Enhanced Safety the Way Save MaaS

The global Covid-19 pandemic has left the mobility as a service (MaaS) industry in a precarious position.

Many safety-conscious consumers have shunned ride-sharing services, while government imposed travel lockdowns have further hampered ride-hailing services. According to McKinsey’s Global COVID-19 survey of more than 8,000 consumers across seven countries, the ability to reduce viral infection is now the most common consideration when choosing a mode of transportation.

Ride-sharing managed service providers are viewed with extreme skepticism when it comes to safety with only 5%-8% of survey respondents saying car-sharing, ride-sharing or shared micro-mobility were safe, from a health standpoint. This means MaaS providers are going to have work diligently to convey a sense of robust health and safety measures are being undertaken and could, in fact, reap the benefits of a public skeptical of crowded transport services like public buses or trains, where social distancing is next to impossible.

“Transparency is key for ride-sharing companies,” said Timo Moller, partner in Cologne who leads the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. “The most important touch point with the customer is the app, where they can communicate safety measures to their customers before planning and starting the trip, and then reassurance within the vehicle.”

Moller pointed out MaaS companies can also use their website, press releases and customer emails to explain what they are doing to improve hygiene. He explained several health measures that are perceived as being important are not expensive.

For example, as the company’s survey found, more than half of respondents would be more likely to use shared mobility if the vehicle is disinfected after every trip. Hardware installations such as transparent sheets have low material costs but more than a quarter of respondents consider them important, the survey found.

Manish Menon, Frost & Sullivan’s team lead for chassis, safety and autonomous driving, mobility, pointed out there may be other hardware investments, such as in temperature scanners or oxygen level counters that drivers could keep in their vehicles to test passengers. Testing circumstances could also change depending on where the passenger is being transported to or from, namely whether that location is within a “red zone” where community spread is occurring, or in an area where there is little to no viral presence. “In order to curb the spread of the virus itself, at least in the short term, they will have to completely eliminate a part of their business, namely ride-sharing, and subsist with ride-hailing but that also depends on how comfortable people feel about sharing a car with lots of other people in a day,” he said.

Menon sees a wave of bankruptcies and acquisitions in the near term but says a lot of the survival rate will have to do with whether there is a V-shaped recovery in the MaaS market, or a slower, U-shaped return. “We see in the short term that the sale of personal vehicles will increase owing to the circumstances,” he said. “A lot depends on when the vaccines will be out and if Covid can be controlled. The Ubers and Lyfts might be in for a rough ride if it’s a U-curve and not a V-curve recovery.” Moller explained, during the peak of the crisis, a main challenge was the overall reduction in mobility, when passenger miles traveled dropped by more than 60%. “In addition, regulation made it impossible for players to operate in some geographies,” he said. “In the current phase, the challenge is to regain trust from consumers and to come back even stronger.”

Like Menon, Moller noted there is certainly an opportunity to gain market share from competitors, but also from public transportation due to the current Covid-19 situation. “Ride-sharing companies are increasingly becoming part of a broader ecosystem,” Moller said. “They are building partnerships with businesses such as supermarkets to take part in grocery deliveries or offer subsidized trips to the market and have been partly used for delivery of parcels, for example.”

He said McKinsey’s research also points to more differentiated offerings occurring, for example for business travelers. “Additionally, in the long run we expect further momentum in pooling offerings driven by regulation of cities,” Moller said.

For Sam Ryan, co-founder and CEO of bus-sharing specialist Zeelo, the pandemic profoundly changed his company’s business but by pivoting quickly, Ryan has actually managed to grow the company. Previously Zeelo was serving a number of commuter routs for office based companies and schools, a market that has all but evaporated. However, there’s also a major shift in the labor force, as supermarket chains and e-commerce firms need more staff than ever and, therefore, the transport to those new employment sites become and opportunity.

“We’re doing that by providing ‘bubbles’ in between every one of those locations, by using anti-viral fogging techniques to make sure the environment is as clean as possible, as well as technology to manage social distancing, contract tracing, as well as introducing air filtration onto vehicles,” Ryan explained. The defogging technique takes about 20 minutes and, because the company is serving companies individually, Zeelo is able to have downtime which allows them to introduce these machines to clean the interior.

The drivers frequently wipe down hard surfaces and the company has also introduced temperature checks upon boarding, as well as contactless QR codes for ticketing, which simultaneously helps log customer contact information. “Unfortunately we have seen an increase into private car usage, because so many people deem that to be the safest possible environment, and quite frankly it is, but as we all know, that’s not the right thing for a safe, sustainable recovery.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *