Why are the territories rushing to replace their demand-responsive transit systems?

demand-responsive transit

Because dynamic demand-responsive transit is to DRT what the smartphone is to the landline phone: a solution that makes its ancestor outdated, thanks the combination of technology and intelligence, in line with the changing uses.

A cheaper and more accessible shared mobility solution

Historically linked to senior public and mobility impaired people, demand-responsive transit is now opened to all audiences. Leisure, studies, shopping, employment… Suitable to all territories and scales, dynamic demand-responsive transit offers new opportunities for communities:

  • Flexible and intelligent, dynamic DRT ensures a significant decrease in operating costs and carbon footprint.
  • More accessible, it guarantees social inclusiveness by addressing the issues of precariousness-mobility, mainly in peri-urban and rural areas, while being compatible with the transport of mobility impaired people.
  • In sync with mobility innovations, it saves time for people.

Despite its many advantages, DRT suffers from the image of the aged demand-responsive transit solutions deployed decades ago: heavy in terms of investment, long to deploy and complex to operate.

Technological advances, particularly the optimization of journeys in real time thanks to artificial intelligence, make it an extremely easy mobility solution to implement.

Demand-responsive transit: a simple and fast solution to deploy

Nowadays, thanks to technological innovations, new turnkey solutions are being developed to answer more effectively the needs of territories and users.

Unlike other systems, SaaS demand-responsive transit solutions simplify service implementation and ease day-to-day network management:

  • No installation is required on the computers. The acquisition cost is significantly reduced, as well as the cost of maintenance and updates.
  • These solutions offer great freedom of use, since they can be accessed from any connected device.
  • The tools are hosted on secured servers: maintenance and service guarantee are greatly improved
  • The needs of the territory covered define the functionalities to which users have access.

In addition, SaaS demand-responsive transit solutions do not involve any disruption for end users. Indeed, these tools can coexist with older systems, such as reservation centrals that access reservation interfaces. Users may also prefer a mobile application to book their trips. As for drivers, they can follow in real time the evolution of their journey via the application.

To determine the outlines of the best offer to deploy, some solutions provide simulation tools to study a given territory beforehand: number of vehicles, number of stops, service models, etc…

Depending on the customization required, the deployment of a SaaS demand-responsive transit tool last from 1 to 3 months. The data collected during operation help to improve the service permanently and to study new approaches to evolve the demand-responsive transit network.

Ready to give up your wire? Find out about Padam Mobility’s on-demand transport solutions here.

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From Smart Mobility to Fair Mobility with Demand Responsive Transport

Smart Mobility

Urban development, geo-tracking and mobile applications primacy, ridesharing, big data, 5G, connected and smart cities… these are all the terms related to the urban services in the future. Tomorrow’s cities will be more connected, smarter and more responsive. A societal transformation that is very interesting to follow, because while the most educated, connected, buying-powered population who master the digital ecosystems will be the one who will benefit the most, we must also ensure that we do not forget all other citizens, including people with reduced mobility, senior citizens and residents without transport service coverage. To be relevant, “smart” mobility must therefore be inclusive. Between smart mobility and fair mobility, the nuance is important and can contribute to make our society more just and fair. Let’s explain why.

Smart Mobility: intelligent and efficient, but far from perfect

Smart mobility means the use of new technologies (real-time data collection, processing and analysis) for transportation. It is, for example, a way of finding the right route at the right time, anticipating traffic difficulties, and connecting physical things (bridges, roads, traffic lights, street lighting, parking, etc.) to a digital interface in order to create new applications and use cases.

It’s quite hard to dissociate smart mobility from smart city. Although its contours are changing, the smart city is above all an ambition driven by public and private players who are committed to a more inclusive, connected and responsive urban planning project that can have a competitive advantage in terms of economic development in an increasingly globalized world.

In his report to the Prime Minister in spring 2017, Luc Belot, then deputy in Maine-et-Loire, set out 3 main principles of the smart city:

  • Organise real governance: a structure that brings together elected representatives, the administration, postsecondary education and economic players for cross-cutting policies.
  • Ensure sovereignty and avoid privatization: crucial issues for territories to keep control of data, tools, applications and software, with an emphasis on standardization and reversibility.
  • Ensure an inclusive city: giving a place to each citizen, without social or digital divides, and moving from a user-centric to a citizen-centric approach.

