How to create real change in cities

The world is changing at a breath-taking pace, and even more so are the cities.

Mobility – re:imagined. That was the motto of this year's MOVE conference in London, which I attended yesterday. MOVE's mission is to bring together disruptors, their technology and their attitudes towards stakeholders from all modes and disciplines: to engage in dialogue, create new knowledge and promote cooperation for a healthy and livable city.

Yesterday at the event, I was able to present our MOIA story and my thoughts on #returncities in London as well. I would like to make my speech available here today and continue the dialogue beyond the conference. I am looking forward to the exchange, the discourse on the future of mobility and to your opinion on how cities will be built greener, more livable and even more for people in the future.

 

The importance of cities

The world is changing at a breath-taking pace, and even more so are the cities. I'm not telling any news here: Urbanisation is picking up speed and in 2050 some forecasts predict that more than two thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas. One of the most important challenges will be how to maintain the quality of life in cities as they grow.

The importance of the cities is enormous - even now. Cities account for 80 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). 700 cities (with more than 500,000 inhabitants) account for more than 55 percent of global GDP. The GDP of London corresponds to the GDP of the Netherlands (both about $820 billion), the GDP of New York corresponds to the GDP of Canada (both about $1,600 billion), or the GDP of Beijing has the same size as Austria (about $430 billion).

It is therefore obvious that the relevance of cities is enormous and will steadily increase through political influence and stability, economic prosperity of societies and countries, technological progress or the shaping of future lifestyle trends. And remember, more than 6 billion people will live in cities in 2050.


 

Life in the big city

Life in a big city is fantastic. And the reasons do not need to be explained. It is a story about possibilities, dreams, hopes, art or culture. But when it comes to urban transport, we still see today that it is a pain point number for citizens and regulators. Not everything runs smoothly: The average cruising speed in London and Shanghai today is only 16 kilometres per hour. A total of 70 percent of urban air pollution is caused by traffic. Eighty percent of people have no choice in their means of transport. If life in the city is to be worth living in the future, that must change.

We are all aware of the recent discussions about the CO2 reduction targets that cities themselves give or must give. Cities such as London, Hong Kong or Hamburg want to reduce their CO2 emissions by 50 to 60 percent by 2025. Here, too, half of this decline is expected to come from the transport sector.

Consequently, we see efforts to reduce the modal share of motorised private transport from around 40 percent today in most European cities to 20 to 30 percent within the next 10 to 20 years. We see a de-prioritization of cars in road traffic, e.g. in Oslo, city bans in hundreds of cities in Spain or license plate restrictions in Asia.

                        

Mobility is a basic human need

But mobility is a basic human need. People must move. We even see an increasing need for movement, for shuttle traffic. And, as already mentioned, 80 percent of people today already have no choice when it comes to urban transport. When they stop the flow of mobility, they stop the city from their work. And given the enormous impact of cities on the economy and society, this could have significant negative consequences.

At MOIA, we firmly believe that there must be a new way to meet the mobility needs of cities and their inhabitants and to enable more people to choose. For the first time in modern history we can make city traffic clean, safe and quiet. We can give people more time - time they used to spend waiting, searching for parking, or being trapped in the daily chaos of rush hour. And we act out of our faith: In April 2019, after two years of preparation, we will start our fully electric carpool service in Hamburg with a fleet of 500 purpose-built vehicles and can hardly wait to see the reactions of our customers.

Sharing our paths will give us more space - space occupied today by parked cars and the third lane of a motorway that will soon be obsolete. In the city we imagine there are less traffic jams, less noise, less dirt and less stress. But more comfort, more peace, more happiness and a better quality of life. Of course, we at MOIA are not the only ones thinking about these issues. Most of you could do the same thing. But I think we have a very special way of thinking and of imagining how we can achieve these goals. Unlike many others, we choose a different view of the things I want to present today.

 

Focus on the human being

Our industry today is often portrayed as a rat race, won by mere technology excellence, record-breaking investment and financing rounds, by pushing vehicles into cities, regardless of quality and what should be at the centre: people.

To be honest, I don't think winning our industry is a rat race or a sprint. Rather, I often refer to the analogy of a marathon when I talk about new sustainable urban transport solutions. And I firmly believe in it. Although excellent technology and enough financial resources are important, it is not what we believe will create a sustainable business. To bring about real change in urban mobility, we base our business on four - human-oriented - strategic pillars: security, comfort, community and sustainability. Let me give you more insight into how we look at them.

 

Safety is not a hygiene factor, but a strategic pillar

When it comes to using a mobility service, one of the most important feelings we want to create with our customers is the feeling of security. I'm sure most of you have experienced situations where you had to trust a driver to get you home safely, and you weren't sure if this would happen. And we know from our research that this is a problem especially for women. But we also want to be a trustworthy mobility partner for parents. As a parent, you must have the confidence that your child will be taken home or safely to sports training.

At MOIA, security is not a hygiene factor, but a strategic pillar. In Hamburg we employ all our drivers directly, we know each one of them personally and test him. We have started to set up our test operation in Hanover with a leasing company but have now also started to convert these drivers. To achieve exactly this, we offer our drivers special safety training according to a detailed training manual and safety concept: a carefree journey for our customers. In addition, we are working on various technical solutions in the field of vehicle scanning and cameras that will further enhance the security of our service offerings. A comprehensive security concept is not sexy, but we think that this culture makes all the difference today - or would you let your child drive with an unsafe mobility option?

 

Mobility should feel magical - for everyone

Convenience has been one of our core themes from the very beginning, because we believe this is one of the central spaces in an industry with so many substitute products. To change urban mobility for the better, society's mobility behaviour must change from driving alone to driving together. Changing people's minds requires more than just affordable options to navigate through cities. You must compensate for the deep feelings associated with cars. After all, the car is more than just a means of mobility. They are symbols of freedom and independence, expression of your personality or status symbol.

At MOIA, we focused early on how to trigger the emotional decision to travel together. We've focused on how we can create a service that delivers the highest end-to-end convenience to our customers - including our easy-to-use MOIA app, our MOIA+6, the world's first ride-sharing vehicle that offers more personal space than your own car, and our quest for operational excellence, i.e. first-class ETAs and clean vehicles for our customers. Mobility shouldn't be trouble, it should feel magical - for everyone. Our service is designed to democratize attractive mobility options - we want to provide comfort for many, not just for a few.

 

How we create a community of change agents

Initiating change requires moving the heads of tens of thousands of people in a city by creating - what we call a social movement - a community of change agents. Right from the start, we participated in the design and rebuilt our service and our vehicle from scratch - together with the users and future customers from our target cities.

We have intensive discussions with all parties involved, be it cities, taxi unions or public transport companies. We believe in transparency and the need for continuous training. That means we invest a lot in content and storytelling to inspire people and motivate them to change. And we see the first effects: In Hanover, where we started testing 1 ½ years ago, we have become an indispensable partner for city life. More than 10 percent of the urban population are registered with us, we are involved in local social projects and people play MOIA Bingo with the numbering of our vehicles. We are on the way to becoming the trustworthy partner of people.

 

Genuine sustainability also includes social and economic sustainability

Real change should remain, so - and this is my last point - from day one we focus on the sustainability of our business. When it comes to sustainability, there are several people who immediately think of ecological sustainability. Yes, the creation of an environmentally beneficial service is also important to us, which is why we will have the largest fleet of electric car pools in the world to further reduce the local CO2 footprint through mobility.

But true corporate sustainability also includes social and economic sustainability - and these are of equal importance. That's why we all pay our drivers fair. MOIA drivers can keep 100% of their tips, receive all kinds of benefits and we offer them permanent employment with us. We want to ensure that our service benefits all people in the city, including our employees, but also the communities that surround us.

If there is no viable business model, these types of services will not last very long and will soon disappear. Within our first two cities, we are focusing massively on operational excellence, constantly pushing for maximum fleet and capacity utilisation, intelligent shift planning, pricing strategies to balance supply and demand, continuously optimising product market suitability for B2C and B2B customers and thus developing a viable and sustainable business model for expansion. And that's why small test fleets aren't enough for us: We believe that you will only see the effects of ride-sharing if you have enough liquidity in the market to ensure customer relevance and at the same time cover a broad range of services. Only then can the change be initiated; only then can people be convinced. We will publicly demonstrate our impact on urban mobility through intensive research. We are really working on learning day after day - because we don't want to scale mistakes.

 

Together we are on the right track

If we want to live in greener and more livable cities, we must bring about real change in urban mobility. And we don't have to overcome technological barriers, we must overcome psychological barriers to get there. By addressing these four strategic core pillars - safety, comfort, community and sustainability - we believe we are going the right way to overcome them.