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. 

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When Last Mile Delivery Turns Autonomous – What are the Considerations?

As more of our lives becomes connected to networks and online services, we are finding that previously labor-intensive tasks like getting groceries or using public transportation are becoming streamlined as reservations and payments can be made online, even bringing items to your front door. But with increased connectivity comes greater expectations for faster, efficient, affordable, and secure services and deliveries.

The delivery process may seem straightforward – order your product, the seller arranges products for delivery, and the delivery service brings it to you – the actual process of getting the many different products with different supply chains together in one place, then arrange the transport going from the hub to the final destination. This portion of the trip is called “last-mile delivery” as it’s one of the trickiest parts of the supply chain process. Not only is last mile delivery the part that we as consumers often care the most about, last mile delivery accounts for around 53% of the total cost of shipping and sellers are taking less of a cut as supply chains struggle to meet demand and deadlines.

last mile delivery challenges

(Source: EFT)

Last mile deliveries are often inefficient because of the sheer volume of deliveries necessary with a low drop size. This means that efficiency is virtually impossible with retail sales only going up, especially with a global pandemic.

Taking care of the last-mile challenge

The supply chain management industry experts have been looking for solutions to this dilemma. Many have pointed to models that utilize digital platforms to crowdsource local services to ensure that consumers are able to get what they need. Instead of manually dispatching delivery people to make the trip, platforms will utilize machine learning and AI to quicken this process.

Another solution that many companies are already cashing in on is the concept of autonomous delivery technology, with the market expected to reach 84.72 billion USD by 2030. In order to make last-mile deliveries more efficient and truly door-to-door, development has been focused on autonomous pods, which can navigate more difficult and uneven terrain to ensure completion of delivery.

Smaller pods focus on small, dynamic designs to ensure efficiency in last-mile delivery. This allows for reduced costs in the delivery pod itself, as well as increased security as the vehicles do not actually carry human beings, allowing for more focus on the actual delivery and of the safety of those around them. Especially with the global pandemic, solutions like autonomous delivery allow for contactless service, without driving up costs. Analysts at McKinsey found that semiautonomous and autonomous technology reduce delivery costs on average by approximately 10 to 40 percent.

Autonomous delivery challenges

We can already see this crowdsourcing model mentioned in the previous section in the real world, prevalent in industries like transportation (think ride-hailing apps), food delivery, and retail apps. But this solution isn’t without challenges of its own, as local services still have a high maintenance cost, and with actual human drivers, there’s likely going to be a larger margin of error and limitations.

This is why tech industry experts say that long-term, autonomous driving technology is the answer. Autonomous vehicle technology has made great headway in the last decade – from the testbeds to public roadways — and while use cases are moving from theoretical plans to reality, there’s still a lot of doubt and logistical issues when it comes to application.

Technology and infrastructure limitations

While there are some companies who have gotten the autonomous delivery robot/pod concept to real-world application, there’s still a lot at risk in terms of how the technology works. Passenger vehicles have yet to be at a Level 4 of autonomous driving (according to the SAE regulations), so it’s not completely realistic to expect autonomous pods to be at this level. We need to be careful to ensure that the priority is placed in keeping human beings (pedestrians and vehicle passengers) safe when pods are navigating through streets.

While the technology is being developed, we also must remember that technology can’t be the only thing to change. Cities also need to ensure that current infrastructure supports the autonomous delivery movement, for example, making sure that roads are paved properly and that any obstacles like potholes or cracks are quickly repaired.

Lack of universal standards and liability regulations

To deal with the infrastructure challenges mentioned in the earlier section, there needs to be universal regulations that allow for both services and end users to use services more effortlessly across state or even country-lines.

In countries like the United States where there are differing federal and state regulations, using mobility services like last-mile deliveries with autonomous technologies can be a challenge. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, autonomous delivery bots are allowed to maneuver their way through sidewalks as well as roadways. They are technically considered “pedestrians” meaning that the bots can move at a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour in a pedestrian area with a load limit of 550 pounds. This isn’t true for all states as some have no regulations regarding delivery systems like this, while others require permits to be issued by the state.

These technicalities can make a major difference when it comes to not only service operations, but also liability frameworks in the case of an accident. As autonomous technology has not yet been perfected, there is risk when it comes to operation no matter how safe the company deems it. A universal standard or regulation will allow for the risk to be minimized, as much as possible.

Risks of security breach

Because of the groundbreaking nature of this technology, many often focus on the issues surrounding the technology itself. However, we must remember that this technology is connected in nature, meaning that thousands of messages containing data are being exchanged each second in each vehicle. With data like PII, vehicle data, as well as access points to connected devices, a successful breach can be a goldmine for malicious actors.

