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First and last-mile logistics are high on rental car agenda

Date: 08 February 2018   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

It is a problem the industry has so far been unable to solve: how can first and last-mile logistics adapt to the exponential growth of congestion in city centres?

It's not just the delivery of goods that is becoming a problem in these areas. Many rental car companies are facing the problem head-on while trying to meet the new mobility demands of their drivers. When drivers reach the city, they are often stuck in traffic, racking up costs in congestion, fuel and time. 

To solve these issues, many companies operating in cities are beginning to launch smart initiatives and shared mobility is expected to be at the core, providing first and last-mile connectivity. 

As part of its Europcar Global Driver services, car rental company Europcar is focusing on a new mobility service that is simplifying the first and last few miles of the customer's journey. 

The service, which is available for both business and leisure customers,  takes advantage of Europcar's London-based chauffeur company Brunel to provide its customers with a seamless end-to-end global travel solution. 

Europcar customers are now able to book a chauffeur for the first and last miles of their trips in some European countries, with the service soon to be available across the whole Europcar network, allowing quick transfers for customers before and after they've used the rental car. 

Sheila Struyck, managing director of the Europcar New Mobility Business Unit said:  "Allowing customers to book chauffeur transportation for the same trip simplifies travel planning and will allow customers to feel completely relaxed when travelling. Business and leisure travellers trust Europcar for its high standards, in terms of service and its vision of new mobility."

A new report from Navigant Research has looked at the future of what it calls last-mile logistics (LML) and mobility as a service (MaaS), examining how the concepts might work together to create efficiencies and cost savings for drivers and companies. 

The study provides an analysis of the main components that enable LML services, such as shared mobility fleets, automated vehicle fleets, drones, and end-point delivery systems. 

"Congestion and parking in large cities continue to be the biggest challenges for LML," said Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst at Navigant Research. "MaaS technologies, along with wireless communications and automated scheduling, can alleviate these issues while providing additional benefits to citizens and businesses."

In the near future, a MaaS model for a city or local region could mean deploying a fleet of automated vehicles designed to move large numbers of people to work during rush hour and then deliver on-demand transport during off-peak hours. According to the report, this type of fleet would have excess capacity available outside peak hours to perform functions like small parcel and takeout food delivery.

Car-sharing programmes such as Zipcar and Bluecity can also be effective modes of transportation for short trips and last-mile commutes. Both services typically have parking spots by tube stations, as well as residential areas. 

"Users can start the rental in their chosen boroughs and end in any other borough," Christophe Arnaud, managing director of Bluecity told granitekitchen. 

"Bluecity can help transform London by dramatically reducing air pollution, congestion and the number of cars on the road in the city, but first we need approval from the councils before we can make these changes to the city," Arnaud explained. 

Ford's Last Mile Mobility Challenge was set up to develop electric personal- assistant devices that will help to make transportation better in areas where vehicles are not permitted or practical, and which help people to get to their final destination from their car. 

"Innovation and disruption is as much at the heart of how our engineers think now, as it was when Henry Ford first set about transforming the way we move," said Walter Pijls,  innovation management for mobility supervisor at Ford of Europe. "Personal-assistant devices can help people cover the final kilometres of their journey quickly and easily, and to transport heavy objects they might not be able to carry."

When these changes do occur, it is predicted that the 'last mile' service could transform the way that fleets travel in city centres, and many cities are partnering with car and bike-sharing operators to offer both services at public transit stations, presenting 'first mile, last mile' solutions for users.