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Robin Chase : “cities should do more to promote collaborative mobilities”

Robin Chase introduces herself as a "transportation entrepreneur", but above all she is a one of the most prominent thinkers of the collaborative economy. She co-founded Zipcar in 2000 and it is now the largest carsharing company in the world. She founded GoLoco, a carpooling app that no longer exists, and Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer carsharing company in France, that merged with Drivy. Most recently, she co-founded Veniam, a promising project transforming vehicles into wifi hotspots.

We have known her for years now. As early as 2009, she was already telling us about mesh-connected cars(see here also). She is also the author of Peers Inc: How People and Platforms are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism. She was kind enough to share her vision on mobility and the collaborative economy, and share her thoughts on some key issues - shared mobilities, the internet of things, technology & inclusion ...

Robin Chase se présente elle-même comme une "entrepreneuse du transport". Elle est avant tout une des grandes penseuses de l'économie collaborative. Elle a co-fondé Zipcar au tournant du 21ème siècle - c'est maintenant la plus grande entreprise d'autopartage au monde. Elle a également crée GoLoco, une application de covoiturage qui n'a pas rencontré le succès escompté et a du fermer ses portes, ainsi que Buzzcar, une entreprise d'autopartage pari-à-pair qui a fusionné avec Drivy. Plus récemment, elle a co-fondé Veniam, a projet prometteur qui vise à transformer les véhicues urbains en spots wifi !

Chez Chronos, cela fait longtemps qu'on la connaît : elle nous parlait déjà en 2007 de réseau de voitures connectées (voir aussi ici ). Robin Chase est également l'auteure de Peers Inc: How People and Platforms are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism.

Nous l'avons rencontrée à nouveau en 2016, et Robin nous a partagé sa vision de la mobilité et de l'économie collaborative - l'occasion d'aborder quelques questions qui nous tiennent à coeur : les mobilités partagées, l'internet des objets, les liens entre technologie et inclusion ...

What is your vision for the future of automobile?

How should cities promote carsharing and ridesharing?

Automation will happen really fast. There is little difference between autonomous cars and autonomous public transport - they will be complementary.

In the future, cars will be shared and autonomous. We will be able to hail an autonomous cab through an app, from anywhere. Who will own and operate them? May the best man win.

Cities should do more to promote collaborative mobilities. They should restrict access to parking in city centers - that's the best way to promote carsharing & ridesharing!

In cases that require a network to succeed (like carpooling and real ridesharing), they should choose one player and push it forward. Usually, cities prefer to equally promote all transportation alternatives, but in the case of carpooling organizations - which require a critical mass to succeed - breaking the market into tiny pieces means that all will fail. Not all transport innovations rely on a critical mass however. Carsharing is an example of this. People join the company which has vehicles closest to where they live - an entire network is not required for satisfaction.

You have just launched Veniam, "the internet of moving things". What is it about ?

I am confident that Veniam is going to become a very important company. It is turns vehicles into WIFI hotspots - using cellular, vehicle-to-vehicle, and WIFI access points to provide users with connectivity.

In Porto for example, users can now surf on the Internet for free on public buses. 40 % of the data they use flows directly into WIFI access points rather than the cellular network - a significant cost savings since WIFI is 100x cheaper than cellular. Veniam's communication network also ensures reliability in urban canyons, ports, and other environments that prove challenging to cellular signals. The Internet of things has had a hard time becoming are reality due to the lack of reliable low-cost wireless connectivity in cities. Veniam provides that glue, but using connected vehicles to collect sensor data and sweep it into the Internet as it moves through the city.

My hope and expectation is that the Internet of Things will enable us to use energy and transportation systems much more efficiently and effectively in cities. For example, by having municipal garbage trucks only travel to full trash receptacles, cities can reduce their travel by as much as 50%, resulting in reduced congestion, CO2 emissions, and noise.

 

 

How do you see the future of collaboration between peers in our economy?

The media often talk about the Sharing economy, which is understood to be the sharing of physical assets between peers. In fact, a much larger phenomenon is occurring, that I would call the Collaborative Economy. It includes the sharing of many things between different players. It could be objects, data, experience, time, processes, and even keystrokes on a computer . The collaboration is between the small and the big. SeeClickFix for example, enables residents to flag potholes, broken tree limbs, and dangerous conditions using an app that is connected directly to the city departments responsible, improving response time and providing "free" eyes on the street for the city.

I recently taped a TV show in China. The host warmed up the studio audience by asking: Would you share your car? (Audience: yes !) Would you share your house? Yes! Would you share your phone? (No!). So I came in and said: Does any have any apps on their smartphone? Yes! So, you are actually sharing your phone, with many companies by giving them access to your private phone, GPS coordinates, personal contacts and photographs ...

 

 

Do you think that the platform economy can be excluding for minorities?

There are two issues at stake here. The first one is the risk of discrimination from some labor platforms The system of ratings and profiles does permit users to act with prejudice. It is up to the platform to monitor for this, likely through statistical methods. There has been a recent controversy around Uber not serving certain areas with higher levels of crime. Others say that Uber can prevent discrimination against minorities. One thing is for sure: thanks to social media, users can now yell at a company if they disagree on its policy.

Collaborative applications may also be used as a powerful tool for social justice. Poor workers are now rating their employers through an app called Jornalero, allowing them to denounce wage theft for example.

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