In the interdisciplinary research seminar “New Mobility”, students of the DHBW Stuttgart from the study programs Business Administration-Industry/Industrial Service Management and Mechanical Engineering in various German cities as well as Amsterdam and Paris tested the mobility offers of stadtmobil, SHARE NOW, Uber, Flixbus, Call a Bike, Lime, stella and BlaBlaCar. The study focused on the user-friendliness of the means of transport, technical performance features and the environmental awareness of their drivers.
Whether e-scooters, car sharing or long-distance buses – never before have so many mobility offers flooded the cities as today. But how are these different forms of mobility perceived by the users? The students investigated this question in a field study with over 2100 test persons. The astonishing result: More than 40 percent of the respondents are unfamiliar with the mobility providers they were asked about. In addition, a large proportion of the respondents had only heard about the brands and mobility offers, but never used them themselves. Only around a third of people see an actual possibility of using modern mobility offers in their own everyday lives in the future, and then it is ultimately the limited availability that stands in the way of using them: one third of those surveyed said that they had no possibility of using the new offers at all.
When asked about trust and reliability, stadtmobil’s classic Car-Sharing offer is clearly ahead of so-called free floaters such as SHARE NOW; in long-distance traffic, FlixBus scores slightly better than BlaBlaCar in terms of reliability.
But how can a positive attitude towards the different mobility concepts be strengthened? Prof. Dr. Marc Kuhn, head of the study and head of the Business Administration Industry study program at the DHBW Stuttgart, points to another result: “We were able to prove that most forms of mobility were generally rated better by the test persons if they had already used them. This means that service providers will only be able to fully exploit their customer potential in the future if they can persuade the skeptics to test it”. However, users also see a need to catch up in terms of usability: the booking process in the case of Call a Bike, stella and BlaBlaCar in particular was perceived as capable of improvement.
Another important aspect in the choice of transport mode is confidence in vehicle safety. More than two-thirds of those surveyed about stadtmobil and SHARE NOW said they felt safe in the vehicles. This probably results from the fact that users feel protected in closed vehicles that they drive themselves. The long-distance bus provider FlixBus also scored above average here, which could also be due to the protected space and professional drivers. Call a Bike (35 percent), the e-scooter provider stella (35 percent) and the e-scooters from Lime (22 percent) are attributed a low sense of security – all mobility offers that lack this protected space around the user.
Since the topic of new mobility is strongly linked to the sustainability aspect, it was important to find out how the individual modes of transport are rated in terms of their environmental friendliness. Call a Bike’s rental bicycles were rated positively by a clear margin: 90 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that they would reach their destination in an environmentally friendly way. FlixBus (66 percent), stella (65 percent) and SHARENOW (62 percent) were also rated positively for the environment. Uber came in last by a clear margin, with only 20 percent of those surveyed ascribing a positive value to the environment. SHARE NOW, stadtmobil and BlaBlaCar, in which the passenger car also serves as a means of mobility, were assessed much less critically in this respect.
It was also found that the users of stella, FlixBus and stadtmobil have a particularly high individual environmental awareness. Thus, 100 percent of stella users were prepared to reduce their consumption in order to protect the environment (followed by 81.8 percent of stadtmobil and Call a Bike users).
The interdisciplinary teams of this study also looked at the technical perspective of lime and bike-sharing providers in Paris and Amsterdam. Among other things, criteria such as suitability for everyday use, operational stability and durability were tested. In the case of the e-scooters, for example, there were large differences of 2.21 m in braking distance, which means that there are safety risks if the braking distance is longer.
The “first” and “last” mile in Stuttgart, on the other hand, can be covered faster with an e-scooter than on foot or by public transport. The bicycles offered by the bike-sharing providers showed differences in the overall condition of the components in particular, and some of them were not roadworthy. RegioRadStuttgart (Call a Bike) stood out positively with a good and safe overall impression of the bikes. By conducting the study together, the students from the fields of business administration and mechanical engineering gained valuable insights into the type of investigations in the other subject area. Prof. Dr. Harald Mandel, head of the mechanical engineering course and head of the Center for Vehicle Development and Sustainable Mobility (ZFM) at the DHBW Stuttgart, concludes: “This study project has shown how important it is that the respective mobility providers focus more on the users – i.e. the people. In addition to the idea of sustainable mobility, aspects such as safety are also very important to the user, and there is still a lot to do in this area”.
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