location data

Location intelligence paving the road to shared mobility in Canada

Innovative startups and governments are filling the gaps in the existing transportation infrastructure using historical and real-time location data

On the second-largest country on earth, 80% of the commuters use their own vehicles to get to work. Which means that in the largest metropolitan areas of Canada, travel time for car drivers could become excruciatingly long – a fact that has not escaped the attention of politicians either.

There is an increasing awareness, especially at the levels of municipal governance, that a cultural shift is required. The burgeoning population of Canadian cities can no longer suffice with transit operators alone. The government needs to actively partner with the private sector to become a mobility manager and repurpose the transit infrastructure in a more resourceful manner. This mindfulness is leading to the rise of shared mobility in Canada.

What is shared mobility?

Shared mobility can be defined as the shared use of transportation modes like vehicles, bikes, etc., by people. But more than a means of transportation, shared mobility refers to a transit strategy. There are various types of shared mobility services available to the users today – car-sharing, ride-hailing, shuttles, carpooling, bike-sharing, etc.

Mobility researchers believe that a single shared vehicle is capable of taking up to 11 private cars off the roads by way of a decrease in the demand for new vehicles as well as shared mobility users selling off their existing vehicles. As of 2017, there were 3,300 car-sharing vehicles operating in the city of Vancouver alone. And while that hearty number may partly be a result of ride-hailing services being illegal in the British Columbian city, a recent Vancity survey has revealed that citizens opt for car-sharing services because of convenience (95%) and saving money (62%), followed closely by concern for the environment (58%).
But, what role does location intelligence play in this ecosystem? Let’s find out…

Location intelligence and shared mobility

One of the basic requisites for any shared mobility service is location-awareness. Think about it: What is the single most important thing you need to do for requesting an Uber or a Maven or a BlaBlaCar? You need to enable location services on your smartphone or mobile tablet; and the tiny GPS chip embedded in your device takes care of the rest.

Location intelligence has made shared mobility a $40 billion industry, according to a report commissioned by Google. The report says, “Google’s digital maps already provide the option to book ridesharing services, such as Uber, Cabify, Ola and Grab, while allowing users to directly compare the cost and travel time of shared rides with other transport options. In addition, online maps have also begun to encourage people to use buses and trains instead of cars.”

Digital maps are at the very core of urban mobility. The advances in location awareness have made digital maps highly accurate and reliable. Modern mapping companies not only update their data frequently, they also ensure that they hide complex spatial technologies under the hood and provide the users with a clean and easy-to-use software or tools. This has led to an increase in the adoption of location-based services and applications even among those organizations that do not have trained location professionals on their employ.

The road ahead for shared mobility

It is no secret that several companies like Lyft, Cabify, Grab, Ola, EasyTaxi, etc., have built their fortunes on the wings of spatial awareness. But, the use of location technologies is not limited to just acting as a beacon that leads a vehicle to a user. Innovative organizations – and even governments, for that matter – are filling the gaps in the existing transportation infrastructure using historical and real-time location data in novel ways.

In the United Kingdom, public transit tracking startup Citymapper studied 6 years of location data to determine London needed a nighttime bus service. In 2017, it started that bus service, which has now graduated to an eight-seater taxi-bus hybrid facility. Meanwhile, Coord – the city-planning platform of Google’s Sidewalk Labs – is making bike-sharing simpler by helping to integrate real-time transit data into online navigation software. Closer to home, the town of Innisfil, Ontario, has partnered with Uber to offer a new service which would act as an alternative to traditional public transport.

Shared mobility is constantly evolving, with some studies forecasting its global market size to grow to $200 billion by 2024. With more innovations from the private sector and greater collaborations between the public and the private sector, Canada can easily position itself to benefit from the ultimate success of this industry.

For more information on how DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company, can help scale your location-aware application, contact us today!