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Revue TELECOM 181 - Ridesourcing in Europe : service characteristics ans current developments

Articles Revue TELECOM




service characteristics 

and current developments

Par Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen dans la revue TELECOM n° 181

Shared mobility - the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other mode - is an innovative transportation strategy that enables users to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis. One shared mode, ridesourcing (known as Véhicules de Transport avec Chauffeur or VTCs in France) is having a transformational impact on cities around the world. Services, such as Chauffeur-Privé, Lyft, Wunder, and Uber, provide prearranged on-demand transportation services for compensation that connect drivers of personal vehicles with passengers. Enabled through smartphone applications (“apps”), these services facilitate booking, ratings (for both drivers and passengers), and electronic payment. Ridesourcing is ushering in a new era of on-demand mobility without the cost and responsibilities of private ownership. Ridesourcing can extend the catchment area of public transit, potentially playing a crucial role in bridging gaps in the transportation network and encouraging multi-modality by facilitating first-and-last mile connections to public transportation. Since the launch of ridesourcing services in 2011, these services have grown considerably to include operations in approximately 400 cities in 60 countries with more than 300,000 estimated drivers around the world as of April 20161.

Uber is the largest ridesourcing service operating in Europe and around the world. However, not all ridesourcing are the same. For example, in Europe, uberX is a service that partners with existing limousine and fleet operators to provide pick-up in a high-end sedan or sport utility vehicle. Another service, known as UberPOP, provides service using a driver’s personal vehicle. Other app-based services are emerging around Europe, including Chauffeur-Privé in France and Wunder in Germany, to name a few.

Operating exclusively on mobile apps, it is undeniable that ridesourcing is disrupting the transportation sector. Taxi drivers in numerous cities, such as Berlin, London, Madrid, and Paris, have staged large protests. As ridesourcing disrupts incumbent transportation modes, the taxi industry and public agencies have responded with a combination of service bans, regulation, innovation, and reforms. Some jurisdictions have issued cease and desist letters and consumer advisories regarding public safety and insurance coverage. Some taxi associations have sued to stop ridesourcing services. Some jurisdictions have developed regulations establishing minimum insurance requirements, background checks, and other provisions. Some taxi companies have tried to innovate by deploying their own smartphone e-Hail apps voluntarily. In other cases, public agencies, particularly in North America, have mandated reforms and innovations, such as the DC Taxi App, established by the DC Transportation group. The term ’uberisation’2 is now widely used in Europe to speak about the service/company disruption by a new service often created by a startup.

E-Hail Services

In response to the growing popularity of ridesourcing, there has been an increasing use of transportation apps by taxi operators in recent years. E-Hail services, such as Arro, Curb, Easy Taxi, Flywheel, Hailo, and MyTaxi are becoming increasingly prevalent.

As of February 2015, Flywheel was operating in six cities with over 5,000 drivers, and Curb was serving approximately 60 U.S. cities with 35,000 cabs3.


In addition to e-Hail services for taxis, innovative ridesourcing services are emerging, blurring the lines between for-hire services (similar to taxis), carpooling, and vanpooling. In 2014, Uber launched its UberPOOL service in San Francisco and Paris known as “ridesplitting” in which customers can elect to split a ride and fare in a ridesourcing vehicle. Lyft offers a similar feature known as Lyft Line. By matching riders with similar origins and destinations, ridesplitting allows ridesourcing to increase vehicle occupancy, reduce vehicle emissions, and cost sharing among passengers, similar to ridesharing and taxi sharing. Some ridesourcing services have experimented with smart routes and hotspots, where users are typically offered discounted fares for walking to major arterials or congregating with other riders to pick up a ride. Efforts such as these can increase walking and improve ridesourcing efficiency by allowing vehicles to make fewer turns and stops.                                                                                                                
© Lyft

Another smartphone service, known as Bandwagon, facilitates app-based taxi sharing at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airport taxi stands. The service operates by having passengers texting their destination to Bandwagon. The service pairs riders who are headed to similar destinations, sends them a text, and both passengers meet at the front of the taxi stand.

