A Technological Path Towards Universal Mobility

What Is Universal Mobility?

Universal mobility refers to the state in which everyone has access to reliable means of transportation for necessities like going to work and school, accessing public services and healthcare, as well as shopping and socializing. Despite being taken for granted by many, there is a significant percentage of the population whose basic mobility needs are not met.

Achieving universal mobility can indeed be challenging, considering that car ownership might not be a viable option for everyone, and that there are many less-developed nations as well as sparsely populated regions where transit services are not financially sustainable. What’s more, even in places with adequate transit services, they can be difficult or impossible to access for those facing mobility challenges—for instance, people with temporary or permanent disabilities, parents of young children, and older people who need moving assistance. According to WHO estimates, 1% of the world’s population needs a wheelchair, while 3.2% of the world’s population is affected by blindness or some form of visual impairment.

Universal mobility is only said to be achieved when every member of the society—regardless of their place of residence, financial status, and physical condition—can enjoy reliable transportation on a day-to-day basis.

The Two Barriers to Universal Mobility

There are two main barriers to achieving universal mobility. The first is systematic barrier. This can be defined as a lack of motivation and initiative to improve transportation infrastructure for those in need. This could be due to a lack of public awareness with regard to accessibility needs or incompetent governments.

A second barrier is financial barrier. Even with strong motivation and improvement plans, financial challenges tend to prevent these plans from turning into actions. Problems such as high operational and maintenance costs and expensive fares make it difficult to expand transit services for sparsely populated regions and improve accessibility.

In many parts of the world, financial barrier has been the biggest obstruction to the path towards universal mobility. Indeed, building and maintaining transit services is expensive. Operating accessible transit services is more expensive. Even some of the largest metropolitan transit operators with millions of daily passengers can experience frequent budget deficits that need to be filled by government subsidies. For decades, governments around the world have been trying to solve these issues with policy changes but saw no significant improvements.

To break through the financial barrier, maintaining profitable services is crucial. Even though profitability and universal mobility may sound contradictory, they are in fact mutually inclusive. It is important to acknowledge that universal mobility is only achievable if all services are capable of long-term financial sustainability. In this regard, several newly developed mobility technologies offer great potential.

A Technological Path Towards Universal Mobility

Rather than struggling with endless policy changes, we can pave a technological path to improve transportation coverage and achieve universal mobility. With the integration of smart mobility technologies, we can make transportation and mobility services more sustainable by cutting down unnecessary costs and improving efficiency.

V2X and Autonomous Driving

V2X (vehicle-to-everything) is the wireless communication technology used for real-time message transmission from vehicles to vehicles (V2V), vehicles to infrastructure (V2I), and vehicles to pedestrians (V2P), making it an essential building block for L3+ autonomous driving. How does autonomous driving help achieve universal mobility?

Even though taxi and mobility services are common in cities, they are less common and often nonexistent in smaller towns and rural regions due to a lack of profitable business models. With L4 and L5 autonomous driving, mobility service operators can deploy autonomous vehicle fleets in these less-populated regions to fill the unaddressed demands, without incurring the cost of hiring new drivers.

Fleet Management and Service Optimization

From the perspective of a mobility service operator, every mile on the road without a passenger indicates an opportunity cost. Hence, minimizing vehicle vacancy is crucial to the long-term financial sustainability of a mobility service. A fleet management system collects mechanical and location data from every vehicle in real-time, allowing the service platform to match demands to their closest supplies and map out optimized routes to the destinations, ensuring that the vehicle fleet is utilized to its maximum capacity.

In fact, in terms of serving sparsely populated regions and those with special accessibility needs, demand-responsive transport (DRT) services are much more efficient than fixed-route transit. With the help of big data and AI, barrier-free DRT services have great potential in such niche markets.

For this reason, AUTOCRYPT started its barrier-free DRT solution, AutoCrypt EQ, helping businesses establish accessible DRT platforms for those with mobility challenges, while ensuring that all data shared through the platform are end-to-end encrypted and verified.

Reliable Transport Enhanced by Connectivity

Although cutting down unnecessary expenses is beneficial, maintaining reliable and high-quality service is equally important for achieving universal mobility. Ensuring that all services are safe, secure, and reliable is a crucial task not only for mobility service operators but also for automotive OEMs. With the accelerated adoption of vehicle connectivity and autonomous driving, it is more important than ever to secure vehicles from hacking attempts and unauthorized access. As mandated by industry regulations and standards, many automotive OEMs now run a Vehicle Security Operations Center (vSOC) that monitors the real-time security status of their active vehicles using data collected from the OEM cloud, while identifying and reporting any potential intrusions immediately.


