We are evolving into a better cared for society. What we used to do for ourselves, such as take care of the lawn, plant the flowers, fix the plumbing, change out the light switch, we are more and more hiring others to do. Others who are experts in their jobs. This is clearly evidenced by the older generation moving into gated communities, active adult communities and assisted living facilities. At the same time, however, in a much less noticed trend, a younger generation is forsaking the suburbs to repopulate urban environments. Both of these trends suggest a more localized, service-laden existence and significant changes in the patterns of moving from point A to point B.
Free from the encumbrance of vehicle ownership?
The new trend is moving from “Do It Yourself” to “Let others do it for you”. Sounds almost Biblical. Will vehicle ownership be on the list of letting others do it for you? What would you be giving up by getting from point A to point B via an on-call mobility service, rather than using your own vehicle? Well, you would be giving up having to be careful to charge your vehicle at the appropriate time interval, undertaking battery maintenance and replacement, and having to take the vehicle in for repairs and upkeep. You could also rid yourself of the attendant costs of the items just mention, as well as license fees and vehicle registration, where these are required.
Is there an effective replacement of vehicle ownership?
There are actually places in the universe where vehicle ownership is something of a rarity. New York City is a good example. It has a well-developed commuter system servicing the suburbs and an extensive underground subway system. The vast majority of New York City residents do not use an automobile to get to and from work and do their grocery shopping at neighborhood stores. It is likely that a considerable majority of these New Yorkers do not even own a car.
Thus, the idea of a shared transportation system is hardly new. New York may be somewhat unique in this regard because of the extensiveness of its system, but virtually all major cities and even small towns have some form of shared transportation system, either privately-owned or publicly-supported. So, what is new?
What is new is individualized, on-call fleets serving specific point-to-point mobility
“Individualized, on call fleets” is too many words to keep repeating, so let’s give it an acronym. How about, “IOF”? With an IOF system, vehicles are ubiquitously parked in strategic locations so that anyone, for a fee, could use them to drive to wherever they want to go, repark the vehicle and forget about it. If a return trip is needed, that vehicle or another would be available for that purpose. Vehicles are parking spots would be located by a smart phone app.
In the days (years?) ahead, driverless vehicles could be a significant characteristic of an IOF, thereby allowing users to hail a vehicle and wait for its arrival.
Such IOF systems are, in fact, in use. Some systems use bicycles (Citibank has such a bicycle fleet in New York City) and some use electric scooters. Of course, electric automobiles are part of the market as well. One of the largest enterprises in this regard is the Blue Solutions subsidiary of logistics and transportation giant, the Bollore Group. Until recently the company provided ride sharing services in Paris, and in several other French cities. The company also has a system up and running in Indianapolis.
Based on a Bloomberg story, dated May 2014, the company provided 500 vehicles and 1,000 charging stations in 200 locations. The Bollore Group invested $35 million in the project, while Indianapolis Power & Light contributed $16 million for the charging station network.
By the way, this has some interesting performance characteristics. Blue Solutions has developed a lithium metal polymer (LMP) battery, delivering 30 kWh of power, a service life in excess of 3,000 charge cycles, a range of 200+ kilometers (well over 100 miles), and a top speed of about 80 mph. It was the LMP technology that incentivized the forward integration into mobility applications.
OK, so what does this have to do with gated and planned communities? The first point to be made is that mobility as an individualized service, replacing vehicle ownership, is rapidly taking hold. And the second point is that gated communities are potentially good environments for IOF systems.
Would gated communities offer a favorable environment for an IOF operation?
In so many ways, the answer has to be in the affirmative. First, there are residents who have trouble driving and are not well-attuned to golf car maintenance. These folks would be obvious participants in an IOF system. Second, other residents might find the IOF vehicle down the block very handy for in-village transportation. For example, pick up of groceries would be an easy round trip from the parking station to the market, back to home, and then a short jump to repark.
It should noted that while distributed parking slots would be part of the system, with the advent of autonomous systems, a centralized parking system could also be established. (If you are in a gated community with one or several golf courses, this sort of centralized parking system is already in place.) In this case the app feature on the smart phone would be used to call a golf car-type vehicle to your doorstep. You would then step in, do your errands, return to your abode, and direct the vehicle to return to central parking. There, of course, the vehicle would be recharged and otherwise maintained as needed.
What would you do if…?
Were such a system in place, would you be favorably inclined to give up your personally-owned golf car (not your conventional vehicle) and use the services of an IOF? If you like, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
- The Paris operation was recently terminated because of a lack of profitability. The company was seeking subsidies from the Paris city government, which were declined. While the Bollore enterprise may be out, the city has thrown open a bidding process for the same sort of system to all interested parties.
Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at email@example.com. Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.