In reality, however, smart cities are mainly linked to megacities with a young, active, urban and connected population. Unintentionally, this term excludes certain parts of the population for economic, social, urban planning and physical reasons. So smart mobility is supposed to be inclusive on paper, but in reality this is not always true. Hence the importance of being vigilant to avoid gaps between intentions and concrete actions.

There are, fortunately, some counterexamples, such as the city of Medellín in Colombia, described as the most innovative city in the world by the Wall Street Journal in 2012, which proves that you can be a smart city without being a tech city.

Why make mobility more inclusive?

Why move from a premium and exclusive model to an accessible and inclusive one? There is clearly an emergency as shown by the alarming datas from the Ministry of Transport:

  • 12% of sensitive urban areas are not served by any transport network.
  • One in two people in professional integration has already refused a job or training because of mobility problems.
  • One French person in three has mobility problems and is threatened with social exclusion.

Intelligent and purely technological mobility only makes sense if it can include the entire population in a logic that is more human than economic. This is the reason why smart mobility has become fair mobility. To achieve this, technological intelligence must be a tool and not an end. What matter is the goal. If we simplify the lives of only 10% of the inhabitants of a city with a smart city, we de facto exclude the remaining 90%.

Demand-responsive transport (DRT): a solution to move from Smart Mobility to Fair Mobility

Demand-reponsive transport (or DRT) has the ability to transform intelligent transportation into sustainable, social and human mobility. Outside dense and urban areas, it can be difficult to travel by public transport. Not enough users, complex traffic, few commercial or tourist locations… the current model is not designed to be fair. And if things are already complicated during the day, imagine the challenges of travelling at night, especially for workers with staggered hours.

Demand-responsive transport is a public transport system like any other, with a shuttles or buses, but with routes and stops set according to users’ reservations. Here, no vehicle runs empty and routes are optimized.

Public transport does much more than transporting passengers. They are the links that connect and bring territories together. They make life easier for people, create economic value and develop responsibly thanks to the digital revolution that is transforming our society. When technology is at the service of all, mobility can become smart and fair.

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Demand-Responsive Transport : Why aren’t they all equal? The reservation channels

Demand-Responsive Transports: reservation channels

There are many types of Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT). They  vary both on the service and on the reservation method. Although it may seem anecdotal, the differences are significant and the results too. How to navigate? We light up the situation with a couple of articles. Today let’s talk about the different reservation channels.

The performance of a Demand-Responsive Transport management system is often reduced to its algorithm. While it is crucial, it is not the only success factor for a DRT.

The importance of the reservation channels

We should not underestimate the importance of reservation channels and their ergonomics. Most of the time, the single or main Demand-Responsive Transport reservation channel is a call center: you have to contact a service by telephone to book your seat. This fits well to the uses of a part of the population: the elderly. They are not comfortable on the internet and have the time to make a call during the day to book their trip. For the rest, several disadvantages must be taken into account:

  • Users can only make reservations during defined time period on daytime. But we rarely plan our trips during the day. We think about them either on the evening or on the morning. On average on our service, 46% of the reservations are made before or after in the evening.
  • Teenagers and young adults do not like making phone calls (source in French)
  • Reservation by phone requires agents to take reservations. As a result, the more people who use the service, the more switchboard operators.
The advantages of online reservation

More and more networks have taken the measure of these disadvantages and offer the possibility to book by internet. This limits the staff needed to manage reservations and allows users to book their trip at any time. However, it will be necessary to think of a mobile version of the booking wesite at the risk of missing out more than the half of the traffic: in France, there are more Internet users to connect via their smartphone than their computer (Source in French).

Finally, since more recently, some communities offer an online booking, by phone but also via a booking app. This is for example the case of TAD Ile-de-France Mobilités.