New Business Models for Universal Mobility

These new smart mobility technologies are not only beneficial to existing service providers. They also encourage new operational models and provide growth opportunities for businesses and NGOs that look forward to improving transportation coverage and accessibility. These new business models not only have the potential to break through the typical financial challenges of public transit, but also generate more initiatives in serving niche markets and bring us closer to universal mobility.

AUTOCRYPT shares this vision and is actively working with partners to develop innovative mobility service models in the form of DRT services, accessibility mapping, and multi-modal MaaS platforms.

To learn more about AUTOCRYPT’s mobility service solutions, contact global@autocrypt.io.

To stay informed with the latest news on mobility tech and automotive cybersecurity, subscribe to AUTOCRYPT’s monthly newsletter.

The Rise of Demand-Responsive Transport and the Technologies Behind It

Discussions surrounding transportation technologies have always been dominated by the automotive industry, with electric vehicles and autonomous driving being the two hottest topics recently. But we seldomly hear about how these technologies can be applied for public transit and mobility services. There is no doubt that the automotive industry has been driving innovations and breakthroughs through electrification, automation, and connection. Yet, the automotive industry is only one part of the mobility scene. Other forms of public and private transit make up a significant part of our daily travels as well. Therefore, it is equally important to apply the technologies to these industries. To truly improve the quality of mobility for all, we need to think beyond the perspective of drivers and seek ways to make travel better and more enjoyable for all kinds of passengers.

The good news is that there are many firms in the industry actively working on applying these transformative automotive technologies to other areas of mobility. Among them, demand-responsive transport (DRT) is one of the fastest-growing fields, with the potential to revolutionize mobility for all.

What is Demand-Responsive Transport?

For generations, public transit has always been a supply-oriented service, in which the time and location of supply is fixed on a schedule; ultimately, the user needs to adapt to the schedule to use the service. Such services are quite inconvenient for people living in suburban and rural areas, and nearly impossible to use for those with accessibility needs.

Demand-responsive transport (DRT) has the potential to solve these problems as it responds to individual demands by either matching passengers with the nearest supply available, or dispatching supply directly to serve them. A centralized system collects real-time location and occupancy data from every vehicle in the network, then uses these data to calculate optimized matches.

DRT can take many forms and opens a wide range of business opportunities. For instance, it can either be directly operated by a fleet owner or be entirely decentralized where drivers and riders meet through a third-party platform. In fact, one of the most well-established DRT services is ridesharing platforms, where independent drivers use their own cars to offer services to passengers. The role of the platform is to match the demand of the passengers with the supply from the drivers. These ridesharing platforms have been well received among urban millennials and have become a popular alternative to driving. However, apart from ridesharing platforms, there are many other applications of DRT that are less known. In this article, we will introduce how DRT is applied in a variety of mobility services.

Demand-responsive public transit

Believe it or not, DRT has already been applied to many of our public transit systems. Many public transit operators use real-time fleet data to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of fixed-route services. This is widely used for bus routes as buses are highly susceptible to unexpected traffic situations. The fleet managers receive data with regards to time, location, and vehicle occupancy rates, and redirect buses based on the data. This is especially useful during times of single-bound heavy traffic, where there can be many buses stuck in traffic going in one direction while the other direction without traffic is left with no buses at all. Under such situations, the fleet manager could ask the passengers of a relatively empty bus to get off and wait for the next bus behind, while redirecting the bus for a U-turn to serve the opposite direction.

Of course, the U-turn method is far from perfect since it would cause inconvenience to a small group of passengers. But the advanced fleet management systems today allow for more automated monitoring by studying the data patterns to predict times of unbalanced traffic and dispatch buses accordingly ahead of time.

Personalized transit services for rural and underpopulated areas

It has always been difficult for local governments to provide public transit to rural areas with low population density. Residents living in these areas might only get a few buses a day arriving at their stop, making public transit unusable. In this case, many municipal governments collaborate with local startups to establish transit-booking platforms for rural residents. Instead of running on fixed routes, the customers can either call or use their mobile apps to book their trip ahead of time. The service will then be dispatched to accommodate the specific needs of each customer. Instead of operating a bus on a fixed route, these transit-booking services can significantly reduce unnecessary operating costs while making mobility easier for rural residents.

On-demand transit services for people with accessibility needs

In many parts of the world, publicly funded paratransit services can be very limited or entirely absent. Even in developed countries with well-established paratransit services, the response time can be slow and reservation ahead of time is usually required. With the help of vehicle connectivity and advanced fleet management systems, more responsive and convenient paratransit services are slowly being tested around the world.

