Can Understanding Hourly Car Traffic Flows Improve Store Traffic?

Mobility data provider Citilabs has created what it claims is the first comprehensive map of hourly traffic flow in the U.S.

Dubbed Streetlytics, the data visualization tool leverages information from billions of data points to measure and paint what Citilabs CEO Michael Clarke says is the “most complete picture of the moving population.” In addition to hourly details of where traffic is coming from and going to, it also shows traveler demographics based on derived home locations.

Asked if there is any value for either multi-location businesses or even independent small-to-medium sized businesses from Streetlytics’ hourly traffic map, Clarke emphasized that “Streetlytics is much more than an hourly traffic map.”

“It does provide the directional volume of vehicles and people moving along every street in the US by hour and type of day (weekdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays), but it also tells business where those people live (and the associated demographic information such as income, size of household and many other attributes), as well as where those people are coming from and going to and why they are traveling (commuting to work, for example),” Clarke said.

Streetlytics also compiles the routes that people take, he added. So, for a business, let’s say a doughnut chain, Streetlytics can identify the road segment where you find the maximum number of the target market that does not currently drive within, say a quarter-mile, of one of their existing locations and/or their competitors.

“Nothing like that has existed until now—determining location based on the flow of the target market down the streets, not simply based on where the target market lives,” Clarke said.

In terms of who Streetlytics data, which hows the intensity of traffic volume on roadways in the continental USA by hour for an average work day, the underlying data and insights are applied today in advertising, insurance, real estate, retail, investment and new mobility solutions.

Hugh Malkin, director of Business Development, offers this explanation of the tool’s value: “Since Streetlytics provides the routes used for every vehicle trip, it is also a great base line or control to measure the impact of new technologies around smart cities on every road in the US. These averages can help businesses, startups, and governments spot anomalies in the new technologies they are testing to help them learn and get better faster.”

“Another example of how this information is important is that it tells businesses not only the number of people that pass in front of or near their location but the detailed characteristics of those travelers,” Clarke noted. “That is important information for helping business to align their product breadth, depth and assortment with the drive by population and for use when comparing against in-store transactional data.”

Smart Cities On The Road

The information from Streetlytics could help spur projects around the “smart cities” concept for businesses, tech companies or municipal planners, Clarke said.

In explaining the underlying value of Streetlytics to those constituencies, Clarke offered this analogy: If you were considering opening a restaurant, you would want to understand the market for your restaurant.

The big question you would have would be “Does the demand exist and does it match with what your restaurant will serve?”

When planners, businesses and tech companies consider where to put a road, a transit line, a bike path or, say, to initiate some kind of new mobility service or smart concept—they really have no clear understanding of the demand—how many people are going to and from every part of the city, by hour by day, Clarke said.

“Streetlytics provides a comprehensive view of travel demand. It tells a provider or planner how many people travel from say Riverdale to Tribeca, or Hoboken to Wall Street hour by hour and the characteristics of those people,” he said. “That’s valuable information for planners who want to have a clear understanding of not just where they have traffic jams or crowded subways, but where those people are coming from and going to so that solutions can be found that serves that market and alleviates the problem.”

“In the same way, it provides a clear understanding of the market for private enterprise to serve that demand with evolving mobility services – does this make sense for us to create such a service – what is the size and characteristics of the market?” You can think of many examples where Streetlytics can improve the ‘smartness’ of cities such as much more efficient ways of operating services and infrastructure on a daily basis, to where you should spend your maintenance budget to give the best bang for the buck,” Clarke said.

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Will Car Dealerships Survive the Coming Tide of Electric Vehicles?

The speed of disruption in the automotive industry is accelerating. In less than a decade, new on-demand services and connected cars have altered business models that had endured virtually unchanged for more than 100 years. But it’s at the dealership that one of the most profound disruptions may well take place, driven, in part, by electric vehicles (EVs). Here’s a look at how EVs may upend dealership networks and change the way we buy cars in the future.

It may be hard to believe that we are barreling full speed toward an electric car future. After all, according to industry tracking figures, the 695,000 EVs sold worldwide in 2016 didn’t even register as a blip against total vehicle sales of 84 million.

Dealer lots today are brimming with gas guzzling crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. There’s no way batteries can power those bigger vehicles anytime soon, right? Wrong. All-electric semi trucks made by Tesla may be hitting the highway as early as 2019. Walmart has already placed an order for the rigs, which will have a range of 500 miles on a single charge.

EVs are coming, in droves, and in all shapes and sizes. Sales are up 86 percent from last year in the U.S. alone. In just the past year, OPEC ramped up its long term forecast for EV adoption by five fold. Tesla, Toyota, GM, and Nissan have been early pace setters. But now most carmakers are placing their bets on an electric future.

