Sharing cars can no longer be defined simply as carsharing — the not-so-new buzz-phrase is “shared mobility” (or “shared-use mobility”), and it more broadly connotes shared transportation in many forms.
Cities see implementing shared mobility as vital to alleviating increasing congestion. For consumers, it’s part of a cultural shift away from ownership toward “user-ship” of the most appropriate transportation mode. It’s enabled by technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Shared mobility solutions are now being implemented in fleets of all types, from vocational and municipal fleets to college campuses and recreational vehicles in planned communities. In the case of Yellow Cab of Columbus, it’s leveling the playing field for an 89-year-old taxi company.
In August, Verizon announced a partnership with Yellow Cab of Columbus on technology called Verizon Share, which enables Yellow Cab drivers to locate, access, and pay for vehicles through an app.
Verizon Share allows Yellow Cab drivers to pay for the use of a vehicle for as little as an hour, and the system allows drivers to pick up and drop off vehicles in places other than a central depot. As a result, Yellow Cab drivers are afforded a more flexible work schedule that mirrors those of drivers for transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft.
“Everyone’s schedule is different; everyone’s lives are incredibly unique,” says Morgan Kauffman, CEO of Yellow Cab of Columbus. “[This solution] allows drivers to decide how much or how little they need the vehicles and then turn them in for someone else to use.”
It’s a win for Yellow Cab, too: “Being able to offer vehicles for two to four hours during the upswings in demand can help fill the cabs with drivers for a variety of use cases, such as students with time between classes or someone who needs extra money but needs a flexible schedule,” Kauffman says. “It fills those gaps that we were not able to touch before in the market.”
In the move to shared mobility, drivers who have given up their personal vehicles will migrate to a platform that allows easy access to Yellow Cab’s owned fleet. TNC drivers, when they start giving up owning a vehicle, will inevitably follow. Indeed, a cottage industry has already sprung up of fleet providers to TNC drivers.
“We’ve learned that people don’t like to use their personal cars in a professional way,” Kauffman says. “The wear and tear on a fleet vehicle is very different than the wear and tear on a personal car.”
The fleet world has known this for decades; this realization seems to be finally dawning on the general public and the peer-to-peer marketplace. (And if you haven’t heard my new mantra, “Own the fleet, own the future,” click here.)
An owned fleet provides an extra layer of protection for consumers. Yellow Cab requires a daily vehicle inspection with an extensive checklist. Drivers must pass an extra level of training at “Taxi University,” which offers customer service skills, medical training, and safe driving courses, as well as a driver mentoring and development program.
Unlike Uber, in which rides are still highly subsidized by investment money, traditional taxi services are built on traditional models of profitability. Combined with playing-field leveling technology, all of a sudden reports of the taxi industry’s death seem greatly exaggerated.
The Verizon Share app is only one leveler in the toolkit. The next logical step would be to implement a system that would allow riders to hail and pay for cabs through an Uber-style app. “We’re connecting the final dots on that,” Kauffman says.
For Kauffman — and other fleet providers — what’s old is new again.
“In 1928, people were dependent on taxis to get around town, because people couldn’t afford to own cars,” he says. “After WWII, people wanted to own cars. We’re now going back to the model where people don’t want to own cars, but use them as they need them. It’s interesting to see how this goes full circle.”