While autonomous delivery vehicles like pods or robots do not carry any passengers, the personal data that they carry, their operations on pedestrian sidewalks, as well as the close nature of door-to-door delivery still carries implications that we must consider before application.

Short and long-term solutions for autonomous delivery

The technology for autonomous delivery bots will continue to progress. But how quickly this happens depends on other factors. In the long run, standards and regulations will have to be made by legislators and committees, which will influence new infrastructure that will enable this kind of technology to have more widespread adoption.

In the short-term, however, both manufacturers of these pods as well as service providers can prioritize security like authentication and encryption, ensuring that the data stays private. Security solutions can be built into the chipsets in the manufacturing stage, protecting data privacy before vehicles, and pods, hit the road. Solutions like these can ensure that vehicles of all sizes protect not just the items carried inside, but also those around them.

Top 6 Benefits of a Fleet Management System

What is Fleet Management?

Purchasing a car is easy, but owning one requires a lot of effort. What are some of the basic responsibilities that comes with owning a car? First there are the legal obligations, the owner must pay for license plate registration and renewal, purchase and renew car insurance on an annual basis, and pay for respective taxes. When it comes to usage, the owner needs to first have a place to store the car, bring the car to the service center for periodic inspections and maintenance, change tires and install winter tires as needed, wash the car occasionally, and lastly, fill up the car with fuel or electricity on a weekly, if not daily basis. Now imagine being the owner of a fleet of commercial vehicles. The work required to maintain these vehicles become extremely complex because the responsibilities are likely split between multiple individuals, adding to the complication that the primary driver of each vehicle tend to change over time. This makes a fleet management system necessary for all commercial fleet operators.

As the name suggests, fleet management is the practice of managing a fleet of commercial vehicles, such as cars, trucks, ships, and even delivery robots. It is commonly used by mobility providers such as public transportation companies, carsharing service providers, and delivery firms to ensure that their vehicles are used safely, efficiently, and well-maintained.

In this article, we will introduce six major benefits of using a fleet management system.

What Are the Benefits of a Fleet Management System?

1. Managing Administrative Work

A fleet management system keeps a record of all data regarding the vehicles. This includes every vehicle’s purchasing, financing, and leasing information, registration information, and insurance information. Since oftentimes the vehicles are purchased under different terms and conditions, it can be extremely difficult to keep track of these data and follow these conditions. This often leads to fines, penalties, and expenses that could have been totally avoidable. Using a fleet management system helps the owner manage these administrative works easily without missing any deadlines.

2. Managing Vehicle Maintenance

The biggest challenge of owning and operating a fleet is keeping all the vehicles properly maintained. Since vehicles are one of the most valuable assets for mobility providers, periodic inspections and maintenance help prolong their service life and significantly reduce costs in the long run. A fleet management system allows the fleet manager to track the current condition and maintenance history of every vehicle. Oftentimes, customized notifications can be selected so that the fleet manager can receive warnings on any vehicle issues in real-time. Without a fleet management system, it becomes very challenging and costly to detect and fix problems immediately and keeping vehicles maintained on schedule.

3. Managing Fuel Consumption

Apart from labour and maintenance costs, fuel expense is a major operating expense for mobility providers. Saving a few dollars per day on a vehicle does not seem like a lot, but the aggregate savings of a fleet of vehicles on an annual basis can make a remarkable difference on the financial standings of a company. A fleet management system can help maximize fuel economy by enabling the fleet manager to not only track each vehicle’s real-time mileage and fuel expenses, but also to analyze each driver’s behaviour to identify any wasteful usage patterns, such as excessive acceleration and prolonged idling.

4. Managing EV Range and Charging

For mobility providers that use autonomous and electric vehicles as part of their fleet, tracking their range and having them charged on time becomes a crucial task, because the last thing you want is to have the car run out of power before reaching the passenger’s destination. A fleet management system can make this process seamless and automated, so that vehicles can be dispatched and allocated appropriately.

5. Managing Driver Performance and Safety

It is very hard for mobility providers to establish consistent service quality because it almost entirely depends on the individual driver. A fleet management system can keep track of every vehicle’s activity in real-time, which is a clear reflection of the driver’s driving habit and behaviour. A fleet manager can use the system to set up customized reporting on all kinds of inappropriate behaviours – for instance – driving over 20km/h above the speed limit, sudden acceleration and braking, and prolonged idling during operation hours. This is especially useful for taxi companies, as the drivers could exhibit reckless driving behaviours to beat the clock and compete for business. Hence, using a fleet management system not only helps improve service quality, but also greatly reduces the possibility of road accidents.

