Jashar, you’ve been working very hard for months at MOIA to get this rolling. Now your first test phase is starting in Hanover. Are you excited?
I think that most of us haven’t truly realized how much is going to be happening in the next few weeks. Up until now, we have been working very hard on a number of different concepts, business models, and other things from a theoretical standpoint. But in just a few weeks’ time, real, live MOIA customers are going to be booking vehicles with our app. Once that happens, we’re going to switch to a completely different mode of working. I’m looking forward to it.
Why did you choose Hanover as the city for the service’s test run?
Hanover is a little bit smaller than Hamburg, where our service is scheduled to launch at the end of next year. That makes the city a good size for a limited fleet to provide a realistic test of our operations. With Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles there, we also have a Group company in the city that can provide local know-how as well as the vehicles for our pilot. And the city itself, which is always an important partner, is very positive about our plans. That’s why I think that Hanover is an ideal location for the pilot. We’re going to be purposefully trying things out that could misfire.
Like what, for example?
We’re going to test a number of different shift planning models, update the app at regular intervals, experiment with the number and distribution of virtual stations, or make regular changes to the pooling algorithm. Which also means that we need to get our mistakes out of the way during the pilot so they don’t happen later.
Can anyone participate?
Yes. Anyone who wants to can go to hannover.moia.io and apply to be a test rider. Participants will be selected at random. To create a realistic scenario, we need a group of testers that is as heterogeneous as possible. That means people of different ages, incomes, and genders from different neighborhoods, etc. We’re working with a few selected partners including Leibniz University and Innovationszentrum Niedersachsen to help us achieve that.
How thoroughly can you plan for a test like this in advance?
Everyone at MOIA is an expert in their field and is making an important contribution to our goal of launching a high-quality service in October. At the same time, not everything in the real world necessarily has to play out according to plan. Especially since no other service like this even exists yet. We’re going to see in just a couple of weeks how good our work over the last few months has been. Personally, I have the utmost faith in our team’s abilities.
To what extent did you try to plan the routes that the shuttles will take?
The routes are determined by what is known as a pooling algorithm. We’ve got a team of specialists from Helsinki on board who will be working on optimizing route planning every single day to minimize wait times and get our customers to their destinations by the most direct route possible.
Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?
No, I wouldn’t go that far. But there are two issues that are particularly critical for us. One, the technology components — the app, the algorithm, and the backend — have to work together seamlessly without malfunctioning. And second, the operations side of things is a bit of a challenge. Fleet management, shift planning, and training the drivers. There is a large human component to our service. And that’s a good thing.
What will the MOIA shuttle look like?
This is going to be our first time ever putting all the software and hardware solutions we need to run our shuttle service into a Volkswagen T6 Multivan. That will include a tablet that displays the dynamic route to the driver. We have a new infotainment system in the vehicle that displays the next pickups and drop offs and is also intended to be used for communications purposes. Of course we’ve already sufficiently tested all of this, but we can’t know how it will all work as part of a live system. That’s going to be very exciting to see.
Aren’t you concerned that the competition will copy what you’re doing?
My personal opinion about that is that anyone who would like to take a look at our service is welcome to register to be a test user at hannover.moia.io. That doesn’t bother me one bit. Partly because I don’t personally think that any one mobility provider is going drive all the other services out of the market. Quite the opposite. I think that every provider will to an extent profit from the success of the others because we’re all paving the way for innovative services to reach the masses even faster.
What will the overall impact of an on-demand ride pooling service be on the transportation options in the city?
In combination with options that are already on the market such as taxis, public transportation, or car sharing services, MOIA offers an outstanding alternative to private vehicles. The incentive to leave your car in the garage or get rid of it altogether gets bigger when there are more attractive alternatives in the city. Over the medium to long term, fewer private vehicles will lead to lower demand for parking spaces, less congestion, reduced emissions, and quieter streets. Parking spaces that are no longer needed could be converted into parks. The good thing about this is not only will the people who use our service benefit from it, but all citizens will. Cities are going to be more livable for everyone.