Flexible mobility is a demand responsive transit (DRT) solution that is sustainable and able to serve various use-cases of demand (Ambrosino, et al., 2003), and has been increasing in popularity as a sustainable transport solution. The lack in flexibility of conventional public transport systems and the need for a system that offers a wide range of transport services ranging from smaller, internal community transport to country-wide service networks. A crucial element in providing DRT flexible transport services is to provide transport data for both transport users and transport city planners. Data is crucial for users to make informed decisions, however, is also vital to plan for systems that meet the demand requirements.
The flx platform developed by GoMetro provides information for various means of transport enabling different end-users to have access to relevant transport data depending on their objective. The aim of the flx platform is to provide an engine for different users to set up a trip, measure the demand, match the demand to supply, and execute a trip and monitor and evaluate the execution thereof. The flx platform and its capabilities are discussed in the following sections.
The flx platform and capabilities
The flx platform has various functions to achieve different objectives. The users of the platform can be riders, drivers, fleet owners and operators, city planners and regulators, corporate companies and field workers collecting data. The platform also allows for secure mobile payments to be made and opportunities for third-party companies to advertise promotions and deals that are relevant to the users’ objectives. Figure 1 on the following page illustrates the four different interfaces that users will be able to access depending on their objectives.
Of these four, there are three applications for users to interact with, namely flx Fleet, flx Rides and flx Drive. The back-end dashboards for the remaining users are to plan, measure, monitor and evaluate data collected by the applications. These different interfaces are discussed in the following sections.
flx Rides for on-demand e-hailing and ride management
The rider application allows passengers to plan, book and pay for their trips and can either request a vehicle in real-time when required or schedule trips for the week in advance. The rider application allows the user to see where the flx vehicle is, log complaints, receive driver messages, provides information on promotional deals, allow the user to join flx clubs where other riders travel together and provides information on other transport modes in the immediate vicinity.
flx Drive for vehicle drivers responding to passenger demand
The flx driver application allows for drivers of vehicles, may it be that they are the owners of the vehicles or drivers for another owner with a fleet of vehicles, to respond to demand in real-time and earn a decent wage for themselves. The driver is registered on the system where jobs (trips) are sent through push notifications which the driver then responds by either accepting or rejecting the trip. Drivers can schedule their trips and fill gaps for optimal earnings. The application will also indicate where the nearest fuel stations are and have a page for fuel, tyres and brakes discounts where third party partners list their deals.
Drivers can also be linked to vehicles which are listed under a fleet operator that plans and manages the trips each driver needs to complete. The drivers’ ratings from the riders and trip data is collected and stored in the flx platform for the fleet owners and operators to monitor, evaluate and extract reports.
Figure 2 on the following page illustrates a screenshot of the contract design page of the flx system, where an operator can set up the trips that need to take place in the system according to each cluster or vehicle or group of employees per shift or schedule.
The operator or rider (employee) can schedule their trips for days or weeks in advance depending on their preference. The flx system calculates the trip distances, travel times and costs for each cluster. The costs for the clusters can be optimised depending on the flexibility of changing employee work shifts and schedules.
flx Fleet for operational management and monitoring
The flx Fleet dashboard allows fleet owners and managers to plan, manage and monitor operations transparently. The flx Fleet allows for each vehicle in the fleet to be tracked live and collects and stores the data collected through the tracking unit in the respective users’ flx account and is only visible and accessible to the user. Fleet operators can also cluster demand and match contracts. The dashboard aids operators to be able to deliver on-time and grow business lines through duty and trip adherence reports.
Fleet operators and owners can access reports on fleet utilization, driver performance, user complaints, trip adherence, and driver earnings. The third-party partners such as auto dealerships can advertise their services and products on a separate page for fleet owners to view. An example of the trip adherence dashboard and duty adherence dashboard in the flx platform is illustrated in figure 3 on the previous page. Figure 3 illustrates a trip adherence report where fleet operators can monitor whether a driver adhered to the predefined stops and operating route. The stops are linked to stop times from an operational plan. If a driver does not meet certain parameters predefined by the fleet owner and operator for the stop times and deviates from the operational route, the trip is indicated as ‘failed’.
