With an increasing number of people moving to big cities, clean and efficient urban mobility is more important than ever. New urban mobility schemes are rapidly evolving due to social, economic and technological changes. Against this backdrop, Galileo can deliver new accuracy and reliability for location-dependant services that get people where they need to go.
The omnipresence of smart mobile devices is allowing new business models to emerge based on the sharing of goods and services, the so-called sharing economy. The growth of the sharing economy in recent years involves a shift from the owning of goods towards accessing them when you need them. Particularly in urban settings, we now see the appearance of 'Mobility as a Service' (MaaS), enabling people to make the mobility choices that best suit their needs.
"Here's the way to think about MaaS," said Josep Maria Salanova, Senior Researcher at the Hellenic Institute of Transport. "It's like today you have your data agreement for your mobile phone; you pay a certain amount for a certain amount of data and then you can use it. With MaaS, you could have the same thing on your mobile phone, but it's a mobility credit. You will pay an amount per month and you will have access to a variety of mobility options, busses, taxis, car sharing and so on."
Galileo 4 mobility
Salanova's Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT) is part of the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH). "Under the EU-funded 'GALILEO 4 MOBILITY' project, HIT/CERTH is coordinating a pilot study in Thessaloniki," he said. "This is aimed at testing a mobile-based MaaS platform with a fleet of taxis."
Salanova explained how it works: "In Thessaloniki we have a ride sharing service. So, we are asking people who use their cars to go to work if they would like to share a taxi instead." Customers need to have a mobile phone with the ride-sharing app. They can request a one-off trip, or they can request regular transport on a scheduled basis.
Users can access all kinds of information on previous and pending trips, real-time location of their taxi, and so forth. The trip starts when they are in the taxi and they are automatically debited for the amount of mobility received.
"So what does this have to do with Galileo?" asked Salanova. "Well, when you do this it's important to know the location of the customer, because this is really a location-based service. You don't have to give an address but the taxi has to find you. They have to know where you are standing, for example maybe on what side of the road, on what corner. So we want to demonstrate that Galileo will make this system work better. In Thessaloniki we have already had cases where drivers are complaining that they can't find the customer."
There is already ample evidence to show that Galileo, especially in conjunction with other GNSS constellations, improves accuracy and location fixes in difficult real-world environments, such as in cities where urban canyons create multipath effects and obstruct views of satellites.
The Thessaloniki pilot is currently running and will run through July 2019. "We will analyse the data and then perhaps have a second round from September 2019," said Salanova.
More than a trial
The GALILEO 4 MOBILITY project encompasses a number of MaaS-oriented pilots, one of which is the Thessaloniki taxi-sharing scheme. "Overall I would say the idea of GALILEO 4 MOBILITY is to support the introduction of GALILEO technology within the Mobility as a Service context," said Martí Jofre, coordinator of the project from Pildo Labs. "We want to see if this works or not. Does Galileo bring added value? We expect yes, but we want to test this, to show this. So we have pilots in other locations and with different kinds of schemes."
And this: Satellites and the City
"In Paris we have a bicycle-sharing and a car-sharing scheme, and then we also have a number of pilots in Barcelona. With one of them we have buses and the customer can declare whether or not he is at the bus stop, and if not the bus can change its route to skip the stop. And also in Barcelona there is an autonomous shuttle at a local university using Galileo to do routes and pick-ups on the university campus. This one is not yet mature, but it is coming."
On top of actually running the pilots, Jofre said, the GALILEO 4 MOBILITY team is concerned with developing new tools for data analysis, reviewing the newest and most convincing business models, and, crucially, considering ways to accelerate the acceptance of new mobility schemes among local authorities and their use by the general public.
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