How to Get Started with New Autonomous and Human-Driven Mobility Services

William PeatmanBlog

The mobility revolution is upon us. New human-driven and autonomous mobility services are changing the game for public and private mobility service providers. App-based on-demand and fixed-route mobility services are changing the way travelers consume transportation. Many operators are unsure of how to adapt to the changes taking place and how to best serve their customers and communities. This is a guide for transit operators based on Bestmile’s experience helping operators to plan, deploy, and optimize human-driven and autonomous mobility services.

Learn how PostBus was able to plan and launch autonomous shuttle service in the city of Sion, Switzerland, in a matter of months. Download the case study.

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1. What is the first step in deploying new mobility services?

The first step in exploring new mobility services is to gather as much data as possible about how services are currently utilized, as well as third-party data when available (some states new require transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to share data about their vehicle trips). Critical data include:

  • Trips started and ended per zone/POI
  • Population density and user profiles
  • Number of trips per person per year
  • Time and duration of trips
  • Occupation rate and waiting time of current services
  • Unserved/gray zones

2. If I can find that data, what can I do with it?

The data can be used to run very accurate simulations. For example, Bestmile has developed a simulation platform using the same algorithms that its mobility services platform uses to match vehicles and travelers, optimize routes, and define and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like travel time, wait times, route optimization, vehicle utilization and more. This allows operators and planners to accurately estimate the resources that will be needed for an optimized service—utilization rates, the number of vehicles, drivers (if needed), locations of routes and stops, ideal schedules and more. Simulations can model the following factors, and multiple iterations can be run, adjusting the criteria to find the right balance of travelers, vehicles, routes, and stops.

  • Service area, map and routing definition
  • Demand model definition
  • Service design definition
  • Design parameters and KPIs

Simulation results can be analyzed, and the criteria can be modified to see what changes will help achieve the goals of the service.

3. How do I know what kind of service to provide?

Simulations can help also operators determine what kind of service is right—fixed-route or on-demand, predefined stops or door-to-door, human-driven or autonomous. It will depend on the service area, demand profile, local regulations, and available technology at the time of deployment.

4. What is needed to turn a simulation into reality?

A best practice is to start with a pilot or trial project with an area or route that have proven to be a good fit for the new service by the simulation process. As a part of a pilot, it is important to educate travelers about the new service and how it works. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to access and understand the service. This may mean offering free rides at first. Education can also be done with literature at stops and on vehicles, by attendants/drivers on vehicles, with interactive kiosks at stations, and with mobile apps that all push notifications to travelers. This is especially important with autonomous services, as many people are apprehensive at first. Next, regularly survey riders for feedback about their experience.

5. What if the trial is not successful?

If ridership lags, start to adjust some of the KPIs. If surveys are saying the service is too slow, or wait times are too long, or there are too many stops—adjust and continue to iterate. It’s much easier to make changes to a small-scale pilot project than it is to a full-fledged bus route, for example.

6. What if the trial is successful?

When a pilot or trial project is successful, operators can expand the service. Once an operator has determined how to plan, deliver, and optimize a service in one area, it can develop a playbook for how to implement similar services in other parts of the service area whether this means other cities or other neighborhoods within a city.

7. What are the keys to success for new services?

Integrating new mobility services with existing transit modes and routes is critical to success. One of the most common use case for new autonomous and micro-transit services, for example, is for last-mile solutions that get people to and from transit hubs quickly and efficiently. The last mile is one of the largest barriers to the use of public transit. Shared autonomous shuttles and micro-transit offer relatively low-cost solutions that move more people with fewer vehicles, reducing traffic and increasing public transit ridership. It’s important that services be synchronized with transit schedules to make the service as convenient as possible.

8. How can Bestmile help operators get started?

Bestmile’s Mobility Services Platform is an end-to-end management solution that can be used to plan, implement, and manage new mobility services using any type of vehicle (any brand), for fixed-route or on-demand services, and for human-driven and autonomous vehicles. Once the simulation is run and a pilot is planned, the Bestmile platform has everything operators need to deploy and manage new services, from traveler mobile apps to a core engine that matches riders with vehicles, automates dispatching, and optimizes routes—all of which can be integrated with little or no modification to an operator’s existing operational infrastructure. The flexibility of the Bestmile platform enables operators to always be able to adapt to changing conditions. It is easy to transition from human-driven to autonomous services, for example, and add fixed-route or on-demand services in new locations. The platform is cloud-based and scalable, and Bestmile offers packages for everything from small pilots to enterprise deployments.