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How Location Intelligence Has Led to the Rise of Shared Mobility

July 13, 2018
Location Intelligence
By: Vivian Nguyen

A tiny GPS chip embedded in your smartphone has enabled companies like Uber and Lyft in the US, Grab in Southeast Asia, or Ola in India to build their vast shared mobility empires.

Traffic congestion continues to emerge as a major problem in both the United States and every other major metropolitan area in the world. With more and more people moving to urban areas on a daily basis, limited road spaces have proven inefficient in tackling the demands of an ever-increasing population, especially during peak hours.

And the problem isn’t limited to transportation infrastructure alone. Although green initiatives are popping up around the world, eco-friendly transportation solutions haven’t been widely adopted yet.  Until then, more cars on the road means more dependency on fossil fuels and more harmful emissions that lead to climate change. One possible solution? Minimize the number of cars on the road through shared mobility.

shared mobility, location services

How Is Shared Mobility Defined?

Shared mobility can be defined as an innovative transit strategy which gives people short-term access to various modes of transportation on-demand. This includes car-sharing, bike-sharing, shuttle services, peer-to-peer vehicle sharing, ridesharing, etc.

A study by the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that a single car-sharing service is capable of removing an average of 7 to 11 vehicles from the road – factoring in both the number of cars sold by the people who opt for shared mobility, and the decrease in demand for new vehicles by the users of this transit strategy.

Apart from environmental gains, shared mobility also offers many economic and social benefits: cost savings, convenience, increased travel options and bridging the gap in the existing public transit network, to name a few.

The Relationship Between Location Intelligence and Shared Mobility

While offline carpool models have been prevalent in the US since the 1970s, the rise of shared mobility as a new industry can be accredited to the recent advancements in location intelligence technology. High-quality digital maps, which are exceedingly accurate and frequently updated, form the foundation of urban mobility. As mapping companies push the boundaries for creating more and more reliable maps, they have also made sure the complex technologies remain hidden under the hood. What the end user receives is only a clean and intuitive interface experience – and that’s what has contributed greatly to the rapid adoption of location-based services and applications.

To expound on this further, think about the basic requirements for requesting a Zipcar or a Didi. The only thing you’re required to do is enable location services on your mobile device, and within minutes you’ve got a car. Location Services leverages a tiny GPS chip embedded in your smartphone which has enabled companies like Uber and Lyft in the US, Grab in Southeast Asia, and Ola in India to build their vast shared mobility empires.

According to a report commissioned by Google, shared mobility is a $40 billion industry today. Recently, Uber acquired a dock-less bike-share startup called JUMP, in a deal which is rumored to be worth $100 million. The acquisition has given Uber ownership of 12,000 GPS-enabled bikes in 40 cities across six countries.

“The same technology that powers shared mobility companies is also used by carpooling providers, including Waze Carpool and Scoop. Their smartphone apps allow friends, family, and neighbors to identify travel routes they have in common. This facilitates the logistics of sharing a carpool ride,” the Google report says.

Increasing the scope of location intelligence technology

The ability for shared mobility services such as Uber or Lyft to pinpoint users is not the only value of location intelligence. For example, UK-based Citymapper, a location technology startup, debuted in 2011 as a simple app to track public transit. After 6 years of collecting data, Citymapper started to identify major gaps in the existing transportation infrastructure. Last year, it began operating its own nighttime bus service in London and recently introduced a new concept in the form of an eight-seater taxi-bus hybrid.

Citymapper is just one story out of the thousands in which location technology has driven innovative public-private hybrid shared mobility models. Uber has connected its service with mass-transit systems and provides feedback to city transit planners to help them enhance their city’s efficiency. In January, the company launched what it’s calling a first-of-its-kind study to help two local transit agencies in Cincinnati better plan their future strategies.

Meanwhile, Sidewalk Labs’ offshoot Coord – which offers easy integration of real-time transit information into digital navigation tools – is leveraging location technology to make bike-sharing more easy and convenient.

These are only a few examples of how location intelligence technology and location services led to the rise of shared mobility. Worldwide user penetration for shared mobility stands at less than 10%, but with more public awareness and friendlier policies, the industry will skyrocket — and location intelligence will be a driving force.

For more information on how Digital Map Products can help get your location-reliant application ready for prime time, contact us today.

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