A.I has proven itself at the poker table but can it prove itself in car-sharing technology?

Big leaps in A.I are happening so fast that they are hard to keep track of. You may have heard of an A.I milestone which occurred less than a week ago. A program built by two Carnegie Mellon researchers beat several top poker players over a 20 day contest (check out the article). But why is this a big event? And does this mean that A.I could really be trusted to make decisions to boost revenue in car-sharing solutions in just as shrewd a way as it plays cards?

One of the critical techniques used by this poker A.I known as “Libratus”, or ‘Balance’ in Latin, is reinforcement learning. Basically the researchers let a deep neural network (similar to those used in self driving cars) try out different strategies randomly and then reinforced its good plays. Over millions of plays this a large network can learn to solve almost any complex revenue optimisation problem. Even when there is significant uncertainty, just like there is in car-sharing operations.

Does this mean that computers will take over high level business decisions from humans in our rapidly changing industry? Of course not. But it does mean that we can now trust advanced A.I techniques with complex resource management tasks that are increasingly found in the car-sharing industry.

We’ve had significant success here at Good Travel Software using the latest A.I techniques, including reinforcement learning in the management of vehicle relocations in large scale fleets, dynamic pricing in floating car sharing schemes and in pick up route optimization. But reinforcement learning is a special technique that can be applied to almost any problem that comes under the general heading of logistics. The solutions provided by our drop.car system marks a huge leap forward in car-sharing technology.

What technologies make an AI implementation feasible in the car-sharing industry?

You might think that A.I is a field left only to the Googles and Facebooks of this world. But there has been a significant effort by these big players to make their technologies open to researchers and even easy to implement on a large scale. Some of the key technologies that made it feasible to integrate a robust scaling A.I solution into our business platform were:

  1. The open sourcing of Google’s highly scalable A.I library Tensorflow

  2. The rise of micro services and containers such as Docker along with container management systems such as Kubernetes

  3. Elon Musk’s OpenAI platform which regularly publishes new research, algorithms and simulation frameworks

We’ll leave an explanation of the significance of each of these technologies and platforms for a later blog post. But the point is that world class A.I algorithms and technologies are mostly open sourced at the moment which is extremely exciting for both researchers and companies looking to use these latest technologies. Big innovators such as Uber are also using Tensorflow and are just as excited as us about reinforcement learning.

What does this all mean for the future of the transport industry?

It means smarter A.I systems will soon run our logistics, pricing and transportation networks using robust strategies that take into account the uncertainty of day-to-day business operations. This will improve fleet-utilisation, user satisfaction and in the not-so-distant future these techniques will become the cornerstone of autonomous fleet optimisation. This will mean huge growth down the line in the car-sharing industry.

Our fleet-balancing software drop.car is just one of our many flexible yet powerful car-sharing soltutions designed to improve your business.

To get a glimpse of the future request a demo.

Corporate Car-Sharing - what's not to like!

I vividly remember my first company-car.  The fleet guy showed up with my brand new shiny Mazda 626, handed me the keys and then proceeded to talk about this feature and that feature - this button and that button.  But I didn’t hear a thing. I was too busy waiting for him to go so I could take it for a spin.  That ‘new-car-smell’ that I for one had never experienced before.  In fact, the car was a good 10 years newer than the family car at the time. Oh and get this, I wasn’t even in Sales! Yes, this was back in the day where the company car was seen a huge perk/employee retention tool and the big push to get promoted had virtually nothing to do with the increase in responsibility and higher salary - No - it was all about that much coveted and elusive company car.  It’s all my peers and I talked about!

These days of course, companies have long since cottoned on this ‘perk’ and it’s virtually unheard of in the majority of corporates today to get a company car unless you’re in Sales (or the MD!).  But let’s talk about those sales people.  Even the busiest - and in this sense we’ll define ‘busiest’ as those doing above average on-site customer visits - are only actually in the car about 20% of their time.  And corporates can have literally hundreds of expensive vehicles sitting idle for most of the time.  

Enter Corporate Car-sharing. What if instead of every sales person having their ‘own’ car, you had a pool of dedicated but shared cars, available to those staff who needed them - and not just for business purposes?  Think for a second about the limited number of meeting rooms in your company - they are a shared resource - you go into your calendar, book one when you need one, free it up when you're done for others to use.  So why not the same model with a shared pool of company cars?? Turns out you can!

How does it work

So how does it work? Obviously you’ll need a fleet of cars with the ability to log and send trip details such as odometer readings, fuel level - along with the ability to remotely lock/unlock.  You need a booking system for employees to reserve a car - which is usually integrated with their corporate calendar, a fleet management console to onboard members, track usage etc - and of course a mobile app. When booking a car, employees choose type of use (Business or Private). For Business use, the cost is charged to the appropriate cost-centre(s) and for Private use, it’s the employees credit-card.  All very straightforward.  Companies deciding to implement such a scheme will go to one of the growing number of car-leasing companies or Car-sharing Operators who will provide a turnkey service.

Benefits

There’s an impressive list of benefits - fleet reduction, fewer car-parking spaces, reduced CO2 footprint (which is becoming so very important), reduced ground transport expenses (taxis, short-term rentals etc).  Studies also show that employees using corporate car-sharing schemes use public transport systems more!  Instead of 100 cars, you need maybe 60. Right from the get-go that’s a massive saving. And wait, there's more. Many corporate car-sharing schemes open up the fleet to the employees for private use - even employees that don’t even require them for business - for example - taking it for the weekend - or taking it home from time to time.  And given that the fleet is almost always new cars, you can see why this would be considered such a perk.  Private use is often charged - albeit it a nominal fee - and what was once a pure cost-centre, could become a profit-centre or at least offset some the leasing costs.

