Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

TAG Report Summary

Project ID: 699017

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TAG (Crowd-Sourcing technology to change how people and cars move in cities)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

TAG is revolutionizing carpooling for Smart Cities. We are following the disruptive market success of the likes of Airbnb regarding room bookings and Waze in terms of navigation, reaching valuations of tens of billions of Euros. However, well-documented technological problems and bad user experiences have prevented such success in carpooling. Old-school companies are not able to target this urban segment, as their technology is only suitable for commuting between cities. TAG is now changing this path using proprietary algorithms and smart phone technology. To our knowledge, no other technology in the world is able to offer our solutions.

If we take a glance at the primary issue in the concurrent carpooling solution candidates, technology maturity level required to push the crowd into such systems has been main problem until the last few years. Nonetheless, the market environment is getting ready with the convergence among contemporary tools like smart devices, digital mapping solutions, social media platforms and mobile payment applications, so society is in a process of transformation thanks to evolving force of such technologies. In these circumstances, recent problems come into existence: how do we make the crowds become the faithful followers of technologies which depend on sharing economy under rapidly changing conditions? For instance, urban carpooling is mostly associated with daily and instant human activities and its response to a participation request for a journey should be adaptive to the momentary actions of crowds. If the commitment between drivers and passengers cannot be created instantly when their intents to participate come into existence in the carpooling application/system, there is no chance to keep the commuters active in the system in the long term. Yet, there is no universal success story in urban carpooling domain because of such hardships even if millions of cars on the road with drivers mostly alone and people are packed in the public transit.

The aim of the first nine months is to develop and enhance an early ride community in target FOT areas by means of some improvements in UI/UX and integrating some innovative approaches into the app. To do so, we thought that understanding what kinds of obstacles exist in increasing user engagement should be the first step. After that, optimizing the route matching, providing payment infrastructure, and understanding users’ common behaviors to predict their next actions can be aimed to overcome these obstacles. If we succeed to perform these steps in the app, next major actions will be: i) to create a total journey planner by integrating the app to other transport tools, ii) to make the application compatible with urban transport standards internationally, and iii) to perform gamification scenarios in order to reshape people’s journey habits. Hence, we can succeed all the goals that we referred in the project proposal.

During the project, we have obtained deep insight about our potential customers thanks to the field operation test. By depending on this insight, our innovation team expends intense effort to overcome the urban mobility problems with the assistance of novel methods. What distinguishes our aimed solution from others is the anthropological objective to make car sharing possible in urban level. We take the commuters into account with social mechanisms instead of sole drivers and riders in order to boost adoption rate of carpooling. Apart from this, detours and delays have negative effects on the success of turning a ride intent to a commitment, that’s why on-the-go algorithms for mobility management is developed by our team in accordance with needs of security and convenience. As a result, our mobile application TAG is getting ready as an innovative carpooling system delivering a user-oriented solution to traffic congestion, regarding the current socioeconomic trends as well as technological innovations.

TAG will not only outperform the currently available urban transportation alternatives in terms of cost and comfort, but it will also provide a unique face-to-face social experience. The commute time in transportation will become a new medium through which the virtual meets reality. In Europe and other parts of the world, people spend half an hour to four hours on the road each day. This new medium will allow users to experience valuable utility, which is otherwise lost in traffic jams each day.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Over the past nine months, we made many enhancements to our solution and completed a number of small FOTs (field operating tests) in Turkey that gave us important insight. We now have better direction for the next phase of our work with larger FOTs that will eventually bring our solution closer to market readiness for further funding and launch in 2017.

There has not been any notable changes on the competitive landscape. There is still not a single large scale and successful demonstration of “real carpooling” via smart phones among daily commuters for their journeys to and back from work. Google – Waze is the only company working on a similar solution to ours. They have been piloting in Tel Aviv for the past 18 months with no success. They have now moved to San Francisco to start a new trial.

We are following them very closely and have concrete reasons to believe that we have solved many problems they are still tackling with. Our aim is to show the first large demonstration of peer-to-peer carpooling in urban environments over the life of our project. Our main advantages over Google-Waze have been:
1. Istanbul:
a. It is a city of 18 million people that dwarfs Tel Aviv and San Francisco in size.
b. Car fuel costs are 3 times, car costs are 2.5 times more expensive in Turkey. Yet people have significantly lower income per capita.
c. Road infrastructure in Istanbul is simpler and makes it easier to develop algorithms and test them.
d. These factors make Istanbul an easier place to find eager testers, which is needed at 500 to 1000 minimum per test.
2. Technology Legacy: Google-Waze is trying to build carpooling over a navigation technology legacy, and this is making it difficult and more complex to develop viable and simple solutions. We are free of legacy and therefore following a radically different approach.