The example of the duty adherence dashboard in figure 4 illustrates the duty compliance of all key operational role players for a driver to start and end their shift. Each role player, such as the dispatcher who is given a time stamp to sign on at the depot for example, needs to adhere to the expected time stipulated in the operational plan. This dashboard is one example of the many use-cases the flx platform can accommodate.
flx Enterprise for corporates
The flx Enterprise dashboard allows organisations to register employees on the platform to where the employees can rideshare through the flx Ride application. Employees are registered as riders and can each schedule their week’s trips to work and back home. Riders are matched to drivers depending on the requirements and can also accept trips in advance. The companies who registered their employees on the platform are thus able to monitor and extract reports on the trips completed.
flx Use-Case for employee transport
The flx system aims to provide a mobility transport solution for commuters to replace their private vehicles for their daily commuting trips with a more efficient way of transport. In South Africa specifically, the option of working flexible hours is not yet adopted in all fields of work. The majority of South African employees remain committed to extended working hours which runs concurrently with the challenge of obtaining safe and reliable transport on a daily basis (Gobind, 2018). The flx product best use-case is that of replacing the need to travel in single occupancy vehicles and replacing the commuting trips with a demand responsive transport solution to reduce the economic inefficiencies and improve the quality of life for the employees of a company or office park or building.
The flx product aims to ensure that there are viable and cost efficient options for employee transport and to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road network, and in doing so attempting to reduce vehicle congestion levels across all cities. In South Africa the transport sector is currently responsible for about 25% of carbon emissions in cities with the share of car ownership having grown from 23% to 33% between 2003 and 2013 (SEA, 2015).
An example of a flx use-case is that of providing a platform for staff transport for call centre companies to manage, plan and monitor their employee transport programmes by onboarding the transport service provider on the flx Drive profile and enlisting the call centre employees who utilise the staff transport on the flx Rides platform. In figure 5, an estimated amount of savings in staff transport operations for the employer is illustrated in this figure. Each level of saving is linked to a certain level of operation optimisation.
The flx system enables the operator to manage and optimise the routes and clusters per vehicle, therefore a saving in operational costs by up to 16% in this example. The next level speaks to the economics of the vehicle fleet in utilising the best suited vehicle fleet composition in order to optimise and reduce costs of which some examples are fuel efficiency, vehicle capacity and vehicle maintenance. The final level in optimisation is by analysing the current employee shifts and optimising the clusters according to these shifts. An example would be to move an employee who currently starts one shift on their own (no other employees to travel with at this time) to a different shift, in order for this employee to be accommodated in another shift cluster were three of more employees travel together.
Employees are now able to plan their trips in schedules on the flx system in advance and reduce their distress of being late from being stuck in traffic on the way to work. As many people face troubles with finding residence close to work and have to travel far distances with their private vehicles due to unreliable and unsafe public transport (Mohammed, 2016). By providing a safe and reliable flexible mobility solution to their transport needs, the distress in being on-time for work will reduce.
Employers are able to keep a hold on staff transport costs and operations just by logging into the platform and pulling reports. The operators are also able to earn honest and constant revenue through long-term relationships with enterprises and are also now able to reduce their costs by optimising operations.
The flx platform offers a flexible mobility platform for different use-cases in a transport network. Not only does it contribute to the economic wellbeing of the various users but positively contributes to mobility and accessibility in any urban area. The flx platform acts as an enabler where demand meets supply, and generates data and information for respective decision makers to accurately and effectively plan for transport solutions.
- Ambrosino, G., J.D. Nelson, H. Romanazzo. (2003). Demand Responsive Transport Services: Towards the Flexible Mobility Agency, Rome, Italy: ENEA.
- Gobind, J. (2018). Transport anxiety and work performance. SA Journal of Human Resource Management/SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 16(0), a943. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v16i0.943
- Mohammed, Q. A Study on Understanding the Adverse Consequences on an Employee’s Performance Due to Withdrawal in Transportation Facility. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2859326 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2859326
- Sustainable Energy Africa. (2015). State of Energy in South African Cities. Sustainable Energy Africa.