Why favoring the reservation by app?
  • In France, 73% of French people own a smartphone according to the Digital Barometer of 2017.
  • Smartphone users spend more than 85% of their time on their smartphone to use an app (Source in French).
  • Apps allow to make more sophisticated and complete interfaces while requiring a less qualitative Internet connection.
  • Communication with users is facilitated. Thanks to the notifications it is possible to warn the user when his van is about to arrive; to inform him in real time about his situation (arrival time, delay or possible advance) and ask him to rate his experience at the end of his trip.

In rural areas, an ergonomic and well-designed website and a call center should be enough to meet the demand on one hand. On the other hand, if your audience is made up of smartphone users (service within peri-urban areas, industrial sites, activity areas , railway stations, airports and residential areas), we highly recommend the use of mobile apps as a reservation channel.

What do the users expect?

The wave of Uber, Lyft and other chauffeur-driven cars services have shown how far booking a trip can be easy. Users expect an interface with same quality for public transport. Setting up such an offer is quickly rewarded. A well-designed application can channel almost all bookings and  help saving money for managing them. As an example, on the Demand-Responsive Transport services that use the Padam Mobility platform, more than 90% of the reservations go through the app.

Under the name “Demand-Responsive Transport” there is therefore, on the one hand, a service which must be reserved the day before by telephone and, on the other hand, a service which can be reserved via an app. Not all solutions fit to all uses cases, and choosing the right tool is a crucial step for the success of a Demand-Responsive Transport service.


Read more about Padam Mobility Demand-Responsive Transport solutions

Read more about other parameters to keep in mind when choosing a Demand-Responsive Transport solution



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The future of urban mobility

Urban mobility

Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon. These are the most congested French cities according to a study by Inrix. In France, traffic jams cost drivers nearly 20 billions euros in time lost, over-consumption of fuel, equipment wear and tear and unproductiveness caused by delays. This is not the only issue when it comes to mobility. Large cities are also saturated by pollution when peripheral territories struggle to develop sustainable transport solutions. One thing is certain: the future of mobility contraste with the last fifty years model. If we can’t eradicate the car overnight, we can change its use. And that’s just one solution among many. Let’s project ourselves into the future of urban mobility.

Tomorrow, a greener urban mobility

Hybrid cars are already a reality. Tomorrow, it could be the dawn of electric vehicles. If they already exist, the technology is still in development. Every year, manufacturers improve battery power, battery life and vehicle options. However, the market maturation can only be achieved when the charging stations are available in sufficient number. Urban equipment adapts, but it may take time. Fortunately The LOM (Mobility Orientation Act) law imposes strict rules : charging stations will be mandatory in all car parks with more than ten spaces, in new or renovated buildings, as well as in all car parks with more than 20 parking spaces in non-residential buildings by 2025.

When it comes to green mobility, Norway is an inspiring example. For the first time in history, more than half of the new cars sold in Oslo are electric and the city is now considered the world capital of electric vehicles.

Tomorrow, a shared urban mobility

A car spends on average 95% of its time on stop. This huge indicator highlights the importance of the transition from the era of possession to the era of use. The trend is to leave the individual car for new solutions. For instance, car sharing, private rentals and carpooling are alternatives that promote shared mobility. The car becomes a way of locomotion like any other, and is no longer seen as an extension of its property or home.

In Canada, Vancouver is considered the car-sharing capital in North America. In total, more than 3,000 shared vehicles cross the road every day, and the demand for public transit is growing. Travel patterns are changing and communities need to adapt.

Tomorrow, a smart mobility

As a result of technological progress and a new ecological, social and societal craze, Smart Cities are now buildings, neighborhoods or entire cities that are connected, semi-autonomous and intelligent. Through the AI development and data processing, mobility generates and uses a large amount of data to optimize its operations and which can serve many causes, such as:

  • The real-time availability of parking spaces.
  • Better traffic management with smart traffic lights.
  • A more efficient sharing of public space.
  • Public transport schedules respected and updated in real time.
  • The emergence of autonomous cars.

Intelligent mobility depends closely on the evolution of technologies: big data, cloud computing, geofencing, 5G, etc. The more communities integrate these innovations into their projects, the more effective mobility can be.