Current Status of our FOTs: We completed FOTs in five regions in Istanbul and Ankara over three iterations, offering our solution to a crowd of 5.239 target users. Our FOT team visited each of the five regions, creating local FOT teams with a total of 24 people and ran a total of 2,900 hours of testing.

Product development: We got the core algorithms / interfaces ready for testing in time, including Route-matching, Matching optimization, Dynamic pricing, Ride security, Route prediction and Payment system integration. In summary, we proved that our core algorithms / interface meet the user demands as planned and provide the required platform for carpooling (we present a detailed reporting of each in the following sections).
In our next iterations (FOT Europe and FOT Emerging countries), we will be focusing on improving TAG in two dimensions:
a. Instant ride experience: In our testing we observed that both the riders and the drivers resist a “pre-planned” approach and require more of an “instant” user experience, more of a “Click and Go” approach. We are now in a favour of developing the “instant” experience, as we have successfully developed the building blocks of carpooling (route-match technology, security methodology, payment infrastructure, route prediction algorithms and pricing algorithms). We will now build the “instant” experience on these building blocks and test in the coming FOTs.
b. Surge launch: New users are sometimes registered on routes on which there is limited volume of carpooling mates. As a result, users get disappointed and quit the system (even before building up any volume). To avoid such behaviour, we designed a system called “surge”, which systematically opens up routes based on volume sufficiency, while keeping the idle routes on-hold, managing the user expectations.

Dissemination and Commercialization: We have been quite active with sharing TAG project with key stakeholders (such as Venture Capitals, E-Commerce Companies, Public Institutes) and presented TAG in several public events to broad audiences, specifically:
• We were invited as a key speaker to SME Days organized by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey,
• We attended the ETNA transportation event to find new collaboration opportunities,
• We presented our R&D point of view and business model to an audience of more than 3,000 in a venture capital event held by TEB SME Academy in Turkey,
• We were selected by NOAH Conference as one of the 30 start-ups to be presented to a crowd of VC partners in Berlin,
• We received an invitation from İstanbul Stock Exchange in order to present our company and the project to the top entrepreneur investors of Turkey,

Apart from these, we continue to inform the public and early customers on recent news and updates by using our project website (http://www.tagmobil.net/) and our social media channels on a regular basis.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"The carpooling market has three main sub-categories that address different user needs; players in each category have developed different capabilities. TAG as an urban ride-sharing service will be competing with the players in its own category: TAG will be used for everyday commuting needs. In Turkey, this is a huge market with 2.2 million trips per day. Given the setup of the transportation market, we are initially targeting users with a) long commute distances, b) limited access to subway and point-to-point bus lines (and therefore are subject to multiple transfers), c) a tendency to spend one to four hours in traffic each day who seek to utilize this time efficiently via socializing and d) budget concerns.

During the project, we have obtained deep insight about our potential customers thanks to the field operation test. By depending on this insight, our innovation team expends intense effort to overcome the urban mobility problems with the assistance of novel methods. What distinguishes our aimed solution from others is the anthropological objective to make car sharing possible in urban level. We take the commuters into account with social mechanisms instead of sole drivers and riders in order to boost adoption rate of carpooling. Apart from this, detours and delays have negative effects on the success of turning a ride intent to a commitment, that’s why on-the-go algorithms for mobility management is developed by our team in accordance with needs of security and convenience.

Impact on scale problem: This urban ride-sharing model needs a minimum number of drivers and passengers per route (and per each one’s social network) to offer matches. We are focusing our FOTs on creating scale in selected micro-areas (i.e. per route and per neighborhood). We have observed that this method serves best for the target of building up a dense user pool where number of drivers and riders are well balanced for at least rush hour periods. We are using "seed to –lead to – node" method during our FOTs. We are able to build socially connected user base in very short time by using manually selected seeds and their network to build lead users. Lead and seed users are enhancing user acquisition success and helping to keep new users stay engaged.

Impact on UX problem: Most frequently used transport apps are B2C apps such as UBER and BiTaksi. Their UX is designed different compared to how real ride-sharing app would be designed. UX design of a peer to peer ride-sharing app is depending very much on user insight. From the beginning of the project we have always applied the iterative research and development approach. The main advantage of this approach is to understand needs of users in early phases and evolve the end product according to their needs.

To sum up, our mobile application TAG is getting ready as an innovative carpooling system delivering a user-oriented solution to traffic congestion, regarding the current socioeconomic trends as well as technological innovations."

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