By Cheng Zhi Wei
One of the many suggested solutions to the urban mobility challenges of tomorrow is car-sharing. While there are several examples of car-sharing in Singapore, it has not taken off at the level needed to generate noticeable impact on the transport network.
Speaking at a session on Electromobility at the Asia Smart Grid/Electromobility conference under the Singapore International Energy Week 2013, Mr Eugene Ng, Director, Urban Solutions, Bosch Software Innovations (SI), presented his companyâ€™s suite of software solutions that aim to form building blocks for the urban transport solutions of tomorrow.
The solutions involve smart systems and interfaces to provide real-time information about vehicle availability and location. While Mr Ng presented on several areas, such as vehicle charging, brokering services and fleet management services, the most interesting was the picture he painted about a future made possible when these innovations are successfully implemented into a cityâ€™s transport ecosystem.
A sustainable, long-term transport solution needs to comprise a variety of transport methods that users can exploit based on their needs. Thus, on top of the rail, bus and taxis available, Mr Ng proposed the inclusion of bike and car sharing schemes as last-mile solutions. Last-mile solutions are so-called as they help users cover that â€œlast mileâ€ to their destination. While this idea is not new, the many challenges involved in managing demand and supply while staying profitable has prevented it from becoming a permanent addition to our transport system.
Bosch SI hope to tackle this problem by developing a software application that couples with its vehicle dongle to ease the administrative hassle of fleet management. Mr Ng hopes that this would help car-sharing companies figure out a way to provide one-way trips at a profitable and sustainable price. In addition, they have developed a mobile application to complement car-sharing by providing users with information about the availability and location of charging stations. The app also allows users to book and pay for their vehicles.
The focus on electric vehicles (EVs) builds upon the forward-looking nature of Boschâ€™s solutions. Besides having zero carbon emissions, electric vehicles are inherently easier to manage in car-sharing schemes as they can be charged at the parking stations instead of requiring users to refuel before returning the vehicle.
Thus, the future he envisioned involves traveling via rail between major public transport hubs before switching to a possible last-mile solution to complete the journey. A key to the integration of such a multitude of transport modes is an unified payment system. Mr Ng raised the example of Stuttgartâ€™s mobility card which allows for payment across all transport platforms and even functions as a library card.
In closing, Mr Ng shared that Boschâ€™s EV charging pilot program in Singapore has reached 70 EVs with over 50 charging stations and he looks forward to further integration of such innovative solutions to the transport mix. With the governmentâ€™s support for improving the quality and availability of car-sharing options, as announced in the recent Land Transport Master Plan 2013, this reality might happen sooner than we think.
Image credit: Carsharing by lilie