Tomorrow, a plural mobility

Despite the efforts of the territories, it is impossible to satisfy everyone in terms of mobility. The future is therefore a better complementarity of transport modes. You can drive to a station, take a bike out of your trunk to catch the train, and once you arrive at your destination station, you can cycle to work. With shared data and optimized software solutions, tomorrow’s intermodality will be fluid and latency-free.

In the United States, entrepreneur Elon Musk (Space X, Tesla, Hyperloop…) explores underground traffic with his new company “The Boring Company”. He wants to dig tunnels under cities that will be used by cars on smart platforms. Projects are being tested in California and several contracts are under discussion in particular in Chicago and Las Vegas.

Urban mobility is a subject that structures the organization and future of our society. And its future looks bright to connect all territories, reduce the social divide, make travel cleaner and transform knowledge and technology into a lever for performance.

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Artificial Intelligence for all territories!

Intelligence artificielle

Les Echos” Societies on May 29, 2018.

The startups growth model often consists of proving its viability in a large metropolis and then exporting from one capital to another in order to capture the biggest markets in priority. The global race between startups sometimes leaves out a large part of the population, who do not live in hyper centers.

Are there any “business models” to make technology more accessible?

The chauffeur driven car platforms, based on connecting customers with a community of independent drivers, have conquered all the major cities in just a few years. But this business model restricts them to expand in other territories, where such communities cannot subsist. The underlying technology and customer experience are great inventions that should benefit everyone.

By finding the right business models, such as Software As A Service – or even working with public actors! – these technologies can be spreaded in all territories (rural, semi-urban) and still experience hyper-growth.

Are the big metropolises always the most important markets?

Concerning the mobility, it is mainly in medium dense areas where the need is the greatest: public transport is harder to optimize and expensive, where heavy infrastructure is not viable.

Many innovations find their market first in remote territories or with less infrastructure. This is the case for mobile payment in Africa, delivery by drone or telemedicine. Let’s also bet that autonomous vehicles will primarily benefit semi-urban areas, where roads are less complex and the cost of mobility is higher!

Original article published on the front page of Les Echos Societies

Grégoire Bonnat, President of Padam

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The MAAS in Helsinki, the pioneer of a new urban mobility?


A unique app and a single pricing granting access to all transport modes available in the city: this is how Helsinki, pioneer of Mobility as a Service (MaaS), intends to revolutionize urban transport.

For the past two years, getting around the City of Helsinki has been as simple as a click. By connecting to “Whim”, locals and visitors enter their route and are offered the combination of transport most suited to their needs and preferences. The same app also allows them to pay for their journey either individually or through various subscription packages.

This is the principle of MaaS, Mobility as Service, which helps users seeking above all for the most effective way to move, regardless of the transport modes employed. Users thus choose one of the routes proposed by the app, and pay the price including the use of all the necessary modes (the various public transport, of course, but also taxis, car rental or even self-service bikes). It is no longer a question of choosing between individual transport, public transport, on-demand transport, soft mode or shared mobility: the app offers everything, instantly.

One goal: abandon the individual car

“While the user had to adapt to the constraints of the different transport operators, it is now transport that is at the service of the user”.
A single operator, a single ticket, a route booked and paid via smartphone: we measure the extent of progress for the user, in terms of saving time, flexibility and comfort. For public authorities too, this new way of thinking about mobility is revolutionizing transport policy. With its 1.5 million inhabitants, the City of Helsinki faced the same problem as most European capitals: a continuous population growth and a too high proportion on people using their car. There was an urgent need to curb traffic congestion and the resulting health consequences in terms of pollution. In light of this, the Finnish metropolis has embarked on an ambitious plan for 2025, taking advantage of an innovative ecosystem. MaaS Global, the start-up that creates the Whim app, is itself from Helsinki, displaying its solution in the Finnish capital, before successfully spreading it elsewhere in Europe, notably in Antwerp and Birmingham.

MaaS in Helsinki: the conditions for the emergence of these new services

The goal of the City of Helsinki is to see its inhabitants abandon their individual cars altogether. In a society structured by the use (and ownership) of the car, the change promises to be radical. In Helsinki, the world of urban transport itself has been forced to rethink its practices. For a single platform to integrate all the timetables and journeys of the multiple transport operators, their collaboration must be total. This includes opening up their datas. This transition of carriers to open data constitutes a requirement imposed by Finnish law, which has allowed the emergence of private players such as MaaS Global.

MAAS in Helsinki

The MaaS, a fundamental element of the Smart City

“While Helsinki is a pioneer in this field, markets for this new form of mobility are emerging, and are coveted”

The abolition, or at least reduction, of the boundaries between public and private transport operators is indeed a feature of the Mobility as a Service. Platforms such as Whim act as intermediaries, purchasing transport services from multiple operators and reselling them to their customers, taking a commission on the way.
The formulas offered are varied: single rates, weekend, weekly or monthly subscriptions… and, the most comprehensive service, the monthly subscription giving unlimited access to all transport, including taxi or car hire.

In Helsinki, this unlimited subscription is available for 499 euros. Behind this seemingly high price, the start-up hammers home its flagship argument: “The app gives you all the advantages of the car but without the disadvantages of ownership, and at a cheapest cost than the monthly cost of an automobile.”

Conquering and retaining a large audience among the people of Helsinki is a challenge for MaaS Global, which aims to achieve financial balance in a few years. In a largely deregulated sector, competitors have emerged, offering their own Mobility as a Service app.

Like the mobile phone market, we can expect a diversity of operators, competing for services and prices to involve Helsinkiers. Elsewhere, such as France with SNCF, “historic” operators are also interested in this emerging market.

But in the immediate future, Helsinki is where the mobility of the future is emerging: flexible and instantaneous, based on artificial intelligence and open data, the Mobility as a Service is now an entire part of the smart city.

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How Demand-Responsive Transport answers the Smart Mobility’s challenges?

Demand-Responsive Transport Smart Mobility

Smart mobility could shape the future of our territories using technology such as dynamic Demand-Responsive Transport, which is a public transport service.

Flow and mobility management is a highly strategic matter for which there are no miracle solutions

On one hand, urban spreading speeds up (the UN estimates that 2.5 billion more people will live in cities by 2050). Car congestion is more and more expensive (17 billion euros per year in France, the equivalent of 1,943 euros for each motorised home) and as a matter of fact increases the investment costs on transport infrastructure. On the other hand, peri-urban and rural areas are neglected. Car are the most used mode of transport (and sometimes the only one available). If smart mobility does not solve all problems, it could, however, change existing paradigms to shape the future of our territories.

Smart Mobility: a technological and societal issue

Smart mobility is defined by the use of technology to serve the users’ mobility needs. To run, this technology needs data that is then collected, aggregated and processed.

In most cases, private companies handle this work, especially American giant firms like Google, Tesla or Apple. The best example is the Waze app (owned by Google), where individual user data is shared to serve everyone (and especially advertisers who can offer geo-located and contextualized advertising).

In some cases, Public Authorities collect the data themselves. This is the case with the city of Lorient (France), which has 200 sensors to track acoustic pollution in real time. The city of Rennes (France) calls on 35 volunteer residents to carry out air quality surveys.

Finally, the last option is the public-private partnership. For example, the city of Nice (France) and Uber have partnered on a pilot project for bus journeys in underserved areas at night. The city has access to anonymized user trips data. They are used to analyze the distribution of transport demand to better adapt the offer.

Smart mobility therefore is tied to a very large number of subjects. These include:

  • The problems of carpooling and chauffeur-driven cars: to connect drivers and passengers.
  • Bus geolocation: to anticipate waiting times and better manage routes.
  • Real-time traffic: to smooth traffic flow.
  • Managing available parking spaces: to save time, limit congestion and pollution.
The 7 characteristics of smart mobility

Smart mobility is a holistic approach that is not just technological. It also incorporates human, societal and environmental parameters:

  • Flexibility: to allow users to choose the modes of transport that best suit their needs.
  • Efficiency: to get users to their destination quickly and without disruption.
  • Integration: to plan and display a complete route, door to door, regardless of the mode of transport used.
  • Clean technologies: to move away from polluting vehicles in favor of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Safety: to reduce the number of accidents and prevent them.
  • Inclusiveness: to include people far from urban centers and conventional public transport.
  • Accessibility: to offer access to a mobility solution to everyone, regardless of physical condition.

