Megacity Transport: Can car-sharing help cities like Bangkok keep people on the move?

As the world’s population grows and people swarm overwhelmingly to cities to earn a living and enjoy cultural, entertainment and other benefits, one aspect of city lifestyle offers constant challenges — transportation.

According to Our World in Data the global urban population overtook the rural population in 2007 and has continued to increase rapidly, whilst rural population has grown only marginally. 2016 estimates place four billion people in urban areas and 3.4 billion in the rural. In fact, this trend is so advanced that the world now has nearly 50 so-called ‘megacities’ — cities with a population of more than 10 million.

Thailand is no exception to these overall trends. Its urban population rose from 40.1% in 2007 to 52.7% in 2017 (Worldometers), with Thai capital Bangkok capturing the number 24 megacity slot.

This rush to urbanization has led to an unregulated construction boom, increased levels of traffic and high pollution levels. And although Thais enjoy a wide range of transport options, from private cars to railways and subways, skytrains, taxis and motorbikes to the traditional tuk-tuks, daily travel is still a struggle and source of frustration for many. In fact, the government acknowledges Bangkok is the world’s second most congested capital after Mexico City.

How can the ‘Sharing Economy’ help ease congestion?

As well as government investing in more public transport and infrastructure, with initiatives like the Bangkok Mass Transit Development Plan,private companies are also funding innovative transport solutions to help release the 12 million residents of the Thai capital megacity from their congestion hell.

One of the new business models gaining traction is car-sharing. In fact, car-sharing has been growing globally at more than 39% per year and companies in different sectors, such as Airbnb have shown how profitable this new way of doing business can be, with a reported $93 million in profit on its $2.6 billion in revenue (Bloomberg).

A combination of factors is driving the overall growth in car-sharing: the move away from personal car ownership to car-sharing amongst younger people; the overall desire to reduce pollution; the increasing availability of subsidized public transport and the growth of high population megacities where congestion is rife and parking spaces are at a premium, forcing people to look at alternative ways of getting around.

So how can new car-sharing businesses persuade private car drivers to leave their own cars behind? Fast-evolving technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer the ultimate in personalization services for car-sharing companies looking to increase user numbers. Imagine a driver stepping into a car that has been fully configured for them before they set off on their trip? With seat position, heating and air-conditioning settings in place and music preferences loaded, plus give advice on the least congested routes to take to favorite destinations? A shared car could feel very personal indeed.

As for the business benefits, by using the latest in Machine Learning and AI connected car technology, real-time intelligence on driving styles, typical journey destinations, travel days and times can all be compiled and configured to create a fuller understanding of each driver. Car sharing companies can then use this data to prepare targeted rates or bonus programs for loyal users to increase driver engagement and ultimately, all-important customer retention.

Connected car technology can also help solve major operational issues, such as ensuring that there is the right number of connected vehicles in a given area on a given day of the week or time of day. Plus schedule efficiently the timely maintenance of each connect auto. Vital when ensuring reliable service operation and increasing car utilisation rates. These are just some of the ways of optimising the business efficiency of car sharing services, helping keep down costs for the companies and their customers.

Transport Sharing Companies in Thailand

Companies such as Rent a Car Club, which launched in 2016, are based on a similar business model to Airbnb. Many people leave their cars at home during the day and the club enables them to rent it out to earn some income. Drivers get cost-effective access to transportation, without adding to the total number of cars on the road. This model could also be a great benefit to tourists as an alternative to traditional car rental.

Other examples include Grab, whichhit an incredible one billion-ride milestone in 2017 with 66 concurrent rides in one second across all seven of its markets in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Haupcar and asap Go have also launched in Thailand and are proving popular with both residents and tourists.

The transport-sharing economy is also embracing the motorbike taxi sector with GoBike, the licenced and official booking appwhere users can select their pick-up and drop-off locations and have their fare calculated for them before they call for a ride. All GoBike moto-taxi drivers are registered with the Department of Land Transport, a move by the Thai government to regulate the sector, after closing down GrabBike and UberBike.

As for some of the challenges they face, key competitive business issues include the cost-effective nature of public transport; the fact that the Thai government is not providing any special incentives to encourage car-sharing and the lack of provision of car-sharing parking spaces.

The future for transport in megacities

When it comes to successful transport planning for megacities, it’s obvious that the solution is literally multi-layered. Providing a wide array of transport solutions at every price point: from efficient underground railways to high-tech skytrains; to ensuring that there is enough room on the roads for public transport and the growing number of car-sharing schemes as well as supporting the development of autonomous and electric vehicles, it is clear that the role of innovative connectedcar and transport technologies is going to be vital to bring all the millions of data points together to provide useful and relevant analysis.

Only then can megacities hope to become ‘smart cities’, providing the most up-to-date transport information to the growing number of smartphone-enabled travellers, to achieve quicker journey times and a serious reduction in congestion that not only kills business productivity but also the joy of travel.

See how Bright Box is planning on playing a crucial role in creating an efficient, cost-effective and low emissions future for private and car-sharing vehicles, with its leading car connection platform, Remoto.

Learn more about car-sharing, smart city and AI for automotive market: