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Shared Micromobility, A Solution To Better Urban Mobility And Livability

Ready to ride the micromobility wave? Let’s dive into the technology driving shared transportation success, the challenges local authorities face, and more!

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), there are more than 260 shared micromobility systems as of August 2020. Subsequently, micromobility is expected to explode over the next few years.

What Is Micromobility and Shared Micromobility Systems?

Micromobility Defined.

MicroMobility Technology On The Move
MicroMobility Technology On The Move

If you can picture yourself zipping around on a bike, electric scooter, or electric skateboard, then you’ve got the right idea about Micromobility. This term refers to a range of small, lightweight vehicles typically running at speeds below 15 mph. Plus, in certain cases like tourism, Micro mobility devices can extend to multi-user Surrey bikes, electric golf carts, and Segways.

Also, note that micromobility devices are driven by the user and do not have internal combustion engines. So micromobility devices do not include rickshaws where a driver pulls the user, Also, micromobility does not include scooters like a Vespas that has an internal combustion engine.

The Growth of Shared Mobility Solutions.

Get ready to hop on a shared micromobility system! According to Mckinsey, a management consulting company, these solutions are becoming more and more common in urban communities. By 2030, they estimate a 5-10% increase in the number of passenger-kilometers traveled, thanks to this new technology.

Why Shared Micromobility?

Community planners target micromobility systems to support short trips such as “first- and last-mile” connections. So users either use shared micromobility devices to replace walking or using a car. Without a doubt, shared fleets provide users with on-demand access to devices. Of note, community planners allow these fleets to be commonly parked in the public right-of-way.

See Wikipedia for more on the basics of what is micromobility.

9 New Technologies That Are Enabling Communities To Pursue Shared Micro Mobility Initiatives.

There is an increasing amount of excitement around shared micromobility, largely due to recent technological advancements. Additionally, these developments have made it possible for both companies and communities to start shared micromobility projects. Over the last few years, several cities in the U.S. and around the world have launched a variety of micromobility programs and initiatives.

Specifically, these shared micromobility initiatives have included bicycles, e-bikes, and electric scooters. To list, below are the 9 major technical advances that have driven the increased interest in shared micromobility:

1. Battery Technology.

Battery technology continues to improve and cost less. This includes better functionality for EV charging and battery management

2. Wireless Internet of Things (IoT) Technology.

Many types of wireless technologies continue to improve to include 5G. More and more IoT sensor technology continues to evolve and be deployed to better track and monitor micromobility devices.  For more from SCT Insights, see Internet Of Things Examples – Hidden Technology Automating Logistics.

3. GPS Tracking Technology.

This is needed to keep track of where the scooter is located. 

4. Smart Card Identification.

This technology continues to improve as well as be generally accepted by the public. Specifically, these cards securely identify and authenticate the holder and third parties who want access to the card.

5. Micro Payment Systems.

These point-of-sales systems continue to evolve to better meet the needs of the public to include users of shared systems. Additionally, this includes more service options, better connectivity, and security.

6. Dockless Systems.

Shared micromobility systems at first had a docked infrastructure where the user had to return the scooter to a designated station. Now with dockless systems, the user can now drop the scooter anywhere and park it. Of note at night, workers will locate and recharge the micromobility device. 

7. Multimodal Platforms.

Urban planners are now implementing more advanced public transit software systems. In particular, some of these systems allow users to use multiple forms of transport such as buses, trains, and micromobility devices.

8. Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Software developers are more and more embedding AI into micromobility systems. As a result, AI is improving safety, convenience, and usability for users. One example of AI’s potential would be to have users wear a helmet with a smart visor to augment reality. Hence, this would have the potential of dramatically reducing accidents. Additionally, these helmets would make users more informed about their trip in real-time. Click here for more examples on how artificial intelligence technology is empowering businesses and organizations.

9. Fleet Management Systems.

Now there are more and better micromobility fleet management systems for planning, locating misplaced vehicles, and servicing. With cloud technology and readily available wireless data communications, fleet management systems are just not for the “big guys” or just for truck fleets. Now, any size fleet can take advantage of cloud software to help them manage their fleet. Additionally, these information management systems are data-rich and have many capabilities. Capabilities include the latest technologies such as predictive AI, IoT sensor devices, BI dashboards and machine vision to name a few. To detail, see my article Private Fleet Management System (FMS): When You Need Vs TMS, How To Make Selection.

Private Fleet Management System (FMS): When You Need Vs TMS, How To Make Selection. Are you juggling multiple vehicles in your business? Then, you might want to consider a fleet management system (FMS). According to Cprime, the global fleet management software market is expected to skyrocket to $43.5 billion by 2024. Obviously, this means there’s an abundance of FMS software choices out there! And guess what? Click here to discover the ins and outs of FMS – what it is, what it isn’t, how to identify if it’s right for you, its key features, and tips on selecting the perfect FMS to drive your business further!

See MARTECHLive’s  Shared Micro Mobility Technology In 2022 for more details on micromobility systems.

6 Benefits To Shared Micromobility That Improve Our Lives and the Community.

 There are several benefits of shared micromobility technology. Specifically, see below for 7 benefits of shared micromobility:

1. Saves Micro Mobility Users Money.

Shared micromobility is more cost-effective than buying a micromobility vehicle. Namely, this not only includes the upfront costs, but all paying for insurance, re-charging costs, and paying for routine maintenance. 

2. Micro Mobility Technology Is A Sustainable Technology.

Communities can reduce their carbon footprint because micromobility devices have zero emissions.

3. Micromobility Solutions Are More Efficient Than Other Transit Systems.

A micromobility network is more efficient than other public transportation solutions. Subsequently once a city implements a micromobility solution, they can optimize their current public transit system. As an example, this can include reducing or extending the reach of current transit systems such as bus or subway systems.  

4. Shared Networks Are Convenient For Riders.

Now that micromobility solutions are more mature, they are offering more convenience to more users. For example, Users can find micromobility devices on many street corners. Consequently, more users can conveniently get to a bus stop or subway station instead of using a car. Now, more communities are offering either multimodal payment options or annual passes to use micromobility devices. Also, users have less need to own a micromobility device where they would have to do their own maintenance.

5. Reduces Traffic Congestion & Number of Parking Spaces.

Micromobility solutions are a solution to reducing traffic congestion and reducing the need for parking spaces. Consequently, it is expected that users of shared micromobility will reduce car use in urban areas to include the time used looking for a parking space. 

6. Federal Government Is Funding Micromobility Solutions.

The 2021 infrastructure law is providing funding to local governments for micromobility projects. Specifically, this includes operational funding to make walking or biking safer and more convenient. Click here for more information.

See Digi’s What Is Micromobility? for more information on the benefits of micromobility solutions.

7 Challenges With Implementing a Micromobility Solution In Your Community.

There are many challenges for local governments to implement micromobility solutions.  For example, local governments need to think about regulations, infrastructure requirements, long-term planning, usage fees, data management, and public engagement. As a reference, see National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) for some sample guidelines and advice for local governments. To list, below is a description of 7 key challenges that communities face with implementing a micromobility solution.

1. Safety – How To Minimize Accidents.

Shared micromobility is a new industry and there are safety issues to work through. For example, hospitals have seen a marked increase in eScooter accidents. This could be a combination of user training and adding more safety features on micromobility devices. Manufacturers have done recalls on some of their devices. Also, due to the rapid rise of shared micromobility technology there may still may be some gaps in safety regulations in comparison to other types of transportation.    

2. Managing the Logistics of a Micromobility Network.

Micromobility networks need their own, unique logistics infrastructure. Specifically, this requires an upfront cost as well as on-going costs to maintain and for future replacement of the devices. 

3. What To Do When Poor Weather Reduces Ridership.

Weather is a challenge for micromobility. For example, if a user uses a shared micromobility network for commuting to work, what do they do if the weather is bad? Definitely, cities with harsher climates will need to do more analysis on the return-on-investment (ROI) of micromobility solutions.

4. Have To Allocate More Space For Walking and Cycling.

With increased use of micromobility devices, communities will need to make more streets and bike lanes available. As a result this is a financial and planning challenge, but it will also improve livability in urban areas. For example, Seattle permanently closed 30 kilometers of streets to most vehicles, providing more space for people to walk and bike following the lockdown.

5. Need To Manage Micromobility Assets.

As micromobility devices are portable, they are easy to steal. Also, communities have policies and regulations on where these devices can be parked. 

6. Requires Robust Wireless Communications.

Communities need to have robust wireless network access to fully leverage the benefits of micromobility. This includes enabling the micromobility solution providers to communicate with the devices. Also, users may need to make mobile payments, and IoT sensors need wireless connectivity. 

7. Some Micromobility Solutions Could Quickly Become Obsolete.

Micromobility solutions are definitely a viable, long-term solution for many communities. Whereas, the challenge for communities and solutions providers is that shared micromobility solutions are still evolving. Consequently, there are many questions to ask like

  • how much to invest?
  • what is the total cost of ownership?
  • implement now, or wait for technology to mature more?
  • how to handle theft and misuse?
  • how to design and manage the network?
  • what infrastructure and policies are needed to provide a safe, effective solution”
  • who manages the micromobility solution?

See HelloTracks’ Five Issues Facing the Micro Mobility Industry and MANTECLive’s Shared Technology in 2022 for more details on micromobility technology challenges.

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