This page provides a list of common definitions in the shared mobility space, as well as supporting information. For a more comprehensive look, see the Shared-Use Mobility Reference Guide, which SUMC developed to equip government, business, and community leaders for the rapid changes in the transportation landscape currently taking place in cities around the world. The guide includes recommended definitions for new shared modes of transportation, updates on the latest industry trends, evaluation of changing local government roles and policy choices, and more.
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)
Autonomous vehicles (AVs), otherwise known as “self-driving” vehicles, are defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as “those in which operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode”. AVs rely on on-board sensors to collect information on the surroundings of the vehicle and to operate the vehicle. Due to the innovative potential of AV technology, it is critical that they are well-regulated, produce zero emissions, and are part of shared fleets. Currently, university and hospital campuses are some of the earliest adopters of AV fleets, because the vehicles are restricted to fairly short routes and interaction with other vehicles is limited.
AVs are classified based on six different levels, ranging from fully manual (Level 0) to fully automated (Level 5) systems.
- A Level 1 system offers driver assistance, with features like adaptive cruise control and parallel parking guidance.
- A partially automated Level 2 system can take control over critical functions like acceleration, braking or steering, but with continual “hands on” supervision by a human driver.
- A conditionally automated Level 3 system allows drivers to safely relinquish supervision of the vehicle in limited circumstances. These “eyes off” vehicles can self-navigate at speeds up to 37 miles per hour when on a road with a median.
- Highly automated Level 4 systems, currently being tested in some US states, allow drivers to completely relinquish navigation to the vehicle except in certain functions, like parking, or under certain inclement weather conditions.
- Fully automated Level 5 systems are capable of all driving functions and could, in theory, operate without a steering wheel or any other mechanism of human control.
For more information, please visit SUMC’s Learning Module on Shared Autonomous Vehicles.
Bikeshare is a form of micromobility, where riders are able to rent bikes on a short-term basis for point-to-point trips using a fleet of public or private bikes distributed throughout a community. Users commonly purchase passes via a mobile app or from kiosks at docks, and use a key, code, or app to unlock bikes. Bikesharing has the potential to play an important role in bridging some of the gaps in existing transportation networks, as well as encouraging individuals to use multiple transportation modes. Potential bikesharing benefits include: increased mobility, lower transportation costs, reduced fuel use, and improved health.
With docked, or station-based bikeshare, users unlock bikes from a fixed dock and return them (either to the same dock or to a different dock) at the end of a trip. Bikes not in use are locked into the station, and are released when a user has entered payment information through an app or nearby kiosk. To finish a ride, the user returns the bike to an empty dock, where it is locked in place.
Dockless bikeshare, also known as free-floating bikeshare, is a system in which the bicycles do not require a docking station, and usually have a lock integrated into the frame of the bike. Since the bikes do not need to be returned to a particular docking station, modern dockless bikeshare bikes are usually equipped with GPS technology, and users end rides by leaving the bike anywhere within a defined operating area.
Closed community bikesharing is a small-scale form of bikesharing where membership is limited to individuals affiliated with a specific entity, often a college or corporate campus.
Peer-to-peer bikesharing allows users to rent or borrow bikes hourly or daily from individuals or bike rental shops. This can be facilitated by a private shop or through a website or phone app.
Pedal-assist e-bikes offer a bike that includes a small battery and motor that will give the user an extra boost while riding. These bikes are largely beneficial for hilly city terrains and help those with limited mobility means. E-bikes are often included as an option in traditional bikeshare systems.
For more information, please visit SUMC’s Learning Module on Bikesharing.
Common Terms: Bike Sharing, Bike-sharing, Bikesharing, Bike-share, Bike Share
Carshare is a service that provides members with access to an automobile for short-term – usually hourly – use. The shared cars are distributed across a network of locations within a metropolitan area. Members can access the vehicles at any time with a reservation and are charged by either time or distance. Carshare provides most of the benefits of a personal automobile without the costs of owning a private vehicle.
Carshare services offer several models, including:
- Point-to-point or one-way
Round-trip or station-based carsharing was the earliest service configuration of carshare, and requires customers to borrow and return vehicles at the same location.
One-way or point-to-point carsharing is when users are allowed to pick up and leave cars anywhere within a service area. Despite its flexibility, one-way service is facing difficulty in North America, and after appearing in a number of markets starting in 2015, has retreated in most of the U.S. and now remains in only a few cities
Peer-to-peer carsharing is when existing car owners make their vehicles available for short term rental by enrolling them in car sharing programs like Turo. Programs like these allow for use of a car on an ad hoc basis without having to own one, while providing the existing car owners a way to generate revenue.
For more information, please visit SUMC’s Learning Module on Carshare.
Common Terms: Carsharing, Car-sharing, Car Sharing, Car Share, Car-share
First and Last Mile
The First and Last Mile Problem is a term used to describe the inability to reach public transportation or a destination from public transportation. Frequently, the gap between the origin/destination and the fixed-route transit system can be a significant distance presenting a major challenge for those looking for reliable equitable transportation. These distances can be further strained by the lack of adequate infrastructure.
First and Last Mile Connections refer to the trips that must be made from public transportation to one’s final destination or from one’s trip origin to reach public transportation. For example, how one must travel from their home to their closest transit stop is an example of a first mile connection. Oftentimes these connections are made by walking, however, shared mobility options such as bikeshare can offer convenient and comfortable ways to bridge these gaps in coverage.
Micromobility refers to fleets of small, low-speed vehicles, primarily used for single-person short trips in urban areas with good connectivity and a density of destinations. It serves as a first and last mile option that is faster than hailing a taxi, walking, or transferring to low-frequency transit. Common forms of micromobility include bikeshare and scootershare, as well as semi-motorized variants of these modes. Typical trips are 1-3 miles, but some trips can be much longer, especially when aided by an electric vehicle.
Microtransit/Flexible Shuttle Service
Microtransit is a service model that sits between traditional fixed-route transit and the services provided by taxis and new, tech-enabled models like Uber and Lyft (transportation network companies, or TNCs). It is a demand-responsive, commuter-focused service that typically uses ad hoc pickup and drop-off points, within a few minutes’ walk of multiple customers, and generally within limited service zones. This shared mode uses vehicles smaller than transit buses but larger than the passenger vehicles commonly used by TNCs. Unlike other new mobility modes, these services require professional drivers, typically employed through a purchased transportation arrangement with a vendor or employed directly by a transit agency. Microtransit vendors include Transloc, DemandTrans, Via, and Transdev.
Demand-Response Transit (DRT) is a type of public transportation service that involves small or medium vehicles operating on flexible routes with flexible schedules that depend on passengers requests – allowing passengers to use the service at specific times of the day.
Paratransit is a type of demand-response service where eligible riders can schedule pre-arranged trips. Often, this service is geared toward those who cannot use a fixed-route system, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Flex-Route Services, also known as flexible route services, are transit services that typically run on fixed-routes with fixed stops but have the ability to deviate from the route to pick up passengers within the flex zone.
For more information, please visit SUMC’s Learning Module on Microtransit.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
Mobility as a service (Maas), marks a deviation from personal vehicle ownership. It allows users to plan, pay for, and use various forms of mobility based on their travel needs, and integrates the multiple forms of transportation into one platform or app. A successful MaaS platform can allow users to transfer between modes easily and conveniently, and pay for the trip without needing to switch payment platforms.
Mobility Management is an innovative approach for managing and delivering coordinated transportation services. Mobility management programs focus on connecting customers to the transportation service that will best meet their travel needs through trip planning support, travel training, and aggregation of transportation service information.
Transportation demand management (TDM) refers to a system of strategies which incentivizes alternative forms of travel and aims to maximize traveler choices, reduce congestion, and increase efficiency in transportation networks.
Mobility on Demand (MOD)
Mobility on Demand (MOD) is a multimodal system of transportation services where an individual can use transportation when and where they need it, without the need for their own personal vehicle. It provides travel options in an integrated network to allow people to get to work, run errands, and go about their daily lives.
Public transit refers to publicly owned fleets of buses, trains, ferries, facilities, and rights of way with fixed-route local and express service. This type of transportation is the foundation for much of shared mobility. There is great untapped potential for transit agencies to integrate with, or offer, shared modes to increase access to public transit and lower costs. Both large technology companies and emerging app entrepreneurs are working to develop integration platforms that cross these modes. For example, several mobile apps currently on the market aggregate information about various transportation options available in a given city so that users can choose from a menu of real-time transportation options to get to their destination, including public transit, taxi services, micromobility services, carsharing, or ridesharing.
Ride Hailing, also known as ridesourcing, is the act of booking and paying for on-demand transportation services through an online platform or smartphone application. Ride hailing providers such as Uber and Lyft —codified in California law and elsewhere as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)—use online platforms to connect passengers with drivers who use personal, non-commercial, vehicles. This application-based ride hailing allows users to schedule rides knowing the upfront cost of the trip, track the progress of their ride, and utilize mobile payment. These services are tech-enabled versions of taxi cab services that have existed for over a century.
Trips can be exclusive to individual passengers, or they can be pooled, when a driver picks up two or more unconnected passengers with similar routes over the course of a trip. UberPOOL and Lyft Line, for example, allow drivers carrying a passenger to add additional passengers riding a similar route. These services are known as “ride-splitting,” since the passengers then split the cost of the trip. TNCs have also launched bus-like services that mimic traditional public transit, such as Lyft’s Shuttle service in some major cities.
Common Terms: Ridehailing, Ride Sourcing, Ridesourcing, Ride-sourcing, TNC, Transportation Network Company
Ridesharing is the grouping of drivers and passengers with common origins and/or destinations. Ridesharing essentially fills empty seats in vehicles, which better realizes vehicle occupancy potential and reduces the number of vehicles on the roadway. As such, ridesharing can be a powerful tool to address problems of congestion, emissions, and fossil fuel dependency.
Carpooling, the oldest form of ridesharing, is the grouping of multiple travelers into a privately owned vehicle, with members sharing trip costs and sometimes driving responsibilities. Recently, phone apps like Waze and SPLT have allowed users to arrange carpool rides on demand by connecting to other drivers and passengers based on their destination before a trip starts.
Slugging/community carpooling is a type of carpooling commonly found in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC. It is an informal version of carpooling, usually among strangers. Typically, passengers do not pay any money for these rides (or a very small amount to account for trip-related expenses like tolls or gas), and the vehicles are able to use HOV lanes.
Vanpooling is a form of carpooling where a group of usually 5-15 commuters will commute via a larger van, usually sharing driving responsibility. Vans are either owned collectively by the commuters, by a transit agency, or by an employer.
Common Terms: Carpool, Car-pool, Car-pooling, Rideshare, Ride Share, Ride-share Ride-sharing, Ride Sharing
Scooter sharing is a form of micromobility which allows users on-demand access to motorized, electric scooters for short periods of time, typically for one-way trips. Similar to dockless bikesharing, users generally unlock scooters through a phone app, and are charged based on distance traveled or time spent, as well as a small upfront charge to unlock the vehicle.
Shared electric scooters, also called kick scooters, are operated by the user pushing to begin a trip, at which point an electric motor starts and propels the vehicle.
Shared mopeds are a mix between e-bikes and motorcycles. The user is seated, and the vehicle is solely powered by the electric motor. The sharing technology for these types of scooters is also app-driven, but more closely resembles free-floating carsharing.
For more information, please visit SUMC’s Learning Module on Electric Scooter Sharing.
Common Terms: Scootersharing, Scooter-sharing, Scootershare, Scooter-share, Scooter Share, E-scooter Sharing, Shared E-scooters
Shared-use mobility refers to transportation services and resources that are shared among users, either concurrently or one after another. This encompasses a variety of transportation options, including public transit, taxis and limousines, bikesharing, carsharing (round-trip, one-way, and personal vehicle sharing), ridesharing (car-pooling, van-pooling), ridesourcing, scooter sharing, shuttle services, neighborhood jitneys, and commercial delivery vehicles providing flexible movement of goods.
Shared transportation has grown tremendously in recent years as a renewed interest in urbanism and growing environmental, energy, and economic concerns have intensified the need for sustainable alternatives.
These new services represent innovative responses to the demand for new options, and offer an opportunity to:
- Provide more mobility choices
- Offer first and last mile solutions
- Reduce traffic congestion
- Mitigate various forms of pollution
- Reduce transportation costs
- Improve efficiency
- Identify choices for those who cannot afford to buy and maintain a vehicle
- Create accessible mobility options for those with limited physical ability
Taxis are regulated for-hire vehicles that offer transportation services to and from specific destinations. This fee is assessed using a meter and is based on the distance or duration of the trip. Unlike limousines, pre-arranged transportation is not provided, and drivers pick up passengers via street hails or are dispatched to locations on an as-needed basis.
Limousines/limos are regulated for-hire vehicles that pick up passengers via street hails or prearrangement.
Jitneys are privately-owned vehicles that operate like taxis or buses, but often without official licenses. Jitneys traditionally have been used for transportation in low-income neighborhoods, which often have limited access to public transportation and poor service by taxi cabs.