For example, as soon as 2019, Volvo will stop selling cars with internal combustion engines. All new models will be electric or hybrid. Kia, BMW, Mercedes also have electrics either already on the road or in the works. Norway, France, the UK and China have aggressive plans to displace internal combustion cars entirely with electrics.

Indeed, in little more than two decades, EVs will make up more than half of new car sales worldwide and account for a third of all light-duty vehicles on roadways. That’s according to a recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The reason behind the soaring estimates? Plummeting battery costs coupled with higher performance.

The BNEF report projects that battery technology that cost $1000 in 2010 will fall to just $73 by 2040, making EVs cheaper to buy than traditional cars. Right now EVs are already cheaper at the pump — or in this case the outlet — than gas vehicles saving car owners $300-$1200 a year on average.

Dealerships taking blows on all sides

From today’s vantage point, car dealers appear to be thriving. Sales are up across all makes and models. But just how prepared are dealerships for the coming wave of EVs? And more to the point, might the rise of electric cars spell the end of car dealerships as we know them? Here’s a look at multiple body blows dealerships face as electrics gain traction.

  • Declining service revenues. Car dealers today make the biggest chunk of income—44 percent, according to Forbes—from parts and service. When it comes to EVs, that’s a real problem, because they require very little in the way of traditional auto maintenance. Their electric motors and single-speed drive trains eliminate the need for oil changes, transmission fluid and radiator coolant checks, drive belt and air filter replacements and many other income-generating services dealerships now take for granted. As the shift to electrics picks up speed, dealerships will be under increasing pressure to make up those lost maintenance revenues.
  • Demand for dual expertise. Electric vehicles will most certainly grow in number in the coming years. But they won’t completely displace combustion-engine cars for many decades, if then. So for the foreseeable future, auto dealers will need to be adept at selling and servicing both types of vehicles. The challenge with EVs is that while they’re relatively simple from a mechanical standpoint, electronically they’re incredibly complex. Their battery systems rely heavily on software, smart sensors and onboard computers to keep things running smoothly. Fixing problems when things go wrong requires specialized technical chops. Might dealerships need to support two parallel service departments?
  • Direct selling. Tesla has taken the connected car concept to a whole new level. Because its cars have such simplified drive trains, new features can be added to an existing car through a software download sent over the air (OTA). No need to come in to a dealership. Indeed, with Tesla, there are no dealers at all. Its cars are sold directly. As other automakers roll out electric vehicles of their own along with OTA advancements that give them direct line of sight to car owners, will the need for traditional car dealerships become obsolete?

The end of the road for car dealers?

In isolation, perhaps no one of these body blows stands to alter the landscape for car dealers. But fending off all three at once? That’s a formidable prospect. Especially when you consider that traditional dealerships and their associated OEMs still lack critical infrastructure to compete in the brave new world of electric vehicles. And the clock is ticking.

If projections for EV adoption are accurate, then clearly car dealerships won’t be able to remain who they are for much longer. As they scramble to make up losses from traditional revenue streams, look for car dealers to begin testing out new purchasing and ownership arrangements in the months and years ahead. Many, like Audi and Subaru, are already updating their backend systems to accommodate new per-usage pricing and other self-service options.

When considered alongside other disruptions roiling the auto industry—car sharing, on demand, connected vehicles, self-driving cars—electric vehicles just may be the domino that accelerates the upending of traditional dealership networks.

*Brendan O’Brien, chief innovation officer and co-founder of Aria Systems, a software company that provides cloud-based billing services for companies such as digital mapping platform HERE, ride-sharing provider Zipcar, Suburu, and others.

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Google Parent Alphabet Leads $1 Billion Funding In Lyft

Ride-hailing app Lyft has secured a $1 billion funding round from CapitalG,  the investment fund run by Google parent Alphabet, as the company seeks to capitalize on the rise of on-demand as its rival Uber works to recover from its various executive controversies and turmoil of the past year.

In a blog post on Lyft’s site, the company added that CapitalG Partner David Lawee is being added to the ride-hailing app’s board.

The deal suggests a growing shift in favor of Lyft by Google, which is also an investor in Uber. The move toward Lyft comes several months after Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary, Waymo, began partnering with Lyft on autonomous vehicles. Alphabet and Uber have been involved in a battle over intellectual property over the development of sensors for self-driving cars during the past year.

And while Uber is still the number one ride-hailing service, despite being banned from London, Lyft points out that this past year has been very successful. In its blog post, the company notes that that its service is now available to 95 percent of the U.S. population — up from 54 percent at the beginning of the year.

