While no one could have predicted the global disruptions faced by the mobility market in 2020, we have seen amazing resilience from transportation companies. Though some areas took a massive hit, such as public transportation, others could hardly handle the unprecedented demand, including delivery companies. This upheaval required transportation companies to be nimble and to address rapidly shifting conditions on a near-daily basis.
In 2021 we can expect to see some of that chaos level out, however, the impacts of the pandemic will still be felt far and wide. Here are five predictions I see for the mobility industry as we head into the new year.
(1) Shared and public transportation will not return to pre-COVID levels
We will continue to see far fewer miles traveled in 2021, as the effects of the pandemic linger.
- Public transportation and ridesharing numbers will remain low, while vehicle subscriptions (carshare) will increase as consumers continue to look for safer commuting options. Customers have already demonstrated a strong preference for carsharing and car subscription services in a post-pandemic world.
- Contactless reservations for shared mobility will not be just a new model, it will become the norm as mobility companies focus on increased operational efficiency and safety regulations.
- Cities will continue to invest in bike lane infrastructure, electric vehicle infrastructure, and parking infrastructure to support shared mobility, with noticeable growth happening in North America.
(2) Further optimization will be required for last-mile deliveries
Increases in online ordering and delivery will remain high, even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed. This will require last-mile logistics companies to focus their fleet optimization efforts on maintenance and access, as they work to meet ever-accelerating consumer demand.
- Small packages will continue to account for the majority of last-mile delivery, causing a surge in necessary access to fleets.
- Cleaning fleets will also prove essential to keeping drivers on the road and in optimal health.
- Fleet companies and freight forwarders will increase partnerships with shared mobility companies who can help with route and maintenance optimization and help address the last mile dilemma.
(3) Increased deployments of self-driving vehicles without a safety driver
We’ll continue to see pilot deployments of self-driving cars and new companies will come into the mix beyond Waymo. These pilots will be done without safety drivers at the helm and we’ll start to see them in places like the Silicon Valley suburbs, for food and grocery delivery.
- We’ll also see improvements in the latest versions of Level 2 autonomous driving vehicles, such as Tesla. Drivers will start to experience zero-intervention rides in their normal commute trips in 2021, and companies will start gathering statistics around the most suitable commute routes and times of day for autonomous driving.
- 2021 will also bring greater deployments of self-driving vehicles and trucks on industrial sites, as they take advantage of the benefits including increased safety (speed control), reduced costs (operational efficiency) and health (Covid-19).
(4) Automotive tech will benefit healthcare
Carsharing companies will play a pivotal role in helping individuals who need in-person care, and in 2021 we will see the greater deployment of these services in communities.
- In-person access to healthcare will be a challenge. Overcrowding in hospitals and health centers is expected to continue, the aging population is increasing and the economic divide will widen due to high unemployment rates.
- These factors will contribute to additional barriers for individuals who need access to health and medical services, which is why telehealth services will continue to increase as a means of addressing the medical needs of non-acute individuals.
- For in-person services, carsharing companies will step in to help frontline workers ensure they can get to work if or when services are disrupted. These services will also be a benefit to the elderly and others who need access to medical care but who do not want to or cannot, use public transportation.
- We have already seen the efficacy of carsharing companies stepping in to help, as ZITY did for Paris health workers at the height of the pandemic earlier this year.
(5) Concern for the environment will spur the pace of innovation and progress
We will see an increase in local and national government mandates to reduce carbon footprint.
- Businesses will be encouraged and expected to invest in sustainable technologies, energies, and infrastructure – both by regulators and by growing demand from consumers.
- Shared transportation will increase in popularity because of environmental benefits, as car ownership continues to decline post-COVID.
It’s an exciting time to work in the mobility industry, as we’re seeing greater opportunities for fleet management companies to not only address the needs of their customers but to make a real and lasting difference in the communities they serve. At Ridecell, we’re honored to help some of the world’s leading fleet owners as they undergo the transformation necessary to deliver clean, accessible, and safe vehicles whenever and wherever they are needed. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are well prepared to face what lies ahead and that mobility will remain a central part of what keeps our world moving forward.
Author: Mark Thomas, VP of Alliances and Marketing, Ridecell