What will urban transportation look like in the future? That is rapidly becoming the million-dollar question, with OEMs, micromobility providers, transport authorities and government officials all offering their versions of the ultimate urban mobility vision. With all of these parties involved, there is an inevitable tug-of-war between innovation and regulation.
E-scooters: a rocky introduction
Take the explosion of e-scooters on to the urban mobility scene. New brands like Voi, Tier, Lime, Bright and Bird were suddenly standing in every corner of the city. Offering zero-noise, zero-emissions and a technology-driven, ride-sharing model, e-scooters seemed to be the ideal answer to most urban cities traffic problems and emission reduction goals. However, with their arrival came a corresponding backlash, prompted by pedestrian safety concerns and irresponsible (and in some cases, reckless) scooter behavior.
The global pandemic provides a catalyst for new mobility habits
Then came the global pandemic, an unforeseen development that had an equally unexpected impact on urban mobility. The start of the pandemic, with its accompanying financial uncertainty, led to a wave of layoffs at some of the leading micromobilty players, such as Bird and Lime. Now, however, industry analysts are seeing new mobility trends emerging, which are breathing new life into the e-scooter industry.
A July 2020 McKinsey report highlights that one US-based micromobility company has seen average trip distances increase by 26% since the start of the pandemic. And in some cities, such as Detroit, this figure has increased by as much as 60%. Other players have also seen an increase in first-time scooter riders, repeat riders and in ride length, where they have noted that the average scooter ride is more than 50% longer than before the pandemic.
New use cases are fueling e-scooter demand
Cities have also seen a change in the use cases fueling e-scooter usage. Due to hygiene and infection concerns, many consumers have turned away from public transportation and embraced micromobility as a safer way of getting around the city. E-scooters have become popular methods of transportation for essential workers, with some providers offering their services for free to help transport healthcare workers to and from work. And cities have also begun restructuring urban environments to create protected spaces for bicycles and scooters. Suddenly, the value of e-scooters has become clearer, and we see them playing a central role in many cities’ future mobility vision. It appears more likely than ever before that e-scooters will play a role in defining the future of urban mobility. The question then becomes, How do you, as an innovative micro-mobility company, make sure you’re a part of it?
The future of mobility is still up for grabs
For now, it appears that innovation and regulation might actually go hand-in-hand. City planners are realizing the benefits of e-scooters, and looking to re-configure urban landscapes to allow place for micromobility users. On the innovator side, e-scooter manufacturers and other micromobility players have to do their part to ensure that they provide the necessary context for their technology to succeed.
At Star, we believe e-scooters will play a role in mobility’s future. And we have a long history of working with mobility companies to ensure the successful adoption of their technological innovations. One of the key things we’ve learned is the importance of providing context. In our experience, mobility manufacturers need to keep three things in mind when developing new mobility technology:
- See the product from the user’s point of view. No mobility solution is used in a vacuum. Micromobility users have to interact with other scooters and bicycles, buses, trams, trains and pedestrians. So design the mobility solution with the entire transportation ecosystem in mind. This would include working with city planners and developers to create holistic micromobility solutions.
- Test, test and test. It’s impossible to predict all of the ways users will interact with, and react to, your product. By testing early in the process, you can discover these unexpected reactions and adapt your product accordingly.
- Help your customers understand the value your product provides. Education is a critical part of introducing new technologies into the market.
- And above all: Be fast, be brave and have fun creating. The micromobility future waits for no one.
Olle Haff is Head of Business Development in Europe at Star where he’s helping our customers achieve business value using digital. With 15+ years of experience and a strong background in design, technology and business, Based out of Copenhagen, Olle works with clients and partners to create and implement strategies based on his experience within avionics, retail, consumer electronics, automotive and finance.