“While we’ve made progress towards our vision, we’re most excited about what lies ahead. The fact remains that less than 0.5 percent of miles traveled in the U.S. happen on rideshare networks,” Lyft’s statement says. “This creates a huge opportunity to best serve our cities’ economic, environmental, and social futures.”

Lyft has also been aggressively courting marketing partnerships with brands such as Taco Bell. The two collaborated on a “taco mode” campaign this past July.

Before that, General Motors’ app-based Maven program, is now in about 20 cities across the U.S. and Canada, struck a deal with Lyft in Atlanta as the auto brand seeks to expand the year-old car-sharing effort. A year ago, Lyft and Jet Blue also partnered to bring travelers service from the airport their their door.

As the role of geo-data supports the connection between online and offline, the auto industry will be at the center of the changing interactions between places of business and consumers. And that’s what underlies this funding in Lyft right now.

Carmakers’ future success will be measured in “miles traveled” as opposed to the number of cars actually sold, Adam Jonas, head of global auto research for Morgan Stanley, has opined in a study of the impact of driverless and connected cars will have on the automotive industry.

By 2030, cars will drive more than 19.6 billion miles globally — considerably higher than the 10.2 billion they traveled in 2015, Jonas has estimated. It’s worth noting that the pace of growth is much higher than the estimated production of cars and light vehicles during the same period.

“The natural solution appears to be more shared vehicles,” Jonas said. “Shared cars—taxis and cars operated by ride-sharing companies, but not car rental—in 2015 accounted for 4 percent of global miles traveled, but by 2030, Morgan Stanley estimates that number could reach 26 percent.”

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How General Motors Is Expanding Its Shared Mobility Project Maven

In less than two years, General Motors’ app-based Maven program has spread across 17 cities and extended into three branches: the general car-sharing option Maven City, followed by Maven Home, which is a ridesharing program for residential buildings and communities, and Maven Gig, which launched in May to provide cars for independent freelancers working as couriers for on-demand platforms.

The buildup of the Maven shared mobility concept touches on the rapid changes that automakers have been racing to make as the notion of transportation itself is evolving. From self-driving cars to connected cars, plus the expansion of ride-hailing programs from Uber and Lyft becoming more mainstream, automakers like GM have been racing to explore new business models.

We checked in with Peter Kosak, executive director of Urban Active Solutions for General Motors, to get a sense of what’s currently shaping its technological vision generally and its Maven brand specifically.

GeoMarketing: How would you describe Maven’s expansion this past year (both in terms of cities and drivers)?

Peter Kosak: Maven is a healthy startup within General Motors. In 17 months (announced January 2016) the team has launched a company, brand and three consumer products: . Maven is active in 17 cities in North America with at least one product offering: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Jersey City, N.J.; Los Angeles; Nashville, New York City; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz., San Diego; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Approximately 50,000 members have driven more than 150 million miles and we are seeing strong early adoption and utilization in the markets.

What are the main growth drivers of Maven’s business and how do you expect that to change (or simply continue and accelerate) in the next few years?

The notion of transportation as a service is beginning to take hold, and Maven has positioned itself at the forefront of that conversation. Maven started as a service tailored to luxury residential properties in New York. Residential developers in major cities are looking to provide amenities beyond, say, a gym or a coffee house, and those developers are looking increasingly to offer transportation.

Maven Home already has a business model and infrastructure in place to provide open car sharing for consumers and businesses.

Maven Gig is also playing an important role for the core business of General Motors. In addition to exposing drivers and passengers to the GM portfolio, Maven Gig is helping to manage residual values by creating a new lifecycle for low-mileage, off-rental and off-lease vehicles that otherwise would have gone to auctions.

Maven continues to make progress toward previously announced plans related to an integrated, on-demand autonomous network for ridesharing.

What are some of goals and priorities Maven has over the next six months into 2018?

During the past 17 months the team has been hyper-focused on launching markets and new products.

Maven will continue to expand to additional cities in the future but the focus for the near-term will be on continuing to grow our footprint in existing markets. We announced previously that Maven Gig will expand to Los Angeles in the coming months and we expect it to continue to grow and expand to other cities.

At this time, there are no additional cities to announce for any of the three products.

How will the general idea of personal mobility/shared mobility impact dealerships and car buying?

General Motors, at its core, is a company that manufactures and sells automobiles. The core business model will remain intact.

However, Maven and the notion of personal/shared mobility is helping GM to reimagine a future where GM is the leader in the share of miles driven, regardless of traditional vehicle ownership, car sharing or ridesharing.