To work, smart mobility relies on intelligent data processing. Artificial intelligence, however, is not an end itself, but a tool to make mobility fairer and more inclusive. That’s why fair mobility is complementing smart mobility.

Dynamic Demand-Responsive Transport: an ideal solution to answer the Smart Mobility’s challenges

As its name suggests, Demand-Responsive Transport is a service that works only under reservation. Users can book their trip via their smartphone and track the progress of their vehicle in real time. It’s a relevant solution for peri-urban and rural areas, where demand for transport is too scattered and conventional lines are inefficient. It’s an ideal solution for today’s and tomorrow’s smart transportation.

Demand-Responsive transport is a public transport service that is a part of the smart mobility approach for various reasons:

  • Flexibility: it adapts to schedules and mobility needs.
  • Efficiency: its itinerary is automatically calculated and optimized according to user reservations. It’s less time on the road, less congestion and time savings for users and drivers.
  • Multimodal integration: its itinerary is planned from the departure to the arrival. In addition, it can interface with other modes of transport if needed (bus, metro, tram, etc.).
  • Clean technologies: it promotes clean vehicles.
  • Safety: its drivers are professionals whose job is to drive users in the best conditions.
  • Inclusiveness: it covers all geographic areas, from villages to large urban centers where the transport offer is generally very limited (even non-existent), especially at night.
  • Accessibility: it makes travel easier for people with reduced mobility, the elderly, young people and users who do not have driving license.

Demand-Responsive transport is open to all territories and adapts to all scales. It offers new perspectives for public authorities. It is good citizen, human and environmental practice that transforms technology into a lever for cohesion and development. All for a controlled cost.


Read more about the other advantages of the Demand-Responsive Transport

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Mobility: Artificial Intelligence serves bus networks in all territories

Mobilité et intelligence artificielle

After three years of experimentation, research and development, the startup Padam Mobility offers transport operators its solutions to transform bus services. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the lines, schedules and routes are now created and optimized in real time while user experience is completely renewed.

Mobility and the difficult equation in low- and moderately dense areas

Padam Mobility’s project was born from simple observations: on one hand, a rigid, not reliable and unsuitable to the people’s needs create a strong frustration of users; on the other hand, a way of bus operating that has not evolved for decades despite new digital tools available (smartphone, cloud, real-time optimization). In all circumstances, once fixed lines are drawn with fixed schedules, supply is no longer adapted to demand, which leads to many under-optimizations.

The territories must solve an extremely difficult economic and environmental equation for mobility. Except in a few major metropolises, the modal share of the car does not decrease despite a widespread political will. A significant effort is also still to be made for inclusive mobility to ensure the basic mobility needs of those who do not own a car. But to tackle these environmental and social imperatives, local authorities must contend with constant or decreasing budgets.

This tends to cast a harsh light on the under-optimization of public transport services. It is no longer possible to see, day after day, vehicles with fifty seats driving almost empty, while a demand for mobility remains unserved. This explains in particular the craze in recent years for carpooling, bicycles – electric or not – and other micro-mobility solutions. Despite these new offers, the main challenge is to improve public transport, especially buses, which are the bedrock of mobility in all territories. This is where we will find a performance optimization improving access to mobility and reduce the cost per trip.

That’s why we created Padam Mobility with the ambition of transforming the business of bus operator through artificial intelligence. On the principle of DRT, we first experimented shared shuttles in Paris region, by night, and then on daily mobility from home to work. In 2017, we transformed this Software As A Service products for transport operators.

Transforming the trade of transport operator with artificial intelligence

A first wave of on-demand transportation services was introduced in the 1990s. These reservation services (by telephone) have made it possible to serve some territories in a very light way, but the ambition of these services has so far been limited and the tools to operate them insufficient to be transposed to transport Mass.

We have entered a whole new era since we have the ability to know and manage services entirely in real time. The Padam Live operating platform© is the embodiment of this idea: customers book and follow their journey on their mobile application, drivers follow a roadmap constantly updated on their tablet, operators know to at any time what is the state of the fleet and the system as a whole. For truly real-time management, the challenge is of course to make decisions in a fully automated way on the allocation of vehicles, the calculation of their route and the information traveler, which is unique to intelligence Artificial!

