Drivezy co-founders Ashwarya Singh, Abhishek Mahajan, Hemant Kumar Sah, Vasant Verma and Amit Sahu
This is part 2 of a series on the future of mobility in a post-Covid-19 world. Read Part 1 here
The rise in demand for personal means of mobility may not necessarily translate into higher sales of new motor vehicles, as people can ill-afford them in a slowing economy. Longer-term rentals will be one effective alternative, Ashwarya Singh, Drivezy’s co-founder and CEO tells Forbes India
in an interview. Edited excerpts:
Q. What will transportation look like in the post-Covid-19 world in India, in the medium and long term?
The Covid-19 outbreak has altered the dynamics of mobility and transportation. Until we find a definitive cure or vaccine, there will be significant anxiety among people over the use of public transport, and even cabs for intra-city commute. With social distancing, there will be a shift towards personal means of mobility.
However, this may not necessarily translate to higher sales of new motor vehicles, as incomes stagnate due to a slowing economy. Even prior to the lockdown, the automotive industry had been going through a rough patch due to plummeting sales. As people look to cut down on their expenses further, there will be a higher demand for affordable alternatives like self-drive vehicle subscriptions and pre-owned automobiles.
Q. What will happen to public transport, especially when a majority of users can’t afford to purchase private vehicles?
Public transport is by far the most efficient way of moving a large number of people around the city. However, sharing confined spaces with multiple individuals for extended periods of time will play on peoples’ minds as they try to adhere to social distancing norms. To minimise the probability of a contagion, public transport systems will have to restrict seating capacity and prevent overcrowding, but as services, try to maintain their margins; this may result in higher costs for the individual.
Q. Within cities and towns, will new models of ride-hailing emerge that can be part of the solution?
We are already starting to see strong demand for monthly and weekly subscriptions of bikes and cars. As the vehicle stays solely in the customer’s possession during the rental tenure, self-drive subscriptions offer a much safer alternative to public transport and cabs. Even during the lockdown, our bikes were moving around 6,000 essential workers in the states of Karnataka and Telangana.
Q. What can be done to ensure that for example, when an infected person uses a scooter, the same scooter isn’t shared with other users?
We sanitise our vehicles prior to every trip, to ensure that such incidents do not happen. Moreover, we have increased the minimum booking duration for our vehicles to 24 hours to ensure ample time for sanitisation before a trip commences.
Q. What will be the role of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) in all of this?
The integration of IoT and AI in public transport can significantly reduce the probability of a public contagion. From purchasing tickets, pressing machine keys to operating touch screens, all of these are regular expenses on public transport. Fortunately, we live in an age where technology can help minimise these interactions.
Q. What new infrastructures will cities have to deploy to make transportation safe in a world with Covid-19?
Online and cashless ticketing systems that utilise QR codes can significantly reduce crowding of people at a single spot. But in spite of this, public transport will continue to pose a higher risk of exposure to the virus. Contact tracing through mobile applications could also prove helpful to keep spread in check in such cases.