabs, public transportation, self-service bicycles, scooters, etc. Since its launch, Whim has announced that it has seen a decline in the use of private cars in favor of a 200% increase in carpooling.
Other similar projects are also underway, such as the Stib project in Brussels, with an official launch planned for 2022. Let’s go even further with Siemens Mobility, which is working on a MaaS platform with a field of action throughout the Netherlands. Finally, on the French market, we note Transdev’s initiative to accelerate the implementation and propagation of MaaS on the territory.
All these projects have the objective of :
- Provide a single environment to plan, book and pay for a multi-modal service package
- Provide a smooth and environmentally friendly travel experience
- Open up and bring together the mobilized ecosystem to all last-mile transport operators in a given area.
The choice of ‘softer’ uses of mobility, better availability of transportation, fluidity of travel and perfect interaction with the environment. All these factors are closely linked to digital technology, which contributes to the reduction in transport-related CO² emissions, which today represents 30% of total CO² emissions in Europe.
Sources : annal.org
Other examples of digital in mobility
- City toll (contactless and adapted to the vehicle and driver) in Stockholm. This project aimed to reduce pollution in the city by 20%. But also to create a modal shift of 40,000 people to public transportation.
- A major transit operator enhanced its customer complaint system using Watson artificial intelligence to improve the quality of responses and handle more complaints.
- In the future, technology, digital and cellular networks (5G in particular) will enable vehicles to be autonomous through permanent, real-time interaction with their urban environment. Read our article on the development and the upcoming marketing of autonomous vehicles.
A digital revolution that does not yet benefit everyone
Even today, users still do not have equal access to technology. Indeed, a digital divide persists: not everyone has a smartphone and/or an appropriate internet connection.
According to the digital barometer conducted by the French regulatory authority for electronic communications and postal services (Arcep) and the Digital Agency in 2017, 19% of French people do not own a computer and 27% do not have a smartphone. The study also shows that a certain number are not comfortable with these tools: 31% do not feel competent to use a smartphone, 33% to use a computer.
Another problem identified is that of availability, indeed for the moment, concerning projects launched such as Whim or Ubigo. These applications are only available in certain cities and take a certain amount of time to be set up in new territories. This makes it difficult to “scale up” the product to different geographical areas quickly.
This is also one of the reasons for the creation of Ship&Co, through a single & robust API, different professional structures such as travel companies, tourism, cities but also mobility platforms can sell online a whole range of mobility solutions simply through a single partner. This allows them to provide their users with access to different means of transportation in many territories thanks to a few lines of code.
The final obstacle is represented by access to information, the processing of a gigantic number of data to be collected and processed. Many companies have been tackling this issue for several years now in order to facilitate access to third parties to the various data that is often very difficult to collect.
Finally, this digital transformation of mobility also includes innovation as well as a gradual evolution. All of this is an integral part of the transition to the smart city model that is increasingly talked about in our daily lives.
In conclusion, the impact of digital technology has been greatly felt in today’s mobility, and will continue to grow in tomorrow’s mobility. In fact, digital technology is making travel and the user experience more fluid and optimized, and relieving congestion in cities, as well as facilitating customer relations and access to information.
It has been a significant tool during the health crisis, since it has helped set up the telecommuting necessary to limit the spread of the virus, and has changed the way we consume with the even more rapid development of e-commerce platforms (e.g. drives for shopping).
Digital technology has encouraged multimodality and smoother mobility, thanks to the emergence of new services such as car-sharing and free-floating systems, as well as MaaS applications that make life easier. Nevertheless, this remains to be contrasted with unequal access to all these new technologies. Will we eventually arrive at a 100% digital world, with equal use of new technologies for all? To authorize and succeed in processing all these different data? To be followed in the coming years…
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