For instance, over the past year, AUTOCRYPT has worked with 2U Social Cooperative to establish a barrier-free transportation assistance platform for residents with accessibility needs in the city of Busan. Equipped with AUTOCRYPT’s fleet management system, the platform monitors the location of all vehicles in real-time, whereas the customers can request a vehicle anytime from the mobile app. Different from other mobility platforms, it also offers personalized accommodation such as text-to-speech services for those with vision impairments. Secure and automated payment is also supported.

demand responsive transport 2u
UI for AUTOCRYPT’s demand-responsive transport app, made for 2U Social Cooperative

The Technologies Behind Demand-Responsive Transport

The key to demand-responsive transport is internet connectivity and data sharing. To match demand and supply, fleet managers need to have access to the real-time location and onboard capacity of every vehicle, as well as the pickup location of every passenger. An advanced fleet management system makes this process even simpler as the system automatically analyzes the data to find the optimized match.

Clearly, demand-responsive transport systems need to share and process a lot of data, which may contain the personal and payment information of the passengers and drivers, as well as other information on driving behaviour and vehicle maintenance. Hence it is crucial to have the necessary security measures to keep communications safe from hackers and other external threats. As a result, encryption and authentication technologies are just as important as the internet connectivity itself.

AutoCrypt FMS builds fleet management solutions for demand-responsive transport by putting security as the number one priority, actively working with firms who wish to provide smart mobility services. By building a secure foundation for all vehicle-related connections, AUTOCRYPT seeks beyond the automotive industry and looks forward to bringing smart mobility for all. 

To stay informed with the latest news on mobility tech and automotive cybersecurity, subscribe to AUTOCRYPT’s monthly newsletter.

Top 5 Driverless Mobility Services in 2021

The automotive industry and the tech industry have spent the past five years developing and testing technologies for autonomous driving. As automakers (OEMs) focus on applying autonomous driving technology into our daily cars, tech startups are focusing more on leveraging the technology to provide driverless mobility services. Despite using the same set of technologies, their target markets are quite different because they serve different purposes.

Note that full automation does not necessarily mean driverless. In the consumer car market, the demand for eliminating the driver’s seat and steering wheel is low because the driver is most likely the car owner, and that the car owner would still likely want to take control and enjoy driving from time to time. As such, autonomous driving technologies are mostly used to assist the driver, not to replace them. However, this could change soon as people slowly adapt to the trend.

On the other hand, eliminating the driver’s seat and steering wheels brings significant benefits to the mobility services market because it allows the vehicle to carry more passengers and goods while saving on the cost of hiring drivers.

In 2021, the mobility service industry is expecting to see an initial wave of fully autonomous (SAE automation level 4 and 5), driverless vehicles hitting the road. Most of them are used to provide ride-hailing, ridesharing, and delivery services.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at a list of some of the early pioneers in driverless mobility services, along with their current standings in 2021.

Zoox (subsidiary of Amazon) – United States

Zoox is an autonomous driving technology startup founded in 2014 and sold to Amazon in June 2020. After six years of R&D along with prototype testing, it has finally put its robotaxis into production and revealed them on San Francisco streets in December 2020.

The newly introduced robotaxi is designed to provide ride-hailing services, tailored for crowded city streets. Looking at the specs, it is an all-electric four-wheeler with a maximum capacity of four passengers, equipped with eight LiDAR systems all around the car. The main features that set Zoox apart from its competitors is four-wheel steering and bidirectional driving. Built with four-wheel steering, the vehicle’s front wheels and rear wheels move in opposite directions to maximize turning angle, so that U-turns can be done on two-lane streets that would normally need a three-point turn. Additionally, the vehicle is bidirectional so that pickups and drop-offs can be done seamlessly.

Zoox also claims that its vehicle can travel at a top speed of 120 km/h, currently the fastest in the industry. Presently at its final testing stage, the company is preparing to launch a mobile-based ride-hailing service starting out in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Waymo (subsidiary of Google) – United States

Beginning as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009, Waymo has gone through intensive research and testing over the past decade. On October 8, 2020 – after 30 million kilometers of road testing, including tens of thousands of kilometers of driverless testing – Waymo finally introduced its first driverless ride-hailing service to the public in Phoenix, Arizona. Its mobile app is available for anyone to download, allowing anyone under its service area to enjoy driverless rides.

Instead of manufacturing their own vehicles, Waymo collaborates with several automakers to develop customized vehicles for their services. The company is currently on its way to expand the coverage of its ride-hailing service to other US cities soon. As of the end of 2020, Waymo is the only driverless passenger vehicle in the world that is under full commercial operation.

Nuro (backed by SoftBank) – United States

Founded by two of the founding engineers of Waymo, Nuro offers delivery services using driverless, all-electric vehicles. Less than two years after the initial launch of model R1 in December 2018, model R2 was finally released in 2020, and became the first autonomous vehicle to receive an approved exemption issued by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This means that Nuro can now expand its coverage to a greater number of US cities.

Model R1 has completed various driverless delivery services by teaming up with Walmart and Domino’s to deliver grocery and pizza to customers in Houston, Texas. Today, Nuro’s R2 is currently operating in three US states – California, Texas, and Arizona. It has been delivering food and medical supplies to patients and doctors during the COVID-19 crisis.

AutoX (backed by Alibaba and SAIC Motor) – China and United States

As the only Chinese firm on the list, AutoX is backed up with investments from Alibaba and SAIC Motor. In December 2020, the company deployed 25 driverless robotaxis on the roads of Shenzhen, China, for final stage testing, making it the first driverless vehicle to go on Chinese streets without the safety driver.

Chinese autonomous driving tech hubs like Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Wuhan are rapidly putting up 5G infrastructure and offering subsidies to welcome robotaxi companies to set up their services. This is part of the Chinese effort to compete with Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, AutoX also obtained permits from California in December 2020 to test its robotaxis on American roads.

Like Waymo, AutoX’s vehicles look just like a regular passenger car from the outside. AutoX has not announced when these vehicles would be ready for public use, but Chinese consumers should expect driverless mobility services in the very near future.

Cruise (subsidiary of General Motors) – United States

Cruise is another autonomous driving startup owned by General Motors. Following Waymo, Zoox, Nuro, and AutoX, Cruise became the fifth company to receive a permit from the State of California for driverless vehicle testing without the safety driver. In December 2020, the company also started testing its driverless vehicles in San Francisco. Cruise expects to slowly increase the number of vehicles on the road over 2021 while preparing them for commercial use.

The Role of Security in Driverless Mobility

Safety is the number one priority in the development of driverless vehicles. Not only must these vehicles function properly, but they also need to withstand cyberattacks. This is why all V2X communications must be secured with the security credential management system (SCMS). By issuing enrolment certificates to each member of the V2X network, as well as authorization certificates for each communication message, AUTOCRYPT V2X takes charge of the security aspect of all autonomous vehicles.

To keep informed with the latest news on mobility tech and automotive cybersecurity, subscribe to AUTOCRYPT’s monthly newsletter.

Infographic: The Deal with Mobility Services

mobility services infographic

The Deal with Mobility Services

With ride-sharing and car-sharing becoming much more commonplace, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) business models are becoming much more well known and in-demand. So what exactly happens when you request a ride? Here’s how the process happens for AUTOCRYPT’s mobility services with (seemingly) a click of a button:

  1. A passenger will use a mobile application to request a ride. This call is dispatched through a cellular network.
  2. The network will then send the information through to a data server.
  3. The server will then take the information from the passenger and use GPS data to find the optimal vehicle and run it through machine-learning and big data to dispatch an available vehicle. (In the event that a passenger runs into issues or cannot use the application because of disabilities, a call-in customer service representative is available to help)
  4. The information for the passenger is given to the driver and vice versa within the mobile applications. The driver will also maintain driving data through the OBD-II (On-board diagnostic system) within the vehicle. The vehicle will then make its way to the passenger for a secure journey ahead.

Fleet management is essential to any mobility service to ensure efficient dispatch, data management, storage, and quality customer service. AutoCrypt FMS goes a step further by utilizing AI-based machine learning and big data so that the service is always improving, providing opportunities for growth.

For more information about AutoCrypt FMS and other solutions, visit www.autocrypt.io.

Infographic: Fleet Management for Mobility Challenges

By 2050, 15% of the 6.25 billion people living in urban areas will be those with disabilities,

That’s 937.5 million people.

Mobility challenges, or challenges people face when dealing with transportation can affect both people living with disabilities or those with short-term mobility challenges like pregnancy or traveling with a young child or infant.

As urban areas change into smart cities, we need to consider accessibility points in terms of mobility. See below for what a long-term and short-term solution may be.

mobility challenge fleet management infographic

(Accessibility version)

Smart cities use connectivity to improve these 4 areas of life:

  • Safety & security
  • Mobility & accessibility
  • Eco-friendly sustainability
  • Social welfare

But to truly be a smart city, these benefits must be available to everyone. But unfortunately, people living with disabilities or mobility challenges are often excluded from considerations in developments.