The infrastructure our team has built for Maven City and Maven Home car sharing is also providing valuable insights to inform the next stage of mobility.

Is there any relationship or connection or influence between car buying and personal/shared mobility? That is, are Maven drivers likely to become car owners, ultimately, or do they largely represent a completely separate and new market from car buyers?
Car sharing and ride sharing are complementary to ownership.

Maven is practical for residents of big cities who may not own a personal vehicle but still have unmet transportation needs that go beyond public transit. Maven City car sharing is providing options for this demographic and also helping GM to reach a new audience: millennials. Nearly 80 percent of our members are millennials- and they are coming from cities where GM typically has low market share.

Although a 25-year-old living in Manhattan may not have a need to purchase a vehicle today, that person may use Maven to reserve a new Chevrolet Tahoe for short trips to big box stores, or a Cadillac XT5 for date night in the city. Then when it comes time to move to the suburbs and start a family that person will, hopefully, remember a positive experience in a GM vehicle and could become a customer for life.

Peter Kosak, executive director of Urban Active Solutions for General Motors

Is there any relationship between Maven and connected home/smart home digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, etc…?

There is no integration between Maven and these services at this time.

Does Maven formally work with any artificial intelligence platforms to develop programs and marketing for drivers?

Not at this time.

Does Maven work with any third-party location intelligence/mapping platforms?

GM has more than 20 years of experience delivering connectivity and personal service to our customers through OnStar.

Maven leverages OnStar advisors and turn-by-turn directions to enhance the car sharing experience. Additionally, all Maven vehicles come equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing members to bring their personal lives and apps into the vehicle during the reservation.

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Rental Car Brands Avis And Hertz Shift Gears To Self-Driving

As a range of car manufacturers like General Motors roll out more connected car features and evolve their approach to shared mobility, car rental brand Avis Budget Group and its rival Hertz are working to make sure they doesn’t get caught behind all the technological changes.

Like any other company that depends on getting its customers from one place to another, Avis and Hertz recognize they’re operating in the transportation industry, not just the car rental business.

So rather than follow once car manufactures like General Motors, with its growing Maven shared-mobility program, or Audi, which recently acquired airport-focused and app-based auto rental startup Silvercar, the two are starting to explore their respective options with self-driving cars.

On Monday, Avis signed a “multi-year agreement” to begin working with Google parent Alphabet’s Waymo autonomous vehicle experiment.

The Avis deal calls for the rental car company to support Waymo’s “growing” autonomous vehicle fleet as well as Waymo’s early rider program, a public trial of its self-driving cars in Phoenix, Arizona.

Waymo recently announced that it is adding hundreds of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to build a 600-vehicle fleet. This partnership will allow Avis Budget Group to service Waymo’s growing number of cars on the road, “ensuring Waymo’s self-driving vehicles are ready for riders around the clock,” the company said in a release.

“With members of the public using our growing fleet of self-driving cars, our vehicles need standard maintenance and cleaning so they’re ready for our riders at any time of the day or night,” said John Krafcik, chief executive officer, Waymo. “Avis Budget Group is an ideal partner to provide fleet support and maintenance. With thousands of locations around the world, Avis Budget Group can help us bring our technology to more people, in more places.”

“We are excited to partner with Waymo, the self-driving technology leader that is changing the mobility landscape in a profoundly transformative and beneficial manner,” said Larry De Shon, president and chief executive officer, Avis Budget Group. “Not only does this partnership enable us to leverage our current capabilities and assets, but it also allows us to accelerate our knowledge and hands-on experience in an emerging area as Waymo-enabled self-driving cars become available in the marketplace.”

Hertz Drives With Apple

Separately, Bloomberg News reported that Apple began leasing Lexus RX450h sport-utility vehicles from Hertz’s Donlen fleet-management unit in April, citing to documents released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Bloomberg report pointed to restive investors’ growing concerns about the role rental car companies will play in the autonomous vehicle future that appears to be fast approaching.

Even more than Hertz and Avis, Apple is also trying to keep pace with self-driving cars. With Amazon and Google ahead of the Cupertino company in powering voice-activated assistants within the connected home, Apple’s Project Titan, the name for its self-driving program, is perceived as lagging its rivals’ efforts in that area.

Still, Apple’s got a vastly different focus that might allow it to ultimately strike when the autonomous car moment is particularly hot. Instead of building its own autonomous cars, the company is mainly interested in providing the software that powers other brands’ vehicles.

In that sense, the race for the autonomous car is chaotic, and each brand is approaching it from the perspective of its own set challenges and strengths.

