More people live in cities now than ever before – 4.3 billion, to be exact. That’s 55 percent of the planet already living in a city today, and that number is on the rise: in 2050, two-thirds of the world population is expected to live in cities, according to the United Nations. In the next few years, there will be change on an unprecedented scale, as we’ll be sharing a larger amount of urban space with a greater number of people than ever before in history. The unpleasant reality of that is that our cities’ infrastructure isn’t built for mass automotive transportation, causing massive traffic jams and harmful congestion.
To solve the mass transportation issues that come with urbanization, we need to be thinking about other mobility solutions on the horizon. Advancing multimodal mobility in cities requires adaptability, flexibility and a willingness to share – not just our space and our vehicles, but also our ideas and methods of combating climate change. These challenges present an opportunity for startups and private transportation operators to gain share in the U.S. mobility market.
There is a widespread misperception that Uber and Lyft already dominate mobility services, but in reality, ridesharing only accounts for 1% of rides in the U.S., and the remaining 99% includes all kinds of transportation methods, including public transit. Additionally, there has been a recent decline in private car ownership for millennials in cities. As a result, there is a demand for emerging mobility startups across the U.S. such as Bird, Scoot, Lime and more to address the need for multimodal transportation in urban areas.
This rise of multimodal solutions has led to an influx of scooters, bikes and mopeds on city streets, which means cities need to be able to track where these dockless vehicles are being driven and parked. To avoid sidewalk clutter, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has developed a groundbreaking digital tool called Mobility Data Specification, or MDS, to collect data on individual dockless vehicles and notify companies when vehicles are parked illegally. Looking ahead, we’ll see a growing number of startups partnering with local governments to provide cities with multimodel mobility solutions for the public.
Europe has remained ahead of the U.S. when it comes to exploring the latest mobility solutions. In European cities like Hamburg and Berlin, private companies are already collaborating with cities to help collect data on scooter operators in order to better understand and keep track of these new micromobility providers to ensure they’re operating compliantly. While this is a learning process, this has created better collaboration and understanding between the public and private sectors. The first step to solving the transportation gap is partnerships between city governments/public transportation and private operators to ensure consumers have access to the most robust mobility services.
One example of an emerging mobility solution is eco-friendly mobility startup Coaster Cycles, a manufacturer of next-generation pedicabs that have the potential to replace cars and bikes as a more efficient way to deliver large amounts of food and cargo from point A to point B in cities.
Another company on the rise is Kuhmute, a charging station provider from Flint, Michigan. Kuhmute provides vehicle-to-grid charging service for micromobility, which includes electric scooters, bikes, skateboards and last-mile autonomous delivery vehicles. Kuhmute’s goal is to minimize sidewalk clutter, while also helping to solve the last-mile problem and improve safety and accessibility for Flint residents.
The transportation industry in the U.S. is at an inflection point, and innovative companies like Coaster Cycles and Kuhmute are striving to provide us with more eco-friendly and convenient options for getting around. Over the years, vehicle ownership has driven huge economies, generated massive influence on policy, but as large-scale forces such as climate change, urbanization and millennials are shifting, so is the role of the automobile. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for stakeholders within the mobility space – whether it be OEMs, fleet operators or new market entrants trying to respond and harness these trends. The future of mobility is wide open and full of choices for the entire American economy.