This article was published in paid partnership with Siemens. Siemens is only paying for my time, not for my opinions.
Where there is a problem, innovators or entrepreneurs can fix it. But it’s not enough to solve today’s problems anymore – that’s reactive. So, what can we do better today to solve tomorrow’s problems and create solutions that will make a difference for all of us in the months and years to come?
Covid-19 has sent shock waves through the mobility ecosystem. If we look at Google’s mobility trends, it is obvious that public transportation systems have taken a hard hit. As states reopen, people in the United States still choose to drive and walk rather than use public transport (see the chart below). Personal cars provide a sense of safety. Despite this, the U.S. car sales had their worst quarter since the Great Recession in the second quarter. There is no safe harbor anymore for one of the biggest industries in the world, and to thrive through this pandemic, automakers will need to adjust, and not only them. Cities and municipalities have to adapt as well.
How COVID-19 is changing the future mobility solutions
Bicycle sales in the United States surged in March 2020, in some cases with more than a 100 percent compared to the previous year. As we go through this pandemic, consumer preferences are already changing. Personal vehicles, which include cars, bikes, and scooters become more appealing.
How do companies innovate during the “New Normal”?
- A number of startups are investing in making bikes and scooters more comfortable, easier to ride, and safer. Rad Power Bikes recently unveiled a new e-bike that features cargo space and could also be used for urban deliveries in the commercial areas.
- Tailor made solutions for bike sharing systems – e-bike maker Cowboy has unveiled models with built-in GPS and an integrated SIM card that allows riders to lock and unlock the bike with an app and detect battery level. Another initiative worth mentioning here is Siemens’ Sitraffic SiBike project: the ‘green wave’ for cyclists. With the help of a smartphone application that uses GPS to determine the cyclist’s location, speed, and travel direction, cyclists are given priority at traffic lights. More information about this solution here. In Lisbon, Siemens Mobility and a local partner have introduced the world’s first bike-sharing system that offers easy switching from conventional bicycles to e-bikes and vice versa. The modular design makes it possible to tailor bike-sharing solutions to each city’s specific needs and transport concepts.
- Health safety tech – bike-sharing startup Wheels has partnered with NanoSeptic to create self-cleaning handlebars and brake levers on its bikes.
- Detectors instead of push–buttons – contactless activation of lights in a few cities is a reality already. It eliminates a potential infection source as Siemens Mobility’s Heimdall detector senses pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross the street at signalized crossings. These detectors also offers cognitive pedestrian crossing and optimized pedestrian green phases.
- Simulation and prediction software – Aimsun (a Siemens Mobility business) software has dedicated simulators to model pop-up bike lanes, social distancing on pavements, and study modified public transport capacity/schedules and increased demand micro-mobility options. By estimating demand and testing different scenarios, such as low demand or peak-demand reduction strategies, authorities and operators can optimize response plans. Over 6,000 users in more than 85 countries worldwide already use this software to fine-tune their operations.
- Ai driven traffic flow optimization and dynamic tolling are other two types of solutions that help cities to thrive through this pandemic, and for sure, there will appear many more in the upcoming months/years.
This is the time when greatness will be made, when small companies can become the next mobility unicorns, and big companies can really blow it. What can all these companies do better today to be in the market in the years to come? Step up and really change!