This pandemic has upturned the soil of city life and created fertile ground on which to sow the seeds of a better future of transport. Stew Langille, Float Mobility Founder and CEO, spoke to Techonomy about how we should use this time to rethink urban transportation and demonstrated how apps like Float can be harnessed to drive the change.
Float is a two-year-old start up that began with the desire to improve people’s quality of life by building a better platform for transportation. Float achieves this by utilising AI which aggregates every single travel option and then offers information on budgeting, decision making and customized routes for travel. This makes transport accessible and individualized all whilst cutting travel times, avoiding traffic and reducing pollution. The app also empowers customers by allowing them to analyse their past trips and receive bonuses for sharing their data and discoveries.
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Cities are evolving in this Covid climate and regular routines have changed. People are working from home, socialising habits have lessened and behaviours have altered. The new term for this way of life is “Xoom towns” which refers to the increasing appeal of smaller cities due to the rise in remote work and decline in daily commute. Stew explains “people are understanding that to move about these cities in a safe way and still have some semblance of a lifestyle they had before, that we’re going to need to adjust traffic flows, traffic patterns…recreational styles and how we move about. We feel like this is something that’s going to last at least for the next couple of years”. People are reluctant to use public transport due to transmission of the virus so they’re searching for other ways to get around such as using scooters and bikes. Exploring alternatives to the status quo can protect us against current threats like the coronavirus and abate future harms such as pollution.
In order to provide the best transport alternatives, Float Mobility surveyed residents in urban centers to find out about people’s priorities. 80 percent of those surveyed want alerts for events and activities going on in their city and an app which provides overviews of the state of their city. There is also a strong desire for customized daily travel tips, the ability to track expenditure and be shown cheaper alternatives. 70 percent of users want to reduce their carbon footprint by using greener modes of transport and are happy to consider alternatives to private car ownership such as subscriptions to car-sharing clubs and fractional ownership.
Stew believes it is imperative to listen to changing behaviours, align with people’s desires and customise the app “to reflect the causes they believe in, whether that be the environment or local economy”. Float Mobility brings forth competing desires and provides a gateway for each one of them. The app’s in-built reward system honours users for being the best version of themselves and sticking to their morals, whatever those morals may be. Float prides itself on not judging people’s individual choices because they realise everyone has different needs that shouldn’t be compared. For example, single people are going to have different transportation needs than people with families and people with incomes of $100,000 will be able to afford more than those on $50,000 incomes. Float understands that people’s different budgets matter and that it has a massive knock-on effect to the type of transport they can take and how the cities runs as a whole.
Float’s main goal is about catering to all these different budgets and needs by creating a pool of data that can be shared with the city planners, who are one of the app’s key partners. Stew makes it clear “this is a city and citizen partnership for sure”.
In an understandably uncertain time, many people are feeling anxious about what the future holds and how we can move forward sustainably. Stew is optimistic that “this is the perfect storm… a once in a generational opportunity for us to improve all of our cities globally”. He points to the data that has been gathered for years prior which shows a consistently changing world. If the past is a 9-5 office routine, then the future is an amalgamation of different working times and locations.
In this shifting climate, the appetite for more liveable cities with better and alternative modes of transportation is growing and start-ups like Float will help to reignite city living for the better.