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What economic model for new urban mobility solutions?

By 25 March 2019April 10th, 2024Transportation & mobility

The  urban mobility is an inexhaustible reservoir of opportunities  for mobility service providers, operators and digital businesses. The enthusiasm encountered by these new services, most often of shared mobility, can be explained by a set of factors: a smooth customer journey, excellent quality of service, competitive pricing with regard to the existing transport offer ( public transport, taxis, etc.), public policies seeking to reduce self-driving, a shift from ownership to use by city dwellers, etc. However, the  figures tend to put into perspective the modal share occupied by these new modesin daily trips: across the Ile-de-France, out of 42 million daily trips, 15 million are made on foot, 15 million by car, 10 million by public transport and 2 million for the rest: bike, scooter, scooter …

Today, these new shared mobility services face  several difficulties in the context of their deployment .

The  difficulties associated with the business model  first. As operators, these players position themselves mainly on a model of selling mobility services: the revenues generated must cover at least the operating costs of the service. However:

  • The competitive intensity  is high, especially among players funded by venture capital: the logic “winner takes all” encourages growth at all costs to ensure both a massification of supply and a growing user base.
  • The  pricing  of services must remain  attractive  for uses in competition with a subsidized public transport offer (this is particularly the case in France), and therefore limit the room for maneuver.
  • The  operating costs  can  multiply  for some services, for example for scooters and scooters: costs related to the collection and charging batteries, costs related to vandalism …
  • Finally, the  modal share  of these new modes is still  embryonic  in everyday travel, despite sharply increasing market depth.

The  difficulties associated with deployment model  then. These new urban mobility services are subject to the decisions of the organizing authorities and regulatory hazards, each city or community approaching the framework of these new services in a different way.

  • The  lack  of experience in terms of  dialogue with the organizing authorities  pushes these new actors to develop in some cases in an anarchic manner   (example of the precedent of Lime and Bird in San Francisco). Local authorities will therefore put in place a set of charters and rules to govern the use and deployment of these new services, particularly for free-floating services, which question the use of public space.
  • The question of  safety , in particular for the scooter, is more and more significant, and new constraints of use could emerge, making the use of the service less fluid, less accessible and therefore less attractive (accidents involving an electric scooter would have injured more than 1,500 in the United States since the end of 2017).

The activity of these operators is therefore based on a still fragile economic model and remains exposed to a certain number of regulatory uncertainties which could hamper their growth objectives. But what strategies should be implemented  to allow a more harmonious integration of these new services into the urban mobility landscape, while offering a more robust economic model?

The first axis consists of  strengthening the relations between these new providers of mobility services  and  the public authorities , making it possible to develop greater economic and regulatory integration. Depending on the players and the nature of the mobility offers deployed, it could for example be:

  • Better value the  positive externalities  of their offers vis-à-vis the organizing authorities. By contributing to the reduction of congestion, pollution (for soft mobility and micro mobility solutions), autosolism (carpooling / carsharing), these new services could be legitimate candidates for obtaining  public subsidies / funding , as they contribute to the objectives assigned by the public authorities in favor of accessible, low-carbon, shared mobility that respects public space (recent example of the Ile-de-France Mobilités initiative in favor of carpooling)
  • Better coordinate and  consult with the public authorities  to organize the launch and operation of services involving the use of public space. This is particularly true in urban areas, where the scarcity of land should raise questions about its allocation and the services provided by its immobilization.

The second axis consists of  setting up partnerships  or  participating in the financing of new offers , making it possible to exploit commercial or strategic complementarities. 

  • Of  strategic partnerships  or joint ventures can help to strengthen a dominant position in certain services and / or geographies. We can cite the example of BMW-Daimler, which recently invested € 1 billion in a joint venture in order to consolidate a critical mass on the car-sharing offer. This merger should enable the activities of Car2go and DriveNow under the Sharenow brand to bring together the activities of Car2go and DriveNow and offer customers access to new areas and a wider choice of vehicles. It must also promote the sale and / or cross-acquisition of customers between the different entities of the joint venture: users of Reachnow (MaaS app) are thus potential customers of Sharenow, whose offer will be highlighted in the ‘Reachnow application.
  • Funding  rounds for  new mobility offers may allow certain historical players to integrate them directly on their platform. This is the case of Uber, which has co-invested with Google Venture in Lime and which highlights Lime’s e-scooter offer in the United States in its application.

The solutions developed by these mobility operators fall within the scope of freely organized mobility. However, faced with the difficulties encountered in achieving a viable economic model and deployment strategies which remain fragile because they are subject to regulatory uncertainties,  the question of greater integration into the field of organized mobility deserves to be raised . Partnerships with the organizing authorities would indeed be likely to improve the terms of the equation from an economic point of view, while promoting a more harmonious deployment of these new services in the heart of cities. Like the many forms of partnerships initiated between private driver services (Uber, Lyft) and certain organizing authorities to promote multimodality.

Jonathan longo

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