Technically, this level of automation presents several challenges.

From a scientific point of view first: when we started the project, we realized that very little work in the literature concerned the optimization under constraints and real time of a fleet of vehicles, the “online” methods. Until now, so-called VRP (Vehicle Routing Problems) problems were always handled by “offline” methods, before the smartphone and cloud gave relevance to a new generation of systems optimization. So we took these problems at the base with experts in Operational Research and Optimization under Constraints, without recovering any existing bricks.

Second, automation requires a strong operational experience. By nature, transport faces many external constraints. To name but two: user behaviour (customers or drivers) can cause disruption at any time (delays, errors, change of mind, etc.) and congestion adds a strong random component. Only a good operational experience can lead to a high level of automation and reliability, which justifies the experiments that Padam conducted in its early days, as other market players have done.

Mobility and artificial intelligence: what are the prospects?

The stakes are up to the operational technical difficulties. As these begin to be overcome, we see radical performance gains on the projects we are working on. To serve a fixed mobility demand, on-demand transport can reduce costs by an average of 30 per cent compared to conventional fixed-line bus services.

Excluding highly charged and therefore efficient fixed bus routes, we estimate that in the long run forty per cent of bus journeys will be made on an “on-demand” mode. All public transport networks are affected by this transformation, from rural areas to the outskirts of major metropolises. Beyond the pure performance gains, the real-time management of the services allows a better response to hazards (failures, road problems) and therefore a much better reliability. The customer experience is transformed, it is accompanied from the search of the route, until its arrival at its destination with a quality of information-traveller unprecedented.

Finally, it is difficult not to put the development of on-demand transport in perspective of that of autonomous vehicles. These will be expensive to purchase but with a lower cost per kilometre than a driver-driving vehicle, which means that transportation services will make the most of it. The interface with on-demand transportation services will be natural. We can even risk a prognosis: just like on-demand transportation, it is first in medium-sized cities that autonomous vehicles will be truly adopted. The constraints , especially roads, are less complex and the economic stakes of mobility are the strongest.

Article originally published on Telecom ParisTech

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Cars VS public transport : a watermelon story…

transport urbain

As the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in a few months in Le Bourget with representatives from 62 countries, we wish to share our thoughts about the role of the car in our cities and its complementarity with public transport.

Transport at the very heart of the COP21’s challenges

You will surely not learn anything new if I tell you that one of the main causes of global warming is the greenhouse gases emission, starting with CO2. All sectors are concerned (agriculture, industry, etc.), but also households and the consumption of goods, the use of electrical devices or their daily travel.

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which began several years ago, transport is of course the first to be targeted, as it currently remains the leading greenhouse gas emitting sector according to figures provided by the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, despite a decrease by 8 of the emissions since 2004[1]. Transport is thus responsible for 27.8% of national emissions, with firstly road transport (92% of greenhouse gas emissions, including 57% for private vehicles).

Conférence des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques

With a tiny calculation we deduce that private cars alone are responsible for nearly 16% of France’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, efforts have been made in recent years to reduce emissions: vehicles that consume and pollute less, scrapping incentives to encourage the renewal of the French car fleet, tax credits linked to the purchase of hybrid or electric cars, incentives to carpool, etc.

Although these measures obviously contribute to reduce the carbon footprint of individual travel, they are nevertheless based on the use of the car, a personal vehicle that can carry up to 7 people, but that often remains occupied by one or two passengers maximum, especially over short distances. A private car on a home to work journey is thus occupied on average by only 1.1 passengers in Paris area[2], a sign that carpooling is far from being a general rule. A paradox when you know that three buses or a tramway could carry the same number of passengers as 177 cars, as illustrated below:

Optimisation des transports

The idea here is not to denigrate or demonize the car, but to ask ourselves an essential question: why, despite the many existing and often less polluting alternatives (public transport, train, bicycle, etc.), is the car still the favourite transport way, even in urban areas over short distances? When you look at the condition of the ring road of any major French city at peak times, it is legitimate to wonder why so many people prefer cars to public transport.

