18 months ago, Barney Williams and I took two separate taxis from adjacent roads to meet for a beer in a bar in Leeds City Centre. It was here that we began to develop JumpIn – a taxi booking and sharing app, tailored for students. Remarkably, we fell into two extremely topical spaces, ground transport and the sharing economy. Millions of pounds have been pumped into taxi apps, car clubs and sharing platforms of all shapes and sizes, Google invested over $250mn into Uber and no one will stop talking about the sharing economy. You can share taxis, cars, spare rooms, tasks, pets and even food. I’m by no means an expert but my passion for both industries has developed from increasing exposure to experts, progressing news stories and a feeling that we might have a part to play ourselves. Where is it all heading? I’m not sure anyone quite knows yet but one thing is certain – both spaces are set for big shake-ups. In this post, I want to focus on ground transport and the way technology is changing the way we all travel, particularly in major cities.
Let’s explore four buzzwords – sharing, venues, community and electric vehicles. The UK government has identified the sharing economy as one of the focuses for business growth over the coming years. In fact, the JumpIn team attended an event at no.10 aimed at breaking down the barriers to growth in the space, where issues such a tax, regulation and safety were discussed. People are using AirBnB to become micro-entrepreneurs – renting out spare rooms in their homes for extra cash whilst others are selling spare seats in their cars on the way to work or on long journeys. It seems like we’re finding ways to share everything – look at borrowmydoggy.com, a service that let’s you share the burden of looking after your dog with other dog lovers! We’re trying to get students to share taxis and others are doing the same with other consumer groups. The data we’ve collected is encouraging – as users book their taxis with us, we’re mapping pick-up and drop off points to show the similarity of these journeys that makes the market so suitable for sharing. To give an example, we had 18 bookings in a 1-hour period within a 0.5-mile radius of each other on a recent Friday evening, all of whom were travelling to the train station. It’s our job to pool these journeys together to provide a more convenient, sociable and price similar alternative to public transport.
Buzzword number two is venues – what I believe to be the game-changer. Venues (nightclubs, bars, restaurants, leisure venues) are willing to pay to get consumers delivered to their doorstep. Even JumpIn has proved it on a miniature scale. Successfully link venues to shared taxis/vehicles to push consumers through their doors and you’re onto a winner.
Next up is community – by this I mean the consumer sharing community and community drivers. The development of this space will undoubtedly define movements in the taxi / private hire trade. Lyft are leading the charge with community drivers and Uber are running a (loosely) similar model. These businesses are saying, let’s bypass the taxi/private hire industry and let the community drive the community. These drivers are often cheaper because they’re not regulated and the drivers can work as they please. As you can imagine, regulation is already beginning to stand in the way of growth. I personally believe that such models will disrupt the trade, certainly in cities with favourable regulation but there will always be a market for taxis / private hire vehicles in the UK. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic concept – imagine if JumpIn could allow student community drivers to drive other students?
Lastly, electric vehicles are sure to impact the industry as car manufacturers pump millions into releasing new ranges, the UK invests in infrastructure and businesses work on improving the range/convenience of running these kinds of vehicles.
How will these four buzzwords fit together? Will they further disrupt the way we travel in cities? Is it possible to see a scenario where we abandon the personal car and the traditional taxi and instead join a network of community drivers, driving electric vehicles, who share their journeys with others travelling to the same venues? There’s too much uncertainty to make a call just yet – regulation and cultural factors may stunt progress but there’s a lot of people trying their hand! If you haven’t been following the space, now’s the time to take an interest.