MULTIMODAL MOBILITY The Mumbai Moment: Crossing over to a multimodal mobility
From a technological perspective, the highway to a sustainable and connected mobility architecture seems just around the corner. But bringing together all stakeholders towards a multimodal framework much more reminds of a Mumbai street crossing. In this interview Sandra Phillips, award-winning TED-speaker and Founder/CEO of movmi, shares her recipe gained from over 60 international initiatives.
Sandra, mobility is a massive topic globally, as our path to new forms will affect numerous sectors of the economy and society. But taking all stakeholders into account to me appears more like a Mumbai street crossing than a structured path to bring a new design "on the road ..."
New mobility is really at the intersection of people, technology, and physical space. You have highly technology-enabled vehicles moving around in the real world. And literally, every aspect of the journey involves design choices: the app that allows people to access the vehicles, the look and feel of the vehicle, the proportions of the lanes, and where the parking spaces are situated.
So solve a need, don't introduce technology for technology's sake. If you want a good design recipe, there are some key elements to recognize: Understand the users' main needs, pick the transportation problem you solve and focus on finding the perfect solution. Understand and respect the limitations given, such as constraints in the physical world or the regulatory framework. From there, select your building blocks – technology, vehicle, and business model – and choose wisely, as they will remain. Plan iteratively: visualize your operations on day one after the launch and how you want to scale operations and services from there. Finally, design your launch and, very important – engage your customers.
Who is driving the evolution, and who are you still missing to take part in co-creating new architectures, especially when it comes to Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive sector?
New mobility is still the land of dreamers and visionaries. A large percentage of shared mobility operators like Uber, Lyft, or Lime are private entrepreneurs and startups. Most OEMs have dipped their toes into the waters, only to realize this is not their forte. Daimler and BMW were some of the early entrants into space, but they've since merged to form ShareNow. They keep selling off their mobility services. Maven, GM's carshare program, was shut down a few months ago because of the pandemic. Yet Volkswagen's WeShare, Toyota's Kinto and Hui, or Peugeot's Free2Move, to name a few OEMs, still play in the space.
Tier 1 companies such as Denso, Bosch, Magna, or Continental have started to get involved in new mobility, especially when it comes to sensor technology and telematics that will be useful for autonomous vehicles. I think this is an area where we'll see more involvement and investment in new mobility. Tier 1 companies might be a real threat to some private technology companies that supply software/telematics to carshare service providers such as Invers, Vulog, and others. They have the trust and connections to the OEMs and could get integrated directly into the vehicle, something that would benefit the carsharing world tremendously because it would reduce a lot of technology overhead and retrofit.
Let's switch from the providers to the actual customers' perspective and, therefore, the diverse needs and demographic profiles. You also identified non-technological barriers.
In fact, I think there are two major challenges: Number one is to create a personal transportation ecosystem that can compete with personal vehicle ownership. We have to combine mass transit with private shared mobility. That requires public-private partnerships, which themselves demand a lot of trust in each other because users and data are shared. I strongly believe you need a neutral party that doesn't have a stake in operating any services – e.g., a Shared Mobility Architect. This is someone who is versed as a mediator and can help negotiate a prenuptial to speak before the two services get married into one.
Secondly, provided that we're trying to solve all users' problems and possible use cases, we need more diversity in our workforce. Fawn Qiu, a product designer at LinkedIn and TED speaker, made a statement that stuck with me: "We have an inherent design bias towards what we know and understand ourselves." If we want to build mobility for everyone, we need different, more diverse designers at the table. A female designer will have more empathy and understand the full spectrum of needs of a working mother with children or a young woman working graveyard shifts at a restaurant. I am not saying that a male innovator couldn't think through this, but that a female designer would have the ability to tap into her own experience, and so her solution would be more relevant to that user group.
You're underlining this need with the initiative "Empower Women in Shared Mobility." Would you tell us what it is about and more about the goals you're pursuing?
We found out that less than 22% of the transportation workforce is female, and that of those less than 3% are in a CEO position. This is why we are especially looking for female entrepreneurs that tackle tomorrow's transportation problem.
In order to do so and finally also make an impact, we established The "Empower Women in Shared Mobility" program, a collaboration between ITS America, ABB, the Ray, GoWithFlow, and movmi. Together we will promote one female-led mobility venture for 12 months to encourage success in as many ways as we possibly can.
As your media partner, we'll be happy to keep the community updated about the program! Which requirements have to be fulfilled to apply, and of course: What's in it for the winner?
We're searching for companies no older than five years that offer products or services falling under the shared mobility industry. As the program's name implies, it should be majority female-led – which explicitly includes cis or trans women, non-binary, gender-fluid, or gender non-conforming people. We will be showcasing three companies, and the winning company will receive a 12-month mentoring package, access to the Empower WisM network, and will be invited to different opportunities to showcase their work. So let's get connected, and please apply for the 2021 Empower Women in Shared Mobility Program!