Ohio State a Hot Spot for Transportation as a Service Research

Posted: October 25, 2019

TaaS concept image
Today vehicles are typically operated with one driver as the primary passenger. However, future mobility models will include shared vehicle assets, multiple passengers, driverless shared passenger options and a multitude of various service offerings and programs. Researchers at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) along with platinum CAR Consortia member, Equimobility, a micro mobility platform focused on getting people where they need to go, are working together to look at the unique, potentially catalytic role that near-urban campuses and especially college campuses, like Ohio State’s, will play in the accelerated adoption of new transportation as a service (TaaS) models.

CAR Research Specialist, BJ Yurkovich, who is leading the project and Equimobility President, Robert Lane, sat down to discuss why this project is so important and Ohio State’s unique role in it.

Q. Why is a project like this so important? What impact might this have on the case for change?

A. Initial mobility models have focused on leveraging the underutilization of personal transportation assets with mixed results, essentially providing a marketplace to monetize non-cash vehicle ownership costs such as depreciation. Going forward, new TaaS models will need to motivate transportation consumers to spend their $300-1,000/month transportation budgets in new ways that favor smaller personal fleets and higher utilization of shared mobility transportation models.

Q. What are a few of the biggest challenges and obstacles to getting research results?

A. One of the biggest challenges will be identifying the key drivers for change and to properly understand consumer, business and technology adoption rates. For example, grocery delivery looks ubiquitous to the naked eye - but less than 3% of grocery revenues come through ecommerce or delivery channels. Transportation is no different. The future of transportation isn’t one person in one car, or even one driver and one passenger in one car, but that is where we largely find ourselves today.

Q. Who are the key stakeholders?

A.  Key stakeholders include OEMs, mobility services companies, providers of key mobility interconnection infrastructure (public and private), near-urban college campuses and other campus environments (healthcare, manufacturing, distribution/logistics, etc.).

Q. What are the project's greatest assets?  How can you best leverage those assets?

A. The three assets that are unique are 1) Ohio State's large, near urban campus, 2) Ohio State’s Transportation and Traffic Management’s mobility assets and data and 3) CAR's experience as a cross-functional center dealing with mobility systems and strategies (including active participation in Smart Columbus and Smart@OhioState).

Q. What barriers or challenges have you, or the industry encountered in the past about this issue?

A. Unclear policies and short-term profit objectives have made it difficult for the industry to cut the internal combustion engine (ICE) cord and fully commit to electrification, autonomy and significant changes in the future of vehicle ownership (for at least 20% of the national fleet). Now the industry has made the commitment to strategically restructure in favor of electrification, autonomy and mobility services. There is no going back. The industry must accelerate adoption of TaaS to meet its goals and avoid creating a strategic “no man's land” where private vehicle ownership persists and mobility services are poorly utilized.

Q. What are some of the important decisions that will need to be made?

A. The focus in Phase 1 of the project is benchmarking Ohio State’s campus environment and hypothesis development/recommendations from a TaaS evolution perspective. Phase 2 is where particular consumer, technology and market drivers will be measured, evaluated and further quantified (both adoption rates and quantifying the measurable outcomes will be achieved by impacting near urban mobility systems through those drivers).

Q. What is your personal passion about this project? What will it mean to you when you succeed?

A. OEMs are completely vehicle focused today. In 20-30 years, they may be much more services oriented. OEMs will have to remain relevant in the industry throughout this tectonic shift. How we develop the next generation of mobility services, how dealerships are transformed into mobility interconnection services and how mobility expense is seamlessly managed and optimized for consumers has yet to be fully discovered. The development of a new managed mobility network has all the same potential of the telecommunications and cellular/mobile communications transformation that took place earlier in this century and is arguably just as important to the development and sustainability of the community as it is to the convenience of the individual.

Q. Why is CAR particularly well positioned to lead this effort at Ohio State? 

A. CAR is well positioned with ties to the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, Smart@OhioState, the CAR Industrial Membership Consortium, DriveOhio and more to bring a unique perspective to the evolution of mobility-forward, near urban campus environments in the Midwest. Proximity and contacts within the industry will allow OEM’s and infrastructure providers to gain some early insights in to which TaaS models will quantitatively work and why.