In California, startups working in the mobility field are increasingly collaborating with municipal authorities, drawing on valuable city data to help streamline people flows across urban districts and much more besides.
Last week the city of Los Angeles and ride-sharing startup Lyft announced the launch of GoLA, a multimodal navigation app which integrates Lyft’s services into a broad range of journey options available to users via both public and private transport companies. The app also enables you to choose the right option according to your priorities and preferences: the quickest route, the least expensive or the most environmentally-friendly option. This public-private partnership initiative is firmly centred on Los Angelenos, the idea being to help residents travel around the city easily, whichever service provider they choose.
In creating this collaborative venture, the Los Angeles city authorities are climbing on board a growing trend for large US cities to work hand-in-hand with startups specialising in urban mobility. Apps for ride-sharing (the Uber and Lyft solutions), car-pooling (similar to Blablacar in France) and street navigation all gather data on a continuous basis on users’ journeys and behaviour, on urban flows and the status of infrastructure, which are all extremely valuable information for the city authorities. In addition to the basic goal of streamlining urban mobility, cutting the number of traffic jams, etc, the wider aim is to improve the city more generally, optimising infrastructure and even helping to reduce crime.
GoLA app interfaces
Startup-gathered data improving mobility and helping to combat crime
This is not the first time Los Angeles has embarked on this kind of experiment. In fact LA is highly advanced when it comes to open data. In April 2015 the city signed up to a partnership with community-based traffic and navigation app Waze with the aim of gathering data generated by the app users in order to better understand the behaviour and habits of city residents on the road and to be able to respond more effectively to their actual infrastructure needs. This looks like being a win-win partnership since the information thus collected by Google-owned Waze on such eventualities as road closures, roadworks, and specific road hazards will enable it to improve its own services.
Meanwhile the results of such cooperation extend beyond mere data sharing to enable immediate action in some fields. The Los Angeles Police Department also uses the app to raise the alarm on hit-and-run drivers, such offences currently being a major curse in the car-heavy city. In fact drivers involved in half of all car accidents in LA flee the scene, compared to a national average of just 11%. This LAPD initiative is part of
Waze navigation app (dennizn / Shutterstock.com)
From navigation app to decision-making support tool
However startups may have to adapt their approach if they want to draw full benefit from this trend. A particularly interesting example here is a community-based navigation app Swiftly.
Since launching last year with a mobile app designed to enable residents to find the fastest and cheapest route to their destination, San Francisco-based startup Swiftly has now built out its service, offering a platform to help local authorities make the right investments going forward. Using data collected by Swiftly, public transportation companies will now be able to figure out how to optimise their operations, involving their passengers more closely.
The Swiftly dashboard lets you visualise urban data
There is no longer any real doubt about the advantages of building bridges between the tech giants, cities in search of renewal, and startups whose apps gather valuable data. Such partnerships clearly have great potential to help make cities truly smart.