In the effort to fight COVID-19 and keep people’s lives running as smoothly as possible, many transportation providers have changed their strategies and equipment. In this article, we cover six strategies that highlight the adaptability of the mobility industry even during times of social distancing.
In this article:
- Retrofitting vehicles to transport COVID-19 patients
- Public transport operators adopting protective policies
- Free services for healthcare workers
- A helping hand From carmakers
- Growth of eCommerce delivery capacities
- Offering transportation management technology to transport operators
1. Retrofitting Vehicles to Transport COVID Patients
In the US alone, over 70,000 citizens needed to be transported out of affected countries. Citizens also needed to be rescued from the quarantined Diamond Princess Cruise ship waylaid in Japan.
The use of standard commercial flights for this was not really an option, as mixing passengers from a known area of high infection with those from other areas was not desirable. Additionally, many flights were no longer operating making this option unavailable anyway.
To get these individuals safely home while minimizing the risk of spreading infection, Phoenix Air retrofitted some of its planes for use. The interior of these planes was modified to help contain and accommodate potentially contagious patients while keeping risk to crews minimal.
The technology used was created several years ago in response to outbreaks of the Ebola virus. It includes plastic drapes to protect surfaces and a containment area for active infections. The construction is designed to allow patients to travel in safety and relative comfort. It also accommodates the needs of a team of nurses, doctors, and medical techs.
Another example of this sort of retrofitting was done in France within one of the country’s high-speed trains. The train was used to transfer patients in a critical condition from an eastern area that was lacking the proper resources to care for patients. The use of transport in this way meant that patients were moved to a larger, better-equipped facility where they could be treated more effectively.
2. Public Transport Operators Adopting Protective Policies
A more common strategy implemented by many transportation providers is the adoption of protective policies as quickly as possible. This may include taking steps to frequently disinfect vehicles or installing separation barriers between drivers and passengers. In one such example, Metrolinx, who manages public transport in Ontario, Canada were able to install separation barriers within 6 weeks, which is considerably quicker than the standard timeline of 18 months.
Another frequent change has been to limit the number of passengers allowed in a vehicle and where they can sit. Some operators are even eliminating fares completely to limit the contact that passengers have to make with drivers and payment devices.
3. Free Services for Healthcare Workers
In some instances, companies are specifically targeting those who they deem most in need of assistance. Hertz, for example, has been offering free car rentals to healthcare workers in New York City. Car rentals had dropped significantly in the city, and with much of its population without their own mode of private transport, Hertz saw an opportunity to support the city and its workers by offering easier and more reliable transport. The company offered similar services to help assist healthcare workers in Australia. Similarly, Voi, a Nordic scooter company, has been offering services for free to healthcare providers who are making housecalls.
4. A Helping Hand From Carmakers
With many medical institutions and charities under increasing pressure automotive manufacturers have been stepping in to help. As mentioned in our former article covering how technology is helping against coronavirus this has largely involved using 3D printing capabilities to produce much needed medical equipment. However, this is not the only way carmakers have been offering assistance. According to True Car Adviser some carmakers including Hyundai and Toyota have made large donations to nonprofits who are in desperate need of additional funding.
5. Growth of eCommerce Delivery Capacities
With numerous locations restricting even essential errands, delivery services have become more important than ever. For many, the ability to order groceries or meals online and have them delivered has been of significant and neccesary help.
The sudden increase in demand meant that many companies had to increase their capacity. For example, Instacart hired over 300,000 new workers to help cope with this increased demand. Ride-hailing companies have too seized this opportunity, with some making efforts to transition drivers to delivery.
To help with this growth, several cities have been working with companies to make supportive changes. For example, designating more curb space for delivery vehicles and allowing the use of formerly restricted areas.
6. Turning to Micromobility
With concerns over safety of the shared economy, the height of the pandemic caused a number of micromobility companies around the world to remove their vehicles. However, with restrictions lifting micromobility providers are now adapting to find ways to help.
To ease workers back into their commute mobility provider Bird has launched its "Warm Up" mode. The new feature has been designed to help riders transition back into life and includes a gentle acceleration option, intended to help those out of practice feel more comfortable. Lime too has been focusing its attention on a post-COVID-19 world. The company recently hosted a webinar to discuss how with public transit use plummeting micromobility can fill in the gaps to become the primary mode of transport.
Transportation is vital to daily life and mobility service providers understand this. This has seen them using their services for the benefit of citizens throughout the world, despite the obstacles created by a lack of workers, distancing requirements, or overwhelming demand on resources.
The full effects of COVID-19 are yet to be seen, however, with many transport and mobility providers putting effort into helping to fight the virus and shifting their strategy, it will be interesting to see the long term impact on global mobility.