So called disruptive technology companies are – ironically – subject themselves to disruptions. Zahra Bahrani Fard Transportation Systems Analyst at the respected Center for Automotive Research notes that Coronavirus is hitting high-density urban areas with a ferocity completely unexpected.
“Many cities around the world are currently experiencing lockdowns and ‘shelter at home’ executive orders that have slowed the pace of urban life. Mobility is one of the industries that is being hit directly by the new pandemic in multiple aspects,” Bahrani Fard says.
Due to COVID-19, transit ridership has declined, Uber and Lyft have suspended their shared ride services, shared micro-mobility services are challenged by sanitary concerns and low ridership rates. E-commerce giants are facing unprecedented flux of online orders for household supplies and delivery needs.
“The industry needs to unleash the potential of collective intelligence and efficiently use the available resources to combat the pandemic. The mobility industry has made good technological progress over the past few years that could be used during the pandemic to provide mobility and accessibility to those who are in need, she observes.
Possible Resources and Solutions
- Automated delivery vehicles (small and van size) could fulfill the rising demand for mobility of goods, especially to those with health concerns.
- Automated delivery robots (e.g., Bedestrian) could transport medical supply and pharmaceutical products between healthcare facilities.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, a.k.a. drones) could deliver prescriptions to those who are quarantined at home and cannot go to pharmacies.
- UAVs also could be used for disinfecting micromobility vehicles.
- Digital citizen management platforms can be used by cities to manage the increased load of citizens’ contacts and interactions.
- Data-driven population vulnerability insights could help cities to serve better those with immediate needs for public services.
- Shared bikes and scooters could supplement public transit, especially in the areas that have shut down or significantly reduced transit services
- Ridesharing fleets (e.g., Uber and Lyft) could provide on-demand rides to healthcare professionals. Additionally, these companies can transport medical supplies to healthcare centers and patients who need special equipment.
- Unused airport shuttles could partner with grocery stores and schools to deliver food to seniors who are isolated at home and also to the kids who are eligible to receive free or subsidized lunch. The same approach could be applied to transit buses, where the delivery need is higher.
- Wi-Fi-enabled busses could provide digital mobility solutions and act as Wi-Fi hot-spots in the areas where the internet connection is not good.
Bahrani Fard thinks that local, state, and national agencies, technology providers, non-profits, academia, and philanthropy organizations need to work together and provide inclusive and safe mobility solutions.
“Further, given the severity of the virus for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, organizations such as AARP, National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, and the National Council on Aging should take the leadership to bring together technology providers and serve those at risk. The mobility sector can be a vital stakeholder in this challenge,” Bahrani Fard says.