6. Service Optimization

The road is a dynamic place. Many external factors can affect the service of a mobility provider, including traffic jams, weather conditions, accidents, constructions, and road closure. A fleet management system can help the mobility provider gain real-time insights on where their vehicles and potential customers are. The fleet manager can then dispatch and direct vehicles to areas where demands are high. The system also improves route planning to minimize travel time. To make this process more automated, an end-user interface is oftentimes accompanied by a fleet management system so that the customers can reserve for services directly on their smartphones.

AutoCrypt FMS, Fleet Management Utilizing Smart Mobility Infrastructure

AutoCrypt FMS is a fleet management system that offers customized services for mobility providers to monitor and manage all their resources in a secured and reliable way. By establishing secured communication with encryption and authentication technologies, AutoCrypt FMS ensures the accuracy and privacy of all data collected and stored in the process. By utilizing big data from other V2X-enabled entities, it offers some of the most advanced benefits of a fleet management system, along with highly comprehensive and secure insights. Click here to learn more about AutoCrypt FMS.

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Functions and Challenges of Fleet Management

Fleet management refers to basic systems that provide vehicle surveillance which help manage and operate modern vehicle fleets. There are two main categories in a fleet management system (FMS): off-line and on-line FMS. An off-line FMS takes care of data that are recorded inside the vehicle, then processed and subsequently evaluated. On the other hand, an on-line FMS handles real-time information and data evaluation that happens when all the vehicles are connected on-line to a computer server. Generally, FMS covers the practices of overseeing, organizing, and recording all aspects of the fleet with commanding tasks such as vehicle maintenance and acquisition, driver and fuel management, health and safety management, and vehicle tracking and diagnostics. Because this needs quite a bit of oversight, in every fleet management system, there are fleet managers who carry out the logistics in the transportation industry.

Let’s look more closely at the challenges that fleet managers face and the functions an FMS has to offer.

Vehicle Maintenance and Acquisition

The role of fleet managers in vehicle acquisition might include, but are not limited to, evaluating changes to vehicle legislation, determining purpose and sustainability of vehicles, negotiating deals with vehicle manufacturers, and balancing fuel consumption, tax, and insurance costs, in addition to regulating employee expectations and safety. On top of that, it is necessary that the managers consider the re-sell value of vehicles that need to be unloaded. Budget allocation and keeping up to date with legislations are constant struggles for fleet managers.

Driver Management

While the FMS in the past were used mainly by the motor-carrier industry, such as trucking and shipping companies, it is now widely used by taxis and transportation services for people with disabilities, making fleet driver management essential for fleet management companies (FMCs). Through effective driver training, FMCs not only reduce costs while maintaining the same level of service, but also ensure the safety for both the transportation service provider and customer. Additionally, as fleet management has become more passenger-centric, dealing with disputes, differences of opinion, and managing conflicts have been newly added to the long list of responsibilities of a fleet manager.

Fuel Management

One of the biggest reasons that companies implement an FMS is to boost productivity and grow business. Fleet management achieves this by establishing fleet performance, keeping overall costs low, monitoring maintenance, and carrying out optimal operations for companies. Now, for most fleets, fuel consumption is the highest cost variable, and in a time when fuel prices are ever-increasing, a fleet manager’s role of balancing fuel cost is paramount to their job. It is their responsibility to evaluate and level out the types of fuel when adding new vehicles to the fleet, while working on fuel savings management.

Health and Safety Management

The annual accident rate for commercial fleets is around 20%. The rate gets even higher for industries such as pharmaceuticals because of the incomparable number of miles their fleet drivers must travel per year. Therefore, safety is one of the toughest challenges that fleet managers face, for both the driver and the vehicle. The fleet safety program that fleet managers govern establishes policies and plans that are necessary to help ensure a safe work environment for employees and protect against liability from vehicle accidents.

Vehicle Tracking and Diagnostics

In most modern vehicle fleets, an Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL), also known as a vehicle tracking device, is embedded to send the positioning information on-line to a central computer server. Fleet managers receive vehicle technical information such as fuel tank level, engine revolution, amount of fuel use, etc. to keep track of the vehicle condition and ultimately ensure safety of both the driver and vehicle.

In the past, fleet management was implemented mostly by industrial sectors such as trucking companies and fleet managers documented everything using pen and paper; however, the possibilities and role of technology has been evolving at an exponential pace, and have made it possible for fleets to generate even more data, expanding the role of fleet managers. Moreover, due to the increased accessibility of transportation that has now become an essential part of public life, fleet management has developed to become more passenger-focused. The implementation of FMS in day-to-day taxi fleets and transportation services for people with disabilities or mobility challenges are examples of the fast-changing automotive landscape.

Therefore, it is crucial for businesses with vehicle fleets to incorporate a software-based fleet management system that can help managers oversee the growing amount of data, resulting in reduced interruption and improved productivity.

Learn more about AUTOCRYPT’s fleet management solutions here.

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.