Blurring Lines

As ridesourcing, e-Hail, and ridesplitting continue to expand, the regulatory lines between private and public transport will increasingly blur. In North America, many governmental agencies have developed policy frameworks to regulate ridesourcing and protect consumer safety.      
Broadly, many of these regulatory frameworks establish insurance requirements, vehicle inspections, and driver background checks, meant to mimic the same level of regulation common in the taxi industry for ridesourcing drivers. Across Europe, the legality of UberPOP (and similar services) remains a question for many countries across the continent. For example, in the Netherlands, UberPOP has been banned by Dutch authorities and has cumulatively fined UberPOP drivers €450,0004. In Sweden, 21 drivers were recently found guilty of driving taxis illegally in Stockholm and Gothenburg, facing fines of 2,500 kronor (approximately €300)5.

In France, the legality of ridesourcing has been at the epicenter of the debate. The most controversial of these services has been UberPOP, which connects passengers with drivers using their own personal vehicles. In October 2014, the Paris criminal court found that UberPOP violated French law and ordered it to pay fines of €100,000. That same month, France passed the Thévenoud law, which bans the use of location-based technology to display the locations of drivers and potential customers by ridesourcing/VTCs6. The law also requires for-hire drivers to return to their dispatch base between fares, among other measures. Uber has filed two complaints with the European Commission alleging that France did not correctly notify the European Commission and French law violates European Union treaties. The second complaint may result in an infringement procedure against France, which could result in the case being brought before the European Court of Justice for a ruling. Last month, the European Commission announced that it intended to issue a formal notice on the matter and intends to release guidance in mid-2016 on how EU law applies to the sharing economy7. This guidance is intended to clarify the role of online platforms in the European marketplace and guide how to apply or reform existing legislation and regulations, such as the Services, E-Commerce, the Unfair Commercial Practices, Unfair Contract Terms, and the Consumer Rights Directives. The guidance could address a wider array of issues, such as liability insurance requirements for the sharing economy, tax compliance, impacts on labor markets, the validity of online rating systems, and consumer protection.

Future of Ridesourcing

The growth of on-demand mobility services, such as ridesourcing, will continue to have a transformational impact on cities around the globe. New guidance from the European Union is anticipated to resolve some of the legal uncertainties of for-hire services and may establish a legal and regulatory framework for an increasing number of shared mobility and sharing economy app-based services. In the coming decades, the convergence of on-demand ride services; location, mobile, and app-based technologies; automation; and electric drive technologies will transform the way people live, work, and travel, presenting new opportunities and challenges for European cities.

Ridesourcing has the potential to provide critical first-mile and last-mile connections to public transit and fill gaps in service and in the overall transportation network. These solutions are likely to play a key role in smart city developments and can also support mobility in suburban and rural areas. 




Les auteurs

Adam Cohen is a research associate at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Since joining the group in 2004, he has focused his research on shared mobility; smartphone applications and mobile devices; and intelligent transportation systems. He has co-authored numerous reports and publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.

Susan Shaheen
 is a co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. She is also an adjunct professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. She was the first Honda Distinguished Scholar in Transportation at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis from 2000 to 2012. She served as the Policy and Behavioral Research Program Leader at California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways from 2003 to 2007, and as a special assistant to the Director’s Office of the California Department of Transportation from 2001 to 2004.

She has a Ph.D. in ecology, focusing on the energy and environmental aspects of transportation, from UC Davis and a M.S. in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. From 2000 to 2001, she was a post-doctoral researcher at UC Berkeley. She has authored 57 journal articles, over 100 reports and proceedings articles, four book chapters, and co-edited one book. She has also served as a guest editor for Transport Policy, Energies, and the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (IJST). Her research projects on carsharing, smart parking, and older mobility have received national awards. In May 2010 and 2007, she received an “Excellence in Management” award from UC Berkeley. She has served on the ITS World Congress program committee since 2002 and was the chair of the Emerging and Innovative Public Transport and Technologies Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) from 2004 to 2011. She serves as a desk editor for Transport Policy and is a member of the editorial board of IJST (2011 to present) and the International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology (2015 to present). She is a member of the ITS Program Advisory Committee to the U.S. DOT Secretary (2014 to present) and chair of the subcommittee for Shared-Use Vehicle Public Transport Systems of TRB (2013 to present).

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