For a long time, the mobility and transportation sectors have been heavily regulated.
First, compliance with regulations determines the chance of a product to come to life. For instance, too little aerodynamics, and a vehicle might consume excessive energy or emit high levels of pollutants. Too little fuselage, and a vehicle might have reduced crashworthiness.
Second, regulations determine the way we interact with the city’s infrastructure. Drivers must follow quite a few rules, such as parking where it is allowed to, or respect hours when loading and unloading are permitted. Even pedestrians are subject to regulations, like where they can cross a street.
Last but not least, companies willing to operate mobility or services in cities must also respect a bunch of additional regulations. Taxi services must pay license fees, private transport operators must comply with service quality standards and public transit providers are strictly regulated in most cities.
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that shared mobility should be regulated as well, in order to function in a complex and very diverse environment.
There is a clear lack of alignment at the European level. During the panel, Jimmy Cliff, General Manager DACH at Dott, discussed how different European countries have issued distinct regulations for e-scooters. This is a specific case but symptomatic for much of mobility praxis in Europe.
Another issue is the limited investment in educating shared mobility riders. This is at odds with how heavily regulated the education of drivers and pilots is; to the point that in some countries the percentage of people passing their driving test on their first attempt stands between 30% and 45%.
Finally, there is little investment in physical infrastructure for shared mobility services. Despite recent reductions in parking space in cities around the world, the majority of the curb space in cities still prioritizes private vehicles. As shared mobility providers continue to operate in a diverse regulatory space, it will be up to those traveling next to e-scooter riders to ensure their safety is not compromised.
This brings me to a key similarity between regulations for shared and private mobility: policy cannot entirely guarantee the safety of riders, pedestrians, and other users. We also need to use our own common sense and start thinking about others, rather than ourselves (an uncomfortable thought, for some).
After thinking deeply about the topic, I came to two possible explanations.
To begin with, the stakes are high for shared mobility providers and their investors. Regulations that cap the number of vehicles, require them to distribute vehicles equitably or share information with the cities might well reduce providers’ chances to secure extra funding, as investors know very well that high and fast returns rarely happen in a heavily regulated environment.
Next, let’s not forget that we are looking into shared mobility with a magnifying glass. This topic has a press coverage that is disproportionate in comparison with the number of trips that are actually booked. When a new policy is being prepared and drafted all over Europe, it is important to look at actual facts and base our decisions on data, rather than making subjective assumptions based on “strong beliefs”.
For the moment, I am wondering if there is anything else as engaging as regulations for shared mobility. Not only does it touch policymakers and transport providers, but our day to day life: either as a user or in relation to one. Meanwhile, I will keep an eye on how these regulations evolve in Europe and across the world.
Founded in 2013, Trafi is a Lithuanian tech start-up. Trafi is working shoulder-to-shoulder with cities, countries, and companies worldwide to create the best in class Mobility-as-a-Service alternative for congested cities. Trafi offers cities the possibility to connect all mobility services into one single platform where users can check itineraries and also book their tickets and trips.
Trafi’s mission is to empower cities’ urban transportation with technology and know-how and encourage citizens to use more sustainable modes of transportation by accessing all services into one single platform. Trafi is currently live in 4 continents around the world and 7 cities.