In the future, urban transportation is expected to be electric, autonomous, and on-demand. This is the vision that captures the major trends in mobility and is one that companies like Uber and Google already appear to be working toward. Navigant Research believes that on-demand shared transportation services—whether carsharing, ride-hailing, bikesharing, or even public transit—will converge with the major vehicle technology trends of electrification, wireless connectivity, and autonomous driving capability to create a low-carbon transportation system for cities over the next 25 years. Navigant Research has covered these trends in its recently published Transportation Outlook: 2025 to 2050 white paper and will discuss them further in a June 14 webinar, Changing Models for Urban Mobility.
This convergence is happening already. The first piece, wireless connectivity, is a key building block technology for a future where personal transportation transitions to mobility as a service. By 2025, Navigant Research forecasts that more than 1.2 billion vehicles globally are expected to be connected to their surroundings and/or to each other through either built-in or brought-in communications technology. At a baseline, these systems will provide real-time safety alerts and traffic notifications to drivers; the more mature and full-featured systems will support semi-autonomous driving systems. In this same timeframe, the number of vehicles equipped with some form of telematics will also grow rapidly. By 2025, most new vehicles in developed markets are likely to have telematics offering various types of services to the driver. Today, this type of connectivity is already central to electric vehicles (EVs), which have navigation systems that alert the driver to available charging stations and provide battery charge status updates.
The convergence is also already occurring between vehicle electrification and shared mobility. EVs are an increasingly popular option in carsharing schemes in cities. Indeed, city officials looking to control pollution in congested city centers are actively encouraging the use of EVs in carshare services. For example, officials in London pushed hard to bring to the city an electric carsharing scheme similar to the successful Autolib’ service in Paris; the new service opened in spring 2016. Carsharing services already see a greater percentage of EVs in their fleets than is found in the wider passenger car population. Navigant Research estimated that plug-in hybrids and battery EVs represented more than 15% of all vehicles in carshare services as of 2015. While these EVs are largely concentrated in a handful of services—such as the all-electric Autolib’, all-electric carshare companies in China, and in some of Daimler’s and BMW’s carshare services—EVs are expected to expand to many more carshare operations through 2025 and beyond. One reason for this is that carsharing will be a growing option for automakers to put certain types of cars into service—primarily fuel-efficient, electric-powered, and autonomous—and many OEMs are expected to operate these transportation services themselves as a way to offset reductions in revenue due to falling vehicle sales in urban areas.
Mobility as a Service
Carsharing is a key building block for the future of mobility as a service, and is now a well-established industry that feels familiar rather than new. But in fact, this business is at the early stages of major upheaval that will change the role it plays in urban mobility. First off, automakers are entering the market in earnest, and it is expected that almost all major automakers will be offering some type of shared vehicle service by 2025. A second disruptor is the rise of the one-way operational model. With drivers no longer required to return vehicles to the same parking spot where they picked it up, carsharing significantly expands its use case for city residents. Carsharing now can provide true on-demand mobility and be used for spur-of-the-moment travel needs and for shorter one-way trips than is typical for conventional round-trip carsharing. This new operational model makes carsharing more like the third major disruptor in the shared vehicle sector: the explosive popularity of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. While these two types of services can be seen as competing, they are better thought of as complementary, each offering a different type of experience for the customer. Carsharing acts as a replacement for owning a car, whereas ride-hailing is more directly a replacement for conventional taxi services. One-way carsharing and ride-hailing services may well compete for customers, but Navigant Research believes that the urban mobility model of the future will have both carsharing and ride-hailing.
Both services probably will be early markets for autonomous driving technology, the final piece of this low-carbon mobility as a service model. It is likely that autonomous vehicles will initially be integrated into shared fleets in a controlled and regulated setting. Sites like central London, Paris, and Singapore are anticipated to be among the first. From 2025 on, a number of entities—including carsharing companies, taxi fleets, ride-hailing companies, and automakers—are expected to be operating autonomous fleets. In particular, automakers likely will embrace the autonomous fleet idea as an extension of their current involvement in carsharing schemes and will seek to incorporate them into their EV models. GM has announced it will begin offering autonomous Chevrolet Volts for its employees to drive at its Technical Center in Warren, Michigan in late 2016.
According to the United Nations, by 2050, as much as 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, and the individually owned vehicle will probably become a rarity in most large cities. The possibility that shared mobility may lead to less use of public transit has been an oft-cited concern among city officials and sustainable transportation advocates. A 2016 report by the Shared-Use Mobility Center found that services like carsharing and ride-hailing are actually complementary to public transit. The report, which focused on users in seven U.S. cities, noted that the people that use shared modes of transportation the most were the most likely to use public transit and to own fewer cars. Navigant Research also believes that, from 2025 onward, public transportation itself will become more of an on-demand service, which will use buses much more efficiently. Connectivity and data analysis will enable the efficient dispatch of vehicles to where passengers need them, keeping idle time to a minimum. These services can be fully integrated with the other types of on-demand options in the city, making multi-modal travel more robust and seamless.