The Future of Mobility for Military Installations
By Major Brandon Newell, USMC
The Department of Defense (DOD) has an opportunity to transform mobility on installations and the standard of living for young service members via mobility services. Imagine young enlisted no longer mortgaging their futures by buying expensive cars via predatory lenders. Imagine the government no longer owning a fleet of vehicles, with exorbitant capital and maintenance costs. Imagine DOD Installations replacing parking lots of rarely used vehicles with office buildings, community centers, even parks. Imagine the installations helping urban cities like San Diego, reduce their traffic congestion. Imagine a workforce that is more productive by working during their commute rather sitting at the wheel. All of this is achievable now with proper vision and leadership by DOD.
This Future of Mobility for Military Installations plan, henceforth referred to as The Future of Mobility, involves offering third party owned and operated carsharing on the installation, for government use during business hours. After hours and on weekends, these same vehicles would be available for service members who live on the base. By combining these two customer pools into a single market, DOD would create a profitable business opportunity for carsharing companies. Carsharing on base would alleviate the government’s burden to transform the military non-tactical vehicle fleet from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EVs).
The Future of Mobility also calls for incentivized ridesharing for every day off-base commuters. The DOD can incentivize commuters to become Lyft or Uber drivers, while also incentivizing the majority of commuters to become passengers. There are a multitude of ridesharing incentive plans being utilized by industry and municipalities the DOD can learn from as they develop their own strategy. This will reduce gate delays and parking congestion on base, as well as, reduce congestion on highway and city roads. Additionally, there is potential for the government to increase productivity of the workforce as passengers spend less time driving and more time working.
Autonomous vehicles stand to transform the mobility services market, while providing mass mobility even more efficiently. This Future of Mobility concept was inspired by the realization of just how close autonomous vehicles are to adoption. A September 2016 article by John Zimmer, Co-founder of Lyft, entitled “The Third Transportation Revolution”, details how quickly mobility service companies expect autonomous EVs (AEVs) to be available for these services. The Zimmer article coincided with Rocky Mountain Institute’s report, Peak Car Ownership, released that same month. These documents showed that autonomous mobility services were not some distant future, but in fact, one that is closer than most expect. With a revolution taking place so soon, the DOD must be aggressive and jump aboard the train or be left behind. DOD has an opportunity to greatly benefit by becoming an early adopter of these capabilities because of the low speed limits and controlled environments on installations.
This article will lay out in detail the opportunity that lies before the DOD to be on the cutting edge of the mobility services revolution, to the benefit of all who work and live on military installations. First, the Current Challenges of Mobility are detailed. Followed by The Mobility Services Market where carsharing and ridesharing are described in depth. Next, a vision for Transforming On-Base Mobility by establishing carsharing as an alternative to government-owned fleets and personally-owned vehicles. Then, a plan for Revolutionizing Off-Base Mobility by ensuring ridesharing opportunities for the everyday commute of thousands of government workers residing off-base. Finally, this article helps the reader Envision an Autonomous Future where DOD capitalizes on the autonomous vehicle revolution that is fast approaching.
Current Challenges of Mobility
The Federal Fleet
The federal government is the nation’s largest vehicle fleet operator, with more than 600,000 vehicles. The DOD’s non-tactical vehicle (NTV) fleet is in excess of 175,000 as seen in Figure 1. Of that, nearly 75,000 are passenger vehicles and 40,000 are light trucks. These NTV fleets consist of 1) service-owned, 2) GSA-owned, and 3) commercially-leased vehicles. Combined, passenger vehicles and light trucks cost the DOD $435M a year. Additionally, Figure 1 shows the breakdown of passenger vehicles and light trucks by service.
A study conducted by the Army at Fort Hood in 2010 found that installation NTVs are utilized less than 100 minutes a day, which equates to a utilization rate of less than 7%. This means that NTVs sit stationary in parking lots in excess of 93% of their lifespan. The government ownership of this fleet is an inefficient model of mobility and creates a substantial financial burden on the federal agencies, with the capital costs of vehicle purchase combined with operations and maintenance costs. That capital cost is about to increase drastically.
“Executive Order — Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade” signed by President Obama on March 19, 2015 dictates goals to transform the federal fleet of vehicles. The Executive Order states that “by December 31, 2025, zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles account for 50 percent of all new agency passenger vehicles” and “planning for appropriate charging or refueling infrastructure or other power storage technologies for zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles” must be established.
Not only do EV and hybrid vehicles typically cost more than standard ICE vehicles, but the charging stations required present a considerable capital cost as well. Currently GSA and the Navy are conducting pilot programs to implement EVs into the fleet, but both programs would have the federal government foot the bill for the capital costs. The vision laid out in this article will free the federal government of this bill.
