The smartphone as a gateway to new mobility

It has long since ceased to be a secret: in order to drive a car in today’s urban world ownership is no longer necessary. A month ago, we introduced a service from the UK, called WhipCar, a rapidly growing company providing neighbourhood car sharing. Furthermore, emerging mobility apps for smartphones and tablets such as MyCityWay, MyTaxi, Multicity, or Getaround are becoming more and more present all around the globe whilst, at the same time, car ownership is suggested to be on the decline.[1] Interestingly, the idea of putting your car to use other than owning ithas existed for quite a while. The only problem was that people either didn’t know about it or couldn’t be bothered to go through the extremely tedious administration process associated with it. Today, everything’s different. Why? Because the potential of alternative car usage has only been realised through the advancement of another idea: Mobile Web.

Smartphones are the new ignition keys

Mobility apps usually hold names that give away the providers’ main goals: flexibility and simplicity. “Open Ride”[2], for instance, is a smartphone software application allowing users to set up their own carpooling agency. Thereby, drivers and passengers can offer or search for rides on their phone and in real time. So if someone decides to go for a drive, the application instantly informs all potential passengers in the vicinity about this. The clever thing about “Open Ride” is the advanced search engine, which does not only take into account the start and end points of the route, but the entire trip. Therefore, passengers can be picked up along the way. People can even start their car not being aware of the fact that they might soon have a passenger riding with them. An exciting app tailored to the mobility needs of corporations and businesses is the AlphaCity app.[3] It allows a company’s employees to use Alphabet’s car fleet either for private or business purposes. Instead of paying for taxis or using carpooling, employees simply book a car on their smartphone, get in, and drive off. This means that companies can use their fleet more efficiently whereby the total ownership costs are significantly lowered. Alphabet’s service AlphaCity is currently on offer in the UK, France, and Germany. Its successful business model is expanding to other countries at the moment.

New possibilities meet fixed mind-set

The rapid success and public attention of mobility apps are symptomatic of the current car industry, which in the past years has suffered from the significant overall increase of ownership costs. Expenses like fuel, maintenance, and tax are predicted to rise in the future but can be effectively distributed among others with shared riding schemes. The main question to ask is whether the new possibilities will have sufficient appeal to change the way people use their vehicles. Owning a car might not be necessary anymore, but to many people, their car is an object of self-worth, a true companion that they would be uncomfortable sharing with strangers, despite the implied benefits. Nonetheless, the trend is clear: more and more people are changing the way they see their car’s potential. This is particularly true for business mobility apps. Are you making use of any mobility apps? If so, let us know about your favourites!

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