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Meeting the urban mobility challenge

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Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) represent a considerable opportunity for fleets, says Andrew Overton, CEO of connected vehicle solutions provider, Connexas Group.

Andrew Overton, CEO of connected vehicle solutions provider, Connexas Group

Andrew Overton, CEO of connected vehicle solutions provider, Connexas Group

Tech companies are paving the way for new Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) transport offerings in a bid to improve efficiency, protect the environment and decrease congestion in built-up urban areas. While much of the focus to date has been on public transport, commercial fleet operators are increasingly keen to understand what part they can play in making journeys ‘greener, easier, safer and more reliable’.

MaaS capabilities are already in evidence in some parts of the country as innovators launch apps enabling businesses and passengers to select how to make a specific journey based on their preferred mode of transport – bus, train, taxi or rental car – as well as a host of other considerations such as cost, time and environmental impact.

In the West Midlands, MaaS Global has been operating an app called Whim, offering a multi-modal transport solution through a tie up with a number of local transport operators, since 2018.  While such solutions are by no means available everywhere, it is becoming clear that the MaaS future is within reach. Increased use of electric vehicles for sharing purposes is also supporting the growth of the MaaS market.

Recognising the benefit that multi-modal, user-centric transport solutions could bring in terms of optimising existing capacity, improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact, the UK Government published its ‘Future of mobility: urban strategy’ report last year. The strategy is primarily focused on driving innovation.

For commercial fleet operators, MaaS solutions hold considerable promise. While multi-modal deliveries may still be some way off, a growing number of operators now recognise that adapting their fleets and making use of alternative modes of transport could increase the agility of their business model and improve customer services.

To ensure they are equipped to take full advantage of the MaaS marketplace, fleet operators should ensure that they are investing in technologies that provide them with a reliable and flexible platform, which they can continue to adapt as the market evolves. For example, the ability to harness insightful, real-time data has become increasingly critical to ensuring operational efficiency and helping to improve safety standards. The ability to integrate this data and make it accessible to both drivers and operators, via an AI-enabled telematics system, is already enabling fleets to improve route optimisation and make deliveries more safely and reliably.

To help solve the growing problem of last-mile delivery on congested urban streets for instance, some delivery businesses are already trialling ‘predictive telematics’. These AI-enabled, single-platform systems empower drivers to take decisions based on sifted real-time data including live traffic information, road conditions and safety-related risk factors.

With more sensors in use than ever before, the amount of data available to drivers and operators is proliferating. For example, this data can include everything from the speed the vehicle is travelling, the engine’s RPM, accelerator use, what gear the vehicle is in, tyre pressure, engine temperature, oil and water levels, to onboard ADAS camera systems. In order to harness this vast quantity of data effectively and use it to generate commercial value, businesses need the technological and analytical know-how to apply it to meet their operational needs.

Increasing connectivity is opening the door to new opportunities to transform the fleet services industry. While HGV fleets are unlikely to embrace MaaS in the short term, due to the long distances travelled and the nature of the goods carried, last-mile delivery businesses and other localised, commercial fleets are expected to adopt more flexible, multi-modal operating models before too long.

For all fleet operators, it is important to keep your technological options open and invest appropriately. Acquiring the right big data know-how and putting in place the platforms required to facilitate multi-modal thinking now, could improve the way services are devised, planned and delivered in the future.

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