Off base residents are commuting longer than ever before for two reasons: affordable housing and increased traffic. Both civilian and uniformed government employees are living further away from bases as they look for the best affordable housing options. For example, two of the US cities with the largest military populations are Washington, D.C and San Diego, CA. Department of Transportation statistics show the average worker in these two metropolitan areas lose 82 and 42 hours a year to road congestion. Washington D.C. ranks worst in the country for this statistic. In total, congestion costs Washington, D.C workers $4.56M/year and San Diego workers $1.65M/year, ranking them 5th and 21st respectively.
Leadership Challenges: Finances and Vehicle Fatalities
There is an epidemic of financial woes that affects the service members of every unit. Those financial woes often start with buying a vehicle. Financial strains affect both the Marine and the unit. Marines that have conflicts in their personal lives, carry that burden into their professional life. So why are Marine leaders allowing this to happen, when the source of the problem is known?
Vehicle ownership costs the average individual $9k a year. With predatory loans often being used by many young enlisted, it certainly could be well in excess of $10k a year. An E-3 in the Navy makes about $27k a year and has a free place to live, which makes it seem as though they can afford the vehicle expense. The truth is, even if they are making their payments, vehicle ownership robs from their future financial stability. There will come a day when they have a spouse and kids. They will feel the pain of having not saved their money during a time when their purchases were luxuries, rather than necessities. Base commanders that provide mobility services can change this dynamic.
An even greater challenge for base commanders is vehicle fatalities. Between 2000 and 2009, there were 1,923 automobile fatalities and 806 motorcycle fatalities across the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Within the Navy, 39% of the automobile fatalities and 23% of the motorcycle fatalities were alcohol related. Mobility services and autonomous vehicles could stand to drastically improve the safety of mobility for service members.
Shipment of Vehicles Overseas
In 2013, Transportation Command awarded a contract for shipment of personally owned vehicles (POVs) when DOD personnel are relocating overseas and to Hawaii. The contract is worth $836M over a 5 year period, with options included. It is estimated that 90,000 POVs are shipped per year. By executing this Future of Mobility plan on bases in Hawaii and overseas, demand reduction of shipped vehicles could considerably reduce the contract.
The Mobility Services Market
The Mobility services market is comprised of both carsharing and ridesharing models. These services are transforming the way people think about mobility, especially in urban areas. There are many companies throughout the US offering mobility services. The most well known of these companies are Zipcar and car2go for carsharing and Uber and Lyft for ridesharing.
A 2015 study by UC Berkeley summarizes carsharing most effectively, with the following description:
Carsharing is the shared use of a vehicle fleet by members for tripmaking on a per trip basis. [The two most prevalent forms of carsharing are roundtrip and one-way]. In roundtrip carsharing, members begin and end a trip at the same vehicle location and typically pay for use by the hour, mile, or both. One-way carsharing enables members, who pay by the minute, to begin and end a trip at different locations — either throughout a free floating zone or station-based model with designated parking locations. Roundtrip carsharing has been operating in North America for over 20 years. In July 2015, there were 39 roundtrip carsharing operators in North America with a total membership of 1,005,893 and a collective fleet of 18,582 vehicles. In 2010, one-way carsharing launched in North America in Austin, Texas with the car2go service. As of July 2015, there were three one-way operators in North America, serving 511,000 members with a collective fleet of 6,870 vehicles.
The Future of Mobility concept involves both roundtrip and one-way forms of carsharing for on-base mobility. Zipcar and car2go offer two different models for how this service can be provided. Zipcar works with municipalities and parking lot owners to designate a specific parking spot for each vehicle facilitating roundtrip service. Drivers reserve a specific vehicle for a specified amount of time via the Zipcar app. car2go works with municipalities to provide flexibility in where the vehicle can be dropped off, by acquiring residential zone parking permits and having municipalities bill car2go directly for parking meters. This allows the driver to take one-way trips. As for reserving the vehicle, the driver doesn’t have to. The driver finds an available vehicle near his location via the app. Then the driver can reserve it or pick up the vehicle with no reservation. To achieve this, car2go must maintain a high density of vehicles in popular regions of urban areas.
Vehicle fleet owners have recognized the potential of carsharing strategies to improve the efficiency of their fleets. For example, the City of Houston launched a municipal electric vehicle (EV) green fleet sharing program, called Houston Fleet Share, in 2012. The program outfitted 50 city-owned fleet EVs with Zipcar’s proprietary car sharing technology for use by city employees across numerous departments. While the City of Houston chose to continue ownership of the fleet of vehicles, carsharing can easily relieve DOD of this burden.
Additionally, companies like Zipcar and car2go have proven to drastically reduce the number of personally owned vehicles. The UC Berkeley study found that every car2go vehicle, across five North American cities, displaced 7 to 11 vehicles. This was determined by identifying members that either a) sold a vehicle due to car2go membership or b) decided not to buy a vehicle due to the availability of car2go.
Another relevant example is the collaboration between Zipcar and the University of Michigan to mitigate the need for parking. “We’re working to reduce the growing need for parking by promoting transportation options,” says Dave Miller, Executive Director of Parking and Transportation. Miller found that every Zipcar takes about 13 privately owned cars off the road. “It breaks down to convincing students and staff that they don’t need to bring a car to campus,” he adds. Carsharing could have a substantial impact on the financial stability of young enlisted, parking lots and government fleet management aboard DOD installations, as will be detailed later.