Public transport: Car, car, my dear car…

First, there is a strong argument in favour of the car: it has a positive image in our society, being generally associated with driving pleasure and freedom rather than CO2 emissions, in the drivers’ mind. French consumers remain very attached to their cars and the positive concepts associated with driving. Aesthetics, speed, well-being, freedom… You only have to look at any car ad to realize that it’s always the same images that come back. The car is thus represented in advertising as a vehicle that drives in huge spaces in or a city totally emptied of its vehicles and its inhabitants. An image totally out of step with the reality of driving and the time spent daily in traffic jams.

This mismatch between advertising and the actual use of a car is very well summed up by Olivier Razemon on his blog [3]: “Nothing is less like everyday urban traffic than a car commercial.”

A second element darkens the idyllic picture presented in the advertisements: the cost of a particular vehicle on a daily basis, between purchase, gas, parking and repairs, the score is rather salty and averages 3300€ per vehicle per year in 2014[ 4].

Of course, it is undeniable that the aesthetics and performance of a car are taken into account when buying a car. The model and characteristics chosen when buying a car allows its owner to have a certain image of himself. However, these arguments alone are inadequate to explain why many french people still prefer their vehicles over public transport. The main argument that could explain the success of the car is, in my opinion, the comfort. Between a noisy sometimes worn out, and often crowded public transport and a car certainly stuck in traffic, but where we are alone, comfortably sitting, the comparison is quickly made . Efforts have been made to improve the comfort of transit users, but for the moment, they remain well below what the car can offer.

Houston, we lost the connection !

The second factor that could explain the car’s success is more practical. Not only does the car avoid connections, but also load breaks during door-to-door trips. The question of intermodality is at stake here: it remains difficult indeed to articulate the use of the car and public transport. Most often this intermodality is done via car parks or relay parks located on the outskirts of cities, right next to public transport lines (metro, tram, trains etc). The problem is that the car parks are quickly saturated since each passenger drives there individually. As a result: anarchic parking, traffic jams, complexity to get nearby…

One of the answers to the question of transit-car intermodality is the one provided by Sharette, a startup that seeks to encourage carpooling to or from transit lines. The solution proposed by Sharette was thus integrated into the route search of the RATP application during the RER A outage during the summer of 2015.


Three kilometers on foot, wear out your shoes for good…

The last complaint that could be attributed to public transport is the rigidity of their fixed lines compared to the very great flexibility of the car. Fixed lines are very well adapted to mass transport, but are much less efficient at meeting dispersed demand, in medium-populated urban areas for example. These fixed lines, organized in Ile-de-France following a radial structure and established for sometimes decades, do not allow to meet the demands in suburb areas, which nevertheless represent more than 30% of the IDF travels according to a STIF study [5]. We notice the same issue on province to province travel, a real headache by train or TGV, where you have to go through Paris most of the time. Similarly, fixed transit lines do not respond well to the problem of the last kilometer: being dropped off two or three kilometres from home and being forced to complete the journey on foot or by bicycle is not necessarilythe best for users.

Public transport: Why don’t we change eras?

A large-scale experiment, completely abolishing fixed lines, has been set up in Finland in Helsinki, where public transport lines adapt in real time to the demand of users. The initiative had two main objectives: on one hand, to allow a better intermodality between “classic” and on-demand public transport, on the other hand to significantly reduce the number of cars in the city. The latter were no longer essential if users could find alternative transport at low cost, offering almost the same flexibility as a private car, with less parking problems.


This is also the vision we share at Padam Mobility: the problem of the last kilometer and the optimization of lines according to demand is a fundamental question to be answered in order to better optimize public transport, and therefore resources. natural resources and public funds. The all-car era may be behind us.

PS: In fact, you’ve been tricked, this article finally had nothing to do with watermelons, thank you for being to the end!


Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy

Office of the Commissioner General for Sustainable Development: Carpooling for commuting to and from work: what potential?

Interconnection is no longer assured, Olivier Razemon’s blog


Public transport networks in the Ile de France: structures and performance

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