Why now

Car-sharing has been around for decades but with recent advances in both technology and the telematics space - this convergence has meant that the logistics for managing a corporate car-sharing scheme become very feasible.

The Market

Here’s some interesting Frost and Sullivan predictions from 2013 - and I would suspect that they might already be understated:

  1. The number of providers of corporate car-sharing to go from from 20 to over 30 by 2020
  2. The number of European companies implementing corporate car-sharing will go from ~200 (2013) to 4,000+ by 2020
  3. Corporate car-sharing fleets will account for 0.5% of European fleets by 2020 representing just 5.1% of the addressable market - this offers significant upside potential in the market

What’s our perspective in GTS

In Good Travel Software, we’re ready for this exciting new market.  Our recently released share.car car-sharing booking platform (click here) supports Traditional, Campus, Residential and of course Corporate.   Watch this space for more exciting news in the corporate car-sharing space!

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Residential

Car-sharing has been around in one form or another for decades.  But in the last couple of years, there’s been an interesting new addition to the car-sharing family - and it’s that of Residential.  In a nutshell, Residential car-sharing is a car-sharing scheme where a small pool/fleet of cars is made available exclusively to the residents of an apartment block/complex.  Via the car-sharing app, you book your car very similar to how you would with a traditional car-sharing scheme - although rates/fess are often discounted.

So what’s in it for the developer/builder of the apartment complex? Valuable real-estate! In urban areas, builders/developers are almost always required to provide some level of parking for residents. This will vary country by country, city by city and even local council by local council.  For example in Dublin, Ireland, 1.5 parking spaces are required per apartment.  By providing a car-sharing scheme, less parking spaces can be approved by the planners - and potentially more apartments can be build in the same complex.  This offers significant revenue upside potential for the builders as well as offering a very attractive feature to the residents themselves.  A fine example of Residential car-sharing from our partners in General Motors is Maven+ offering services in NYC, Chicago and Washington D.C with more to follow.

At Good Travel Software we believe that this form of car-sharing, along with Corporate car-sharing (blog to come) could well herald a major new channel for the car-sharing industry.  Our recently released new Share.car car-sharing booking system has been developed to support multiple forms of car-sharing.  Check out our share.car™ page on this website.

Press Release

Good Travel Software Launch Share.Car™, their new state-of-the-art SaaS based car-sharing platform.

Dublin, Ireland – November 1st, 2016. Good Travel Software (GTS) are today announcing the launch of their new highly scalable and flexible SaaS based car-sharing booking and reservation system.

“We’re incredibly happy with this release.  The car-sharing industry continues to expand at a breath-taking pace with practically all of the major car manufacturers now having at least one type of car sharing initiative in place.  Having a scalable and flexible booking platform to help meet these needs is more important than ever” says Peter Soutter, CEO and founder. 

Car-sharing, a car rental model where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour, is gaining huge traction around the world.  Consumers are increasingly viewing car ownership as expensive and a burden and there’s a significant shift underway from ownership to ‘usership’.  General Motors' Maven, Avis’ Zipcar and Daimler’s Car2go are just some examples of hugely successful programs.

Modular/Flexible/Scalable

Share.car™ is designed to cater from the smallest to the very largest of car-sharing operators.  Its modular design means it can be configured quickly to work with all of the major forms of car-sharing programs (Residential, Campus and Corporate). ‘One-way’ is coming soon!

About Good Travel Software

Established in 2010 and based in the Digital Exchange in Dublin, GTS delivers scalable high performance software solutions for all aspects of the car sharing market; free floating, traditional and peer-to-peer. Their unique and patented demand prediction software allows car-sharing companies to reduce costs, optimise their fleets and maximise revenue-per-car. They’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the car-manufacturing industry, including General Motors, and are in prime position to help those companies prepare for the rapidly approaching Autonomous vehicle world.

For more information, email us on info@goodtravelsoftware.com

Autonomous - Have We Reached That Tipping Point?

Milton Keynes. Concrete Cows. Roundabouts. And Autonomous vehicles - surely not!?

These days It seems that every time you check out a news site, or turn on the TV, there's something to report somewhere in the world on this brave new Autonomous movement.  Take today for example. I have Sky News on my iPhone and often browse through at least the headlines.  Most of it is the usual fare - but every now and then they have something that catches my eye.

Today's Autonomous treat was from Milton Keynes in the UK.  A company called Oxbotica has converted a Nissan Leaf into a compact Autonomous vehicle.  Ok, so it's not going to break the sound barrier any time soon.  Travelling at a stunning 15mph, it won't be picking up any speeding tickets either.  And the fact that 'driverless' in this case actually meant that a driver was in fact there 'just in case' also drew some confused looks from spectators and other drivers alike.  But of course, this is not the point.  This trial, and dozens like it around the world, very likely herald the end-of-the-beginning of this Autonomous revolution.

Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller 'The Tipping Point' he suggests that 'The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.'.  We may not quite be there at that inflexion point just yet.  Many hurdles remain in its path - not the least of which is regulatory constraints - each of which likely have to be negotiated country but country, state by state, government by government.  But it's coming. And it's not a decade away.

In GTS we've been aware of this for some time now.  Years in fact. In a driverless society - knowing where to have vehicles to deal with both expected and expected events will be crucial. But guess what - that's complicated to figure out. Very complicated in fact.  Luckily, we've had the smarts in-house to be figuring this out for sometime now.  

We believe we're ready. Are you? Come and talk to us.