Leading Mobility-as-a-Service Companies Reveal Innovations after COVID-19 Impact

  • ALD Automotive stressed that the drop of users on public transportation is not only due to Covid-19, but also to insecurity.
  • Geotab: “We want to develop a structure that allows us to understand mobility behaviors, have an impact on traffic flow and reduce accident rates”.
  • Optibus: “There must be a commitment from governments to be able to implement these solutions.”

In South American cities so congested and with high levels of pollution, the objective of companies and users is to have a transportation system capable of reducing costs for the consumer, that is efficient and unified on a single platform. This is precisely what Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is all about, a topic addressed at the 10th Sustainable Mobility Summit of Latam Mobility.

While it is true that MaaS has been consolidating in the major metropolises of the region, the COVID-19 arrival represented a great challenge and, at the same time, opportunities that have forced the sector to reinvent itself to offer the best mobility experience to citizens. 

In this regard, Julien Bourdonnec, General Manager of ALD Automotive Chile, a leading mobility company with approximately 1,700,000 electric vehicles on its fleet, explained that a large number of companies are investing in Latin America and are organizing the way to transport their employees, a situation boosted by the pandemic.

For that reason, Bourdonnec announced that they have deployed significant investment in startups to approve mobility budgets for their workers, as well as offering solutions to integrate the public and private system. “This is good news for cities because the authorities’ plans are complicated by the political environment, which is why startups will play a key role,” he said.

He asserted that the “flexible office” is here to stay and before Covid-19 broke through there was a large part of the workforce that saw no point in the forced commute. “We have much more mobile and well-equipped employees,” Bourdonnec emphasized.

Regarding the drop of users on public transport in the cities, the ADL representative explained that beyond the impact of the pandemic, there are underlying problems, such as security, which deepens this situation.

Bourdonnec believes that electrification is vital given the catastrophic level of pollution in Latin American cities. “There is a common duty to look for solutions. It must be a global vision and not just a platform, it is a world vision.” 

He stressed that public policies are fundamental along with the implementation of fiscal frameworks to encourage electric mobility and eliminate fossil fuels. “There is a lot to be done. Companies have an important role to play, but the public sector must be supportive,” he pointed out.

Geotab Adapts Platform

Juan Cardona, VP Sales LATAM at Geotab, a leader in telematics use with over two and a half million vehicles connected to their network worldwide, points out that as a result of COVID-19 there has been more awareness of efficient fleet use. 

“Companies are much more curious about energy transformation and this is where we work with our market place to bring solutions for better routing, analytics on what vehicles are on the market in their respective countries, and provide recommendations on how to migrate to electric cars,” he said.

Cardona explained that carsharing, for example, a service that enables car rental for limited periods of time, has grown in Latin America. He assured that they see great potential in this area and the pandemic has shown new opportunities opening up in the market.

The Geotab leader also referred to the implementation of new technologies on the region, such as autonomous cars, an innovation that he expects to take hold in a 10-year period.

When asked about the fear that users still have about returning to public transport due to high Covid-19 contagion levels, Cardona revealed that in Mexico, they have devised linked systems that allow them to measure passenger temperature in real time to improve efficiency.

Regarding the contribution of governments, he stressed that they expect much more commitment and support for Geotab’s challenge for creating smart cities. “We want to develop a structure that allows us to understand mobility behaviors; which are the dangerous areas with the highest accident rates; and how to improve traffic flows. We offer these types of services to the authorities to improve the environment and, at the same time, they acquire political benefits,” he said.

The New Outlook for Optibus

Alvaro Iriarte, Regional Director South Cone of Optibus, explained that the coronavirus changed the way of planning due to the restrictions: “This left new scenarios, our scheduling must be faster and continuous. Previously, these issues were discussed every six months or a year, and now it is done on a monthly basis”.

Regarding the decrease of users on public transportation due to the quarantine, Iriarte pointed out that in Chile’s specific case there was an explosion of used and new car purchases with record figures, similar to Europe. He pointed out that transportation companies have registered losses, so there is a worldwide campaign to encourage people to use public transportation again.

“More cars, more pollution. There are no bus drivers either. Given this, the management entity requests and the transport company has to adapt. That is where we come in and play with these scenarios to schedule the companies to perform their services. We do it quickly because it is 100% in the cloud,” he said.

He assured that the information provided by Optibus is the cornerstone for travel and mobility planning, so: “There must be a commitment from governments to be able to implement these solutions”. 

The Challenge of Integration for Clipp Kradac

Bruno Valarezo, CEO of Clipp Kradac, an organization that has 10 years of experience developing mobility solutions focused on cabs and urban buses, considers it essential to integrate the different ways of getting around. In this sense, they offer a complete corporate plan for companies and workers to join their efficient platform.

He stressed that the arrival of COVID-19 prompted a new awareness and great challenges to find the best method to mobilize health personnel. “On the streets there were many cabs without users, so they started to write to us to see if we could help them shop. For this reason we made a module where they asked for our market deliveries and it started to catch on in an interesting way”. 

The Clipp Kradac Director explained that they also offer mobility plans with additional services, such as electronic payments and tickets to events with transportation. “With pandemic, we had to adapt to the needs of our users,” he added.

Valarezo emphasized the need for fiscal policies, highlighting that the end of the fuel subsidy in Ecuador, the country where they operate, is an important measure that will allow them to develop more technologies for the future. 

Waze Facing Changes

Marcos Ordenes, Head of Agencies Sp Latam at Waze, the largest car-sharing driver company that handles real-time data, said that during the pandemic their main focus was how they could continue to offer services while guarding against contagions. 

“Our role is to support and provide information to people about hospital centers, testing labs, vaccination sites. To look for ways to help.”

Ordenes said that the recovery in Latin America in terms of mobility is already the same as the pre-pandemic era. “We see a pattern changing. The strong presence of home-work trips are now affective-emotional transfers: parks, gyms, family visits, zoos. People are looking to escape from the cities and this has been a pattern that is changing the user profile,” he explained.

Leaders in the sector concluded at the South America Summit of Latam Mobility that after COVID-19 important changes are coming for the region, and sealed their commitment to implement technological solutions that boost mobility as a service.

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