Smart Mobility

On-Demand Mobility: Consumer and Business Perspectives

The growth of smart mobility solutions, which integrate all travel modes, including on-demand mobility and autonomous options into a single platform, is changing the way people commute. On-demand mobility models aim to provide commuters with fast, convenient, and affordable transportation, allow businesses to participate in an efficient transport economy, and enable governments to ease congestion and pollution in urban areas.

Learn how three essential elements make on-demand mobility a reality: the commodification of modes of transport, the collaboration between the public and private sectors, and highly optimized, technology-driven delivery logistics. And see how the promise of on-demand mobility is shaping businesses, communities, and cities around the globe.

In this article you'll learn about:

What Is On-Demand Mobility?

On-demand mobility (ODM) provides consumers with on-demand access to mobility, services, and goods. On-demand mobility uses public transportation solutions, shared mobility, and delivery services via a connected and integrated multi-modal network. Progressive forms of on-demand mobility passenger services combine real-time information, trip planning, booking, and fare payment into a user interface. 

Demand responsive transport enables passenger modes, including bike-sharing, car-sharing, ride-sharing, transportation network companies (TNCs), micro-transit, shuttle services, and public transport. Advanced on-demand mobility courier services use app-based courier network services (CNS), robotic delivery, and aerial delivery services such as drones.

3 Key Components of On-Demand Mobility

1. The Basis of Commodification

On-demand mobility strives to make transportation services efficient in terms of cost, travel and waiting time, level of convenience, the number of connections involved, etc. The US Department of Transportation’s approach to on-demand mobility emphasizes mobility options for all users via the integration of:

  • On-demand services such as taxis, car rental platforms, car sharing, and bike-sharing.
  • Real-time information services, such as navigation systems and smart parking.
  • Practical payment options via mobility apps.
  • All public transportation platforms.

2. The Significance of Public-Private Collaboration and Stakeholder Groups

A commodified transport marketplace with digital integration and frictionless payment methods relies on the collaboration of public and private stakeholders. Collaborators share failures, as well as success. If one collaborator drops the ball, the others will follow. When collaborators succeed, everyone benefits: 

  • Consumers have access to more travel options and a more efficient and integrated transportation network.
  • Private transportation provides benefits as on-demand mobility connects service providers and travelers and offers an integrated platform for mobility.
  • Public transit providers benefit as on-demand mobility fosters communication between public transportation and the private sector. 
  • More travelers and options for intermodality provide a “network effect” where transit options are physically and digitally closer to one another, which adds collective value.

3. Developments in Goods Delivery, Consumption, and Mobility are Key

Consumers are changing the way they shop and receive goods and services, as a result of innovations in technology, delivery modes, and business models. Commuters of 2019 expect all of the following criteria to be met by their transport suppliers. To survive and thrive in today’s competitive market, on-demand mobility suppliers need to provide: 

  • Flat-rate, low-cost delivery services such as Shop Runner and Amazon Prime, which on-demand delivery. 
  • Advanced algorithms assist delivery providers and merchants in optimizing the delivery process, including order fulfillment and optimizing delivery routes.
  • Locker delivery lets consumers request to have items shipped to a locker at work or near their home. 
  • Courier network services or apps give suppliers access to for-hire delivery services. This allows them to offer on-demand retail delivery.

The Consumer Perspective

The following factors can help you create a successful customer experience for on-demand mobility systems: 

  • Price: For many consumers, convenience and low prices are motivating factors for using on-demand mobility services. For example, the success of ride-hailing services over taxis is partly due to its affordability. 
  • Ease and comfort: The availability of as many mobility services as possible between the origin and desired destination. For example, if a consumer wants to travel from San Francisco’s Caltrain train station to the Moscone convention center, they have two options: a fixed route, multi-passenger micro-transit service, or a single passenger, origin-destination ride-hailing service.
  • Safety: The safety record of the vehicle and the driver, when the ride-hailing service is human-driven. Autonomous vehicles are deemed safer than human-driven vehicles. 
  • Passenger experience: Personalization of the experience, how quickly the vehicle arrived, how fast transportation was. 

The Business Perspective

The primary business uses of on-demand mobility are last-mile goods delivery and passenger transportation. To gain maximum benefit from on-demand mobility, businesses should consider the aspects below.

Vehicle Type

Next-generation mobility for business use includes bicycles and scooters, ground fuel-driven vehicles (cars, vans, minivans, etc.), autonomous electrified ground vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (delivery drones, air taxis, etc.) and long-haul vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles.

Business Model

Ride-hailing companies are trying advertising and subscription-based models, as well as transaction-based models loyalty programs. 

Company Type 

There are two primary organizational models: Ride-hailing, which coordinates rides in transportation leased or owned by individuals, and fleet managers, including companies that manage fleets owned by another company (e.g., Ford operates the Domino-owned fleet) and companies that manage and own their fleets (e.g., Amazon). 

Mobility Service Type 

Including ride-sharing, micro-transit with fixed routing, single passenger ride-hailing, and ride-sharing with flexible routing. There will soon also be services offering multimodal transportation, such as bicycles combined with car or bus. 

Cargo Type

Including single passenger-only services, using ground-based or aerial pods, and multi-passengers-only, using cars, air taxis, and minivans. There will also be goods-only using vans and trucks and mixed-mode (passenger and good) using cars, UAVs, and vans. 

Operating Territory 

To compete with the big companies, consider including inner-city suburbs, country to country, or intercity transportation. Alternatively, you can choose a location and a niche and then provide a high-quality service in your area of choice.

Noteworthy Projects

On-Demand Mobility in Europe

The EU’s Observatory for Emerging Mobility has released the results of an online survey of German, French, Spanish, and British consumers. The findings show that 10% of respondents use personal mobility devices, 20% use ride-hailing, and 31% use carpooling. Daily car use has fallen from 59% (recorded in 2016) to 49%.

Here are three examples of on-demand mobility systems that operate in Europe:

  • Beat (Greece): Recently taken over by Germany’s My Taxi, Beat plays a key role in the Greek ride-sharing market, boasting an annual growth of 180% since 2011. The app allows passengers to connect with taxi drivers and choose a driver based on distance, rating, amenities, etc.  
  • UbiGo (Gothenburg, Sweden): A pilot project that brings together several modes of transportation. 70 households in Gothenburg were granted monthly subscriptions to their transportation services of choice, including car sharing, bike sharing, transit, car rental, and taxis. All services are controlled via a single web-based app.  
  • Mobility Mixx (Netherlands): Offers a range of mobility services, including public transit, rental cars, carpooling, bike sharing, taxis, and auto fuel. It also provides payment and trip scheduling. This service is tailored to business travelers. 

On-Demand Mobility in the USA

The Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) is a US organization that promotes collaboration in shared mobility, including car sharing, bike sharing, and ride-sharing. The UMC performs new research, piloting programs, and provides advice for programs, aiming to bring the benefits of shared mobility to all US citizens.

One SUMC project is the On-Ramp Program, which supports public transportation agencies and other transportation providers, helping them create business plans and strategies for on-demand mobility. 

Selected USA mobility projects include:

  • BART (San Francisco Metropolitan Area, CA): An on-demand wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) ride-hailing service. 
  • MDOT MTA (Baltimore, MD): Microtransit to connect low-income residents in the city with high-opportunity job centers in the suburbs. 
  • Capital Metro (Austin, TX): Assisting rapidly growing regions with the challenges of congestion, sprawl, and changing travel patterns.
  • MATA (Memphis, TN): A demand-responsive service that transport users from their origins to the city’s arterial routes.
  • Tompkins County (Ithaca Region, NY): A Mobility as a Service (MaaS) pilot focused on carpooling, aimed to minimize solo driving and providing equal access to transportation. 

On-Demand Mobility in South America 

Some large cities in South America (Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota) don’t have the resources to transport commuters to and from work. Often, their transportation systems work above capacity during peak times. As a result, certain commuters in Latin America are choosing on-demand services over car ownership.  

Here are a few notable on-demand mobility services based in South America:

  • 99 (formerly 99Taxis) (Brazil): A popular ride-hailing app offering advanced technology to assist and guide drivers. 99 is Brazil’s first “unicorn,” a startup valued at over $1 billion.
  • Easy Taxi (Latin America): A taxi booking service, launched in Latin America in 2011 and used by commuters in several countries to schedule a taxi ride and track it in real-time. 
  • Cabify (Spanish-based): Offers private vehicles for hire through a smartphone app. 
  • Nekso (Canadian-based): Launched a taxi-hailing service in Venezuela in 2016. Nekso also entered the taxi industry in the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Ecuador. 

Towards a Global Web of Transport Options

On-demand mobility is on the rise, but most projects are localized and limited to specific types of transport. It's a little like the beginning of the Internet when universities and local groups were able to communicate between them. However, the global infrastructure that is the World Wide Web was still in the making.

The real vision of on-demand mobility is a global web of mobility solutions, accessible by anyone, anywhere. A consumer should be able to order an overseas trip, with local ground transport, a plane ticket, and ground transport in their remote destination, in one click using a single interface. 

This requires massive interoperability between transport operators across borders, blurring the lines between public transport, traditional transport operators like taxi companies or courier services, and modern, mobile-app-based, crowdsourced transport systems. Realizing this vision should be a priority for technologists, consumers, the transport industry, and municipal governments alike. Everyone stands to benefit from the global Internet of on-demand mobility.