Apps Opinion Why Mobility-as-a-Service Is So Hard to Achieve By BMaaS Contributor Posted on September 5, 2018 11 min read View original post. If you’ve ever had the unpleasant experience of navigating city streets during rush hour–and we’re betting you have–you know that movement in our cities isn’t exactly rational or orderly. Drivers don’t take the most optimal route to their destination; traffic laws are broken; red lights are taken with a grain of salt. And even public buses, trams, taxis, and light-rail trains contribute to the chaos. The reason for this is that despite the best efforts of urban planners, people will be people. And people don’t always make the most rational decisions — especially not on their evening commute following a hard day’s work. People continue to commute in their own vehicles in lieu of sharing rides or risking their comfort on public transportation. Although this seems pretty obvious, many innovators in the mobility space are failing to recognize the fundamental irrationality of mobility systems. The result? Proposed solutions aren’t always accounting for human behavior, and therefore aren’t serving human needs. Why mobility is irrational A fully rational mobility system would look something like this: Most urban and suburban residents take public transportation to commute. People who don’t use public transportation would carpool in small, fuel-efficient vehicles. Such a system would reduce overall congestion and effectively transport people where they need to go. It would also allow many commuters to save money on gas and car maintenance expense. City planners, too, could make efficient use of their budgets to maintain a more homogenous infrastructure. So, why don’t we have this system? Simply put, people don’t want it. That’s not to say your average person doesn’t think it’s a grand idea. However, the reality of public transportation is something less than utopian. Think about the last time you took the bus or metro. The noise, crowding, constant stop-and-go, and often filthy environment together create a harrowing and overall subpar mobility experience. Carpooling on a regular basis also poses logistical challenges that many people just aren’t willing to deal with. So, people continue to commute in their own vehicles in lieu of sharing rides or risking their comfort on public transportation. Maybe it’s irrational to enjoy driving to work alone — even with all of the traffic and exorbitant gas prices. But many people nevertheless do enjoy driving to work alone, and that’s not likely to change in the near future. Any workable transportation system needs to take that preference into account. Ridesharing creates more losers than winners These days there’s a lot of talk about disrupting transportation. Indeed, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have already significantly changed the way people get around in cities. At first glance, ridesharing might seem to be congruent with people’s (irrational) preferences. However, in the long run ridesharing isn’t a viable solution to our transportation woes, as it operates on a win-lose paradigm. We still haven’t seen the long-term effects of ridesharing on our mobility systems. But we cannot necessarily assume that everything will just work itself out equitably. For each ride you successfully hail from the convenience of your smartphone, there are countless others who suffer from increased congestion, decreased parking availability, and a disrupted economic landscape. Because mobility touches directly upon every layer of society, even the most innovative solutions are doomed to fail if they externalize the needs of the many in favor of serving a relative minority. To wit, New York Cityrecently took steps to cap the number of ridesharing vehicles in the city. What’s more, Uber posted a loss of 4.5 billion dollarsin 2017, further evidencing a hard market. We still haven’t seen the long-term effects of ridesharing on our mobility systems. But we cannot necessarily assume that everything will just work itself out equitably. Modeling the idiosyncrasies of a city’s driving culture is currently impossible Another area of transportation innovation is in smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). But this isn’t a panacea to our transportation problems, either. According to some estimates, 60% of IoT initiatives stall at the proof-of-concept stage. Much of this failure has to do with safety concerns in programming autonomous systems. Traffic laws may dictate the safest way to drive in a vacuum, but each city has its own culture of mobility. What we need is transportation solutions that take human behavior — including human irrationality — into account. Imagine an autonomous vehicle trying to navigate rush hour in NYC. AI programmed strictly “by the book” would be tragically ill-equipped to cope with the unwritten rules of the road implicitly observed by any New Yorker. This isn’t to suggest that gunning it on red and aggressive merging are desirable–or indeed, rational–ways to drive. But the reality is, people have adapted to this irrationality, and formed norms of mobility that are extremely difficult to model and code into AV systems. Smart solutions take human behavior into account Here’s the reality of the situation. Technology is changing fast. Human behavior, however, takes considerably longer to change. Infrastructure (and the politics behind its development) is even slower to adapt. What we need is transportation solutions that take human behavior — including human irrationality — into account. Parkofon is one example of such a solution. People still want to drive their own cars, so we make it easier for them to find a parking space for their beloved vehicles. Our solution reduces congestion, without forcing city planners to fork over heavy sums of investment to update infrastructure. Similarly, Parkofon augments the way people already drive, rather than imposing an idealistic new mobility paradigm that may only work in a vacuum. Meanwhile, the Parkofon system collects valuable metrics on the mobility patterns of both individual drivers and the cities they drive in. This data can be used to inform more meaningful innovation in the mobility and transportation space, which takes each stakeholder’s needs into account. No technology per se–just equitable solutions that appeal to the human element. [divider style=”shadow” top=”30″ bottom=”30″] Author Evgeny Klochikhin – Evgeny Klochikhin, PhD is the CEO of Parkofon, a smart mobility company building a fully connected #MaaS platform. Innovation scholar, data scientist, engineer.