Avis’s Connected Car Commitment

Over the past year, Avis has struck a number of partnerships designed to allay those concerns and position it at the table for whatever shape the autonomous vehicle future arrives in.

Back in May, Avis touted its commitment to the connected car, saying that 50,000 more vehicles becoming fully connected by early 2018, more than doubling the number of connected vehicles in the Avis fleet. I

“This investment will bring the total of connected cars in the Avis fleet to nearly 100,000,” said Arthur Orduña, chief innovation officer, Avis Budget Group, at the time. “It will also ensure that we remain at the forefront of our industry and will bring us one step closer to realizing what we believe is the future of car rental for our customers.”

Roadmap To The Self-Driving Car Future

After Uber and Alphabet/Google stepped up investments in autonomous cars, traditional car companies and electronics manufacturers reacted quickly to form alliances and stakes in companies to ensure that they, too, don’t get left behind.

For most consumers at the moment, the idea of a driverless car still seems like science fiction — and along with the uncertainty of buying wearables, it’s not certain that people are clamoring for a virtual chauffeur. But then again, before the iPhone, how many people considered taking photos of themselves with their phones or pressing a button for food delivery and payment — or order a car service, for that matter.

As the technological hurdles are being dealt with on the road to the driverless car, a variety of major automotive manufacturers, electronics companies, and tech platforms appear all in on the idea of “if you build it, they will come.”

And for Avis and Hertz, along with all entities across the auto industry, if they’re not part of the building it, they’re likely to be stranded when the mainstream expectation fully emerges.

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General Motors’ Maven Gig Arrives In San Fran To Support On-Demand Economy

Maven Gig, the offshoot brand of General Motors’ multi-city shared-mobility, subscription-based project Maven, is moving into its second city to provide cars for independent freelancers who need wheels.

The first Maven Gig service was launched in May in San Diego. The primary Maven car rental service has been operating on-demand ride-sharing rentals in San Francisco since August 2016. More than 20 million miles have been driven under the Maven brand in San Francisco and nearly 1 million rides have been given.

In February, Atlanta became the 17th city to host GM’s experiment in car-sharing conjunction with Lyft Express Drive, the ride-hailing platform’s rental car business. Since then, Maven has expanded its presence in New York City and Baltimore.

As concepts from self-driving cars to connected cars, along with the expansion of ride-hailing programs from Uber and Lyft, become more mainstream, automakers like GM have been racing to explore new business models.

Maven Gig is available in San Francisco and San Diego. Drivers can sign up online.

Supporting The Gig Economy

The rise of on-demand services from ride-hailing to food delivery to even laundry and dry cleaning pick-up has made freelancing viable for many people seeking part-time work or trying to support themselves in between full-time jobs.

Naturally, the nature of work in the gig economy has also multiplied the challenges for independent contractors. For one thing, a car is a necessity not easily supported by the wages most delivery people make.

That’s where GM’s Maven Gig has stepped in. The Maven Gig has formal partnerships with food-delivery platforms like GrubHub, Instacart, as well as courier and shipping service Roadie, along with ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber.

The company is working on expanding its list of on-demand partners as it seeks to ramp up the program.

“By 2020, an estimated 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be made up of freelance workers,” Maven Gig says. “The nature of employment is changing, and Maven Gig is a nimble platform that will grow and adapt with the shift.”

Freelancers who subscribe to Maven Gig in San Francisco are offered access to a Chevrolet Bolt EV on a weekly basis starting at $229 per-week — plus taxes (including insurance, maintenance and free charging at EVGo stations for a “limited time”).

“Gig drivers typically drive for more than one app throughout the day,” GM notes. “Maven Gig is platform agnostic to allow drivers to switch between several brands, services and gigs.”

Other GM cars available in the SF Maven Gig program include the Chevrolet Cruze ($189/week plus taxes), Malibu ($199/week plus taxes) and Trax ($209/week plus taxes).

The program is particularly aimed at those Gig Economy workers who juggle several platforms for their assignments. GM is positioning Maven Gig as “a low-risk way to test the freelance economy and maximize earning potential by transitioning between multiple on-demand services.”

The company also says its continuing to experiment with pricing and will adjust offerings based on the gig economy and driver needs.

As restaurants increasingly rely on on-demand delivery apps to provide a new revenue stream and supplement in-dining experiences, GM is betting that companies will rush to find ways to make it easier to build constant sources of delivery people.

“Freelancers in the sharing economy want flexibility and Maven Gig is a seamless way to maximize opportunities,” said Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility Strategy for Maven. “If the driver has a lull on one service they can easily flip to another and keep hustling.”


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