In fact, 28% of people with disabilities reported rarely leaving their homes due to transportation challenges. Those with mobility challenges have a range of abilities and challenges. Each method of transportation, while having some advantages, also come with their own limitations.

When planning for wider implementation and adoption, several questions must be asked from different points of view.

  • What is the maximum trip distance and duration?
  • Are the operation hours substantial?
  • Is the method wheelchair / cane / walker-accessible?
  • Do they need a specialized license for usage?
  • Are the methods affordable for routine and consistent usage?
  • Are groups (e.g., guardians and children) able to accompany the passenger?
  • Will drivers be able to maintain / operate assistance mechanisms?

But what about Autonomous Vehicles?

While autonomous vehicles may be a solution in the future, the technology still requires a “driver” that can manually take over in case of emergency, which not everyone with a mobility challenge is able to do.

Other methods like fixed route transit may be possible in the future, but to be renewed on a larger scale in an entire city is likely to take time to research, develop, and implement.

The solution, for now, points to a dedicated fleet / ride service that is low-cost and accessible in user interface, as well as vehicle. By pushing for policies and regulations to be more inclusive in building smart cities, we can ensure that the real vision of a smart city is realized.

Download our relevant ebook, here.

Accessibility in Mobility: Considerations for Fleet Management in Smart Cities

By 2050, 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban communities. Of the estimated 6.25 billion people that will be living in city areas, 15% will be people with disabilities—an astounding 937.5 million. While those with disabilities often prefer to live in urban areas because of the increased availability of public transportation or access to medical facilities offering healthcare, the reality is that many face challenges when going from point A to point B. But when we think of the changing landscape of smart roads and smart cities, many of us often overlook the difficulties that those with disabilities face. For example, while trying to hail a taxi sounds like a simple task for many, for those in wheelchairs or dealing with other physical challenges, it is a daunting challenge. In fact, out of the millions with disabilities, around 28% rarely leave their home because of difficulties associated with transportation.

Mobility Accessibility Options for People with Disabilities

So with the future of mobility, how can society open up its doors to make smart roads more accessible? People with disabilities have a wide range of abilities and challenges, so it is crucial that we look at the issues from various points of view.

Many companies have taken note that a smart city needs to be inclusive of all of its citizens. In fact, in May 2020, Google rolled out a new mobility accessibility feature on Google Maps that displays wheelchair-friendly routes. However, when it comes to longer distances, mobility is still a challenge.

And though the rise of autonomous vehicles is currently underway, the technology still requires a “driver” that can manually take over in case of an emergency. Not all people with disabilities are able to take on this kind of responsibility, and therefore are more likely suited to taking other methods of transportation like a taxi, fixed route transit (public transportation), or ridesharing. But yet another caveat is that while these methods may be more suitable, they do come with limitations that are often out of the scope of a person’s control – taxis are less likely to stop for people with disabilities (not to mention can add up in terms of price), or accessibility entrances might be difficult for those with mobility challenges to find.

What does the accessible smart future look like?

It comes down to how the mobility industry can expand offerings to the variety and range of people with disabilities. While infrastructure like subway systems or buses can change their vehicles to be accessible to passengers of all abilities and disabilities, this can take time to research, develop, and implement. Unfortunately, the timeline of these kinds of changes is much longer because these infrastructures are not specific to mobility challenges, but must be implemented on a larger scale for the general public.

For AUTOCRYPT, this means focusing on fleet management operations specifically for those facing mobility challenges to shorten the timeline of development and implementation. In July, AUTOCRYPT partnered with 2U, a non-profit organization focused on providing the freedom of mobility accessibility to those who are unable to experience the ease of transportation.

2U’s ride hailing service is specifically geared towards those with mobility challenges – with an accessible mobile application (with TTS) designed to make dispatch smart, quick, and efficient, riders can “hail” a cab at a fraction of the price of other para-transit methods which can add up. Drivers are assigned riders by the central app itself and are trained to provide assistance to make the ride more comfortable. The service launched earlier this month in Busan, Korea and plans to expand later this year.

While long-term, our hope is that smart cities will implement transportation services that are inclusive and barrier-free. Ideally this would mean wheel-chair / cane / walker-accessible entrances and ramps, allotted seats for those with infants or pregnant women, and affordable transportation for people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, for the short-term AUTOCRYPT’s fleet management and MaaS services will ensure that those with mobility challenges are not barred from the narrative of urban transportation.

For more information about AUTOCRYPT and its fleet management products and services, visit AUTOCRYPT’s FMS product page and learn more.