Business Trip With Obstacles - Multimodal Journey
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Business Trip With Obstacles – Multimodal Journey

How did you make your last business trip? By train, by plane, by rental car or your own car? Perhaps you also used a car-sharing service provider? No matter what business travellers decide to do, it’s extremely probable that they had to use various means of transport (i.e. a ꞌmulti-modalꞌ journey) and that it involved quite a few obstacles.

Mobility is essential for everyday working life. These days almost every business trip involves multi-modal traveling and the unpleasantness it brings.

Customer-Friendly User Interface a Must

Various mobility service providers account for an ever-larger share of the total trip. By now the age of digitalization has forced these providers to set up an online user interface for almost every mode of transport, one that is user-friendly to varying degrees.

These user interfaces can be divided into the three classic steps:

  • Information – The customer gets a simple, user-friendly, transparent overview of the potential journey. They can view and configure their options, based on various criteria (duration, route taken, time period, costs  etc.).
  • Booking/reservation – Based on the specified information the customer can book/reserve the trip that suits them, usually together with the means of transport.
  • Payment – The customer can pay for and administer the transaction for the trip booked/reserved, without cash, either directly or after the journey is completed.

A majority of these mobility providers  have already recognized a key point and acted on it: to get customer acceptance they must precisely put these three steps into effect on their platforms in a transparent and intuitive way.

So one might assume that digitalization is in full swing. Viewing individual instances, in many cases it does indeed seem to have arrived.

Taking the example of leading car-share providers, customers can see how the three steps can be simply implemented, using smartphone apps , RFID card and pre-registered payment methods . This means that the customer can use this service straightaway with a minimum effort at almost any time and in many places.

Does This Apply to Business Trips Too?

Letꞌs go back to our opening scenario. In a classic business trip the customer is often dependent on switching the means of transport and the mobility service provider more than once. This involves booking and paying various service-providers for the trip via various platforms.

Yet compared to single-mode travel the three steps described can no longer be put into effect quite so easily.

We find that the more changes to the means of transport there are, the more complex booking and payment becomes. The outcome moves further and further away from the all-embracing integration of the three steps described at the start.

The first step – getting information – can often still be taken when switching from one means of transport to a second.

For instance, when changing from inter-city trains to local public transport, Deutsche Bahnꞌs app enables schedules and times to be viewed across various transport means and providers.

Even Step Two may also be possible – the booking/reservation, spanning two modes of transport. But when it is time to pay (at the latest) the customer cannot manage the whole transaction through one shared platform (except a few cooperations between individual mobility providers).

This promptly highlights limitations to user-friendly management of the transaction. The broader the integration required of mobility service providers, the less depth there is to the integration of services.

One Platform – One Invoice

With ꞌSmileꞌ, NTT Data has broken through this limitation, setting up the first bridges to connect the various mobility-services providers for private use. In a research project Smile has succeeded in setting up a fully integrated mobility solution for the city of Vienna.

This brought together public transport, various providers of car and biking sharing services, taxi operators and additional partners within a single platform.

Switching between several transport modes means that all three steps of a joint customer-friendly and user-friendly online user-interface can be carried out by using one application.

Subsequently, the target customers are thus all users aiming to make their journey as efficiently as they can spanning various transport modes.

In the non-work context, networked mobility has already started to spread. By viewing them individually the modern mobility-services providers have already strongly established themselves.

Acceptance levels have risen continually in recent years. Notably, car-sharing providers in major cities are gaining strong growth, both in fleet size and in the number of members.

Yet the usage of vehicle capacity remains one of the biggest challenges for providers. The demand for uninterrupted availability and the associated demand for an increase in the number of vehicles give rise to a high cost factor.

This can only be compensated by constantly high capacity usage levels. Yet in the cities, peaks in demand hitherto arise only outside the core working hours (between 7.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. and between 5.00 p.m. and 10.00 p.m.) and also at weekends.

The rest of the time a large proportion of the vehicles  are on standby, not generating any turnover.

Also, on workdays in the major cities, over 70 per cent of the traffic volume is due to business traffic. Almost exclusively, this traffic volume fits exactly into the time-slots stated above, when car-sharing service providers register their peaks in capacity-usage.

Another interesting observation relates to companiesꞌ own pool vehicles.

Namely, compared to the car-sharing vehicles, they record precisely anti-cyclical peaks in demand. The highest capacity-usage level is precisely within the classic core working hours. For the rest of the time, the pool vehicles are likewise unused.

Company Fleet and Car-Sharing

So perhaps one could – or even should – consider whether to link up the two mobility solutions in some way or another, balancing out the different patterns of peak capacity-usage. The result would be a solution to be taken seriously for reducing traffic and the environmental burden while saving on cost and time.

But how is such a  car-sharing solution to be set up in reality? The requirements would include being to be able to use public-based sharing solutions for business and to use corporate pool vehicles for private purposes.

Integrated mobility solution

NTT Data has developed a sharing solution that is beginning to pursue this approach with various companiesꞌ vehicle fleets as the starting point: NTT Data Sharing.

The plan is to detach all a company’s pool vehicles, hitherto allocated to individual divisions or company activity areas and centrally make them available to all staff members.

Via an app these can be booked online, opened without a key and provided for (private) use.

The employees can access the vehicles at any time in an uncomplicated way. The corporate fleet manager also has a transparent overview on the vehiclesꞌ level of capacity-usage, any reported damages and usage patterns. This makes a variety of functionalities possible.

The aim of the sharing solution is to raise capacity-usage levels to cut fleet size and fleet costs and generating additional income for the company. The system works as follows: a platform is superimposed within the relevant company’s internal systems.

The platform then includes all available vehicles and groups them by vehicle class. All staff gain access to this platform and can access the vehicle pool via an application.

A staff member wanting to use a vehicle selects a vehicle category (small, medium-range, upper-range vehicle) and books it for a specifically defined period. In this context, it is not possible to select one particular vehicle.

Only 30 minutes before the journey starts a vehicle is allocated to the staff member based on booking periods, vehicle classes in demand, and geographical locations.

Via an on-board unit installed in the vehicle and an RFID card, the vehicles can be opened and used without a key in a way that parallels the practices of familiar car-sharing providers.

The on-board unit also transmits the vehicle data to the platform. When the journey is over, vehicle use can be invoiced in a direct, paperless and uncomplicated way.

This dynamic distribution means that vehicles can get ideal capacity usage; in total, fewer vehicles are needed to meet the same level of demand for mobility. The vehicles can also be booked for staff membersꞌ private use.

Because the trip is tracked digitally, at the end it can be invoiced correctly in terms of tax requirements, without use of paper.

So the company gets extra income and use of vehicle capacity is higher. The platform also has interfaces set up to already-established providers of mobility services.

It is possible to link these together in the future so that the platform is used for car and bike sharing, local public transport or other service-providers to be booked and invoicing administered.

This can mean that the former fleet manager develops into a mobility manager, running the whole range of his colleaguesꞌ mobility needs. NTT Data Sharing is establishing a new bridge for shaping todays mobility more efficiently by means of a network.

Private use of company vehicles also presents a first approach towards balancing-out interests between public car-sharing and company vehicles usage bringing to life a simple, user-friendly solution for multi-modal transport.

E-3 Magazine (German) - April 2017

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