The Covid-19 crisis is reshuffling the cards. To help you to look beyond, the Mobility Club asks Jean François Dhinaux (Via ID – Head of Strategy) how it would affect in the long term the market and consumers behaviour. Find the English translation in the text below. 

 

#1 The strength of weak signals during the crisis

It is clear that the coronavirus crisis forces changes. Among them, we can mention: 

1. Consumption and supply transformation

With lockdown ongoing, it’s interesting to look at how customer’s behaviour has been affected so far. The first finding is that we assist to a huge shift to online shopping in many retail sectors. The demand is higher than usual in specific sectors. As mentioned by the FEVAD, 18% of e-commerce websites generate a rising turnover rate (grocery, mobile telephony, computer equipment, cultural and recreational products). That the reason why to keep up with demand, Amazon was about to hire more than 100.000 employees in the US.

At the same time, short food supply chains and local systems are becoming increasingly popular in France. In order to save farmer extra stock, French supermarkets promised this week to provide their consumer with local products. 

It is clear that consumption behaviour impacts mobility in terms of daily commuting as home delivery is highly recommended. As observed by XEE, only 40% vehicles of the active car fleet are used on a daily basis. 

2. The enhanced role of cycling

As we all need to respect movement restrictions, the best way to keep a safe distance and avoid crowded places when we move is either by walking or cycling. As an example, in New York, to minimize coronavirus exposure, cycling spiked by 52% (NY Times). To accommodate the increased ridership and facilitate social-distancing protocols while commuting for basic needs or essential work, cities add temporary bike lanes such as in Bogota, New York, Berlin or Mexico

 

Pop-Up Bike Lanes 

3. A drastic decrease in public transit usage

Bike path facilitates social distancing way better than packing people in public transportation. That is the reason why mass transit use is decreasing globally subsequently to the lockdown decisions. As observed by Ubigo, the traffic drops by 60% in Stockholm whereas the city is not confined yet. The trend is global as mentioned by Moovit:

Cities included in the chart: Israel, Madrid, SF, Roma, Chicago, NYC, Boston, Washington, Toronto

 

Transportation systems must adapt quickly during the coronavirus crisis. Here are different types of answers: 

  • Auckland introduces in-app feature which notifies passengers how many people are on a bus as the city.
  • In Vienna,  Bombardier Rail introduces enclosed driver cabins on trams to protect drivers. 
  • Other cities choses to close down the service such as in Vietnam or Dubai
  • In Dublin public transportation is restricted to essential travels (buying food, medicines, medical appointments) or for carers and essential workers. 
  • The RATP  created 20 specific lines dedicated to medical staff in Paris.

4. Limited operations for shared mobility operators

Experiencing a free-fall declines in journeys, most shared mobility players decided to pause their service. Some operators such as Wheels tackle the challenges with innovative solutions. The startup signed a partnership with NanoSceptic which turns any handlebars into self-cleaning surfaces. Others use their app to support complementary information. As local businesses have been some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19, you can now see local restaurants serving takeout and delivery in the Bird App. 

Declines in the ride-hailing business are also sharp. To counteract the effect, we could observe several initiatives. In China, Didi and Meituan are stepping up to aid the rise in demand in delivery. They deliver everything from medicine to books so people can stay indoors as much as possible. In the US, Amazon is teaming up with Lyft on recruiting its drivers. 

 

#2 The crisis could impact mobility behaviours in the long term

A renewed interest for privately owned vehicles.

The relative mistrust of shared mobility and public transportation fosters vehicle sales. In China, concerns about contamination changed the relationship to cars. 72% of Chinese living in high-risk areas who do not own a car would like to buy one. Among them, 66% are likely to buy it within 6 months. 

As people look to alternate commute option, cycling surges. VanMoof reports a 48% increase in online sales. In its recent intervention (How Coronavirus could alter the future of Cities), Horace Dediu said the outbreak is likely to accelerate the shift from shared mobility to personally owned vehicles. 

Automation acceleration

Even if the wide majority of US autonomous vehicles company halted their test, experts argue that the COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate the adoption of driverless vehicles. Indeed, they are a good way to limit human interactions. China saw a widespread adoption of autonomous technology during the lockdown: 

  • In Jiangxi province, residents got their temperatures checked through drones. Other drones check dangerous behaviours such as people not wearing masks.  
  • Regarding autonomous delivery services, Meituan powers contactless deliveries sending robots to transfer grocery or medical supplies in Beijing hospital. 
  • Police use Robots for patrolling and monitoring in Shenzhen as mentioned by Velodyne
  • Driverless sweeping vehicles (Neolix and EVARobot)  help to keep Chinese cities clean and ultraviolet autonomous robots are helping kill coronavirus in hospitals.

Stay tuned for our next episods with Stéphane Schultz, Augustin Friedel, Maureen Houel and Michal Naka!