At this point, ridesharing is well known throughout the US. Uber and Lyft are household names known for their ability to compete successfully with taxis and rental cars. The 2016 Lyft Economic Impact Report, states 34% of riders avoid owning a personal vehicle entirely because of Lyft and 39% of all riders use it to commute. In 2016, Lyft passengers saved 26 million hours compared to their alternative mode of transportation, which is valued at $500 million. The popularity is described well in Zimmer’s article;
…for many people — especially millennials — … car ownership is a burden that is costing the average American $9,000 every year. The car has actually become more like a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life. Owning a car means monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs.
Ridesharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car. The age of young people with driver’s licenses has been steadily decreasing ever since right around when I was born. In 1983, 92% of 20 to 24-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2014 it was just 77%. In 1983, 46% of 16-year-olds had licenses. Today it’s just 24%. All told, a millennial today is 30% less likely to buy a car than someone from the previous generation.
It is important to recognize that over 43% of active duty service members are 25 years of age or younger. That breaks down to 47.6% of enlisted and 12.4% of officers. These young enlisted by inlarge live in barracks on base within walking distance to their place of work. This will apply to the next section on On-Base Mobility.
Additionally, ridesharing has a positive impact on military families and veterans. In 2014, UberMilitary set a goal of establishing 50,000 service member, veteran, or military spouse drivers. By April 2016, Uber had reached that number. Also, Lyft reports that 10% of all their drivers are veterans. The flexibility offered by being an independent driver seems to be amenable to military families and veterans.
Autonomous Vehicle Future
By now everyone has heard of Tesla’s intentions to offer autonomous driving. The future of autonomous vehicles goes much further than just personally owned vehicles like Tesla. Zimmer’s The Third Transportation Revolution article and RMI’s Peak Car Ownership report, surprised many people with the staggering impact of autonomous vehicles on the idea of personally owned vehicles all together. Most surprisingly is how quickly both identified autonomous vehicles will reach full scale adoption. Zimmer lays out the case that within 10 years autonomous vehicles will no longer require a human in the driver seat.
In December, Uber extended autonomous vehicle capability to San Francisco, which marks the second autonomous capable city in Uber’s portfolio along with Pittsburgh. There is still an Uber driver in the seat, but the early exposure of customers to the capability is critical. As Lior Ron, senior director of engineering at Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, points out “The drive will be self-driven as much as possible, but not all of it. This is about operating and iterating on the technology.” 
Lest one think Uber and Lyft’s claims are simply a good opportunity for favorable publicity, RMI offers an unbiased perspective. Their report went so far as to state that the US is now at peak car ownership due to how quickly autonomous vehicles will transform the idea of mobility. The below excerpt from RMI’s report shows how the most innovative companies in the IT, vehicle, and mobility services industries are expecting an expedient transition to autonomous vehicles:
Autonomous vehicles are more than simply alternatives to personally owned vehicles. They offer the potential for improved social welfare as well. In the 2016 report entitled, “Autonomous Vehicle Technology”, RAND found that “[AV] technology has the potential to substantially benefit social welfare through its reduction of crashes and costs of congestion, declines in fuel consumption and emission, increases in mobility, and eventually, changes to land use.”
The genesis for much of the autonomous vehicle advancements in the last ten years started with DOD sponsored autonomous vehicle challenges in 2004, 2005 and 2007. These challenges were held by the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA). The vision cast by DARPA and the early seed money that flowed from the program generated thought leaders in this space. As Corey Clothier of Meridian Autonomous points out, “Many of the leading companies in autonomous vehicles today have their autonomous vehicle departments led by talent that participated in the DARPA challenges.” From early opportunities created by DARPA to advancements developed by the commercial industry, autonomous vehicle technology is ready for adoption. DOD should position itself to bear fruit from that early investment. The first step to early adoption must be embracing and leveraging the mobility services available today. Here’s how…
PHASE I: EMBRACE MOBILITY SERVICES TODAY
Part A: Transform on-Base Mobility
Critical to the success of transforming on-base mobility is the combining of user pools to create a viable business opportunity for a third party carsharing company. By combining typical government vehicle users during working hours with on-base resident use for nights and weekends, the DOD can create such an opportunity. As discussed in the previous section, carsharing is a well-established and growing market, especially with millennials.
Working Hours — Government Use
Providing third party owned EVs to replace typical government fleets is a cornerstone of the plan. This resolves the burden of the government to own and manage the fleet themselves. The carsharing company would manage the fleet as they do at any other location. Outsourcing capabilities on installations is nothing new. DOD has been doing this for years, from dining facilities to equipment issuing facilities. The outsourcing of services like mobility offers an efficient means to meeting demand and optimizing supply, a philosophy that drives industry much more so than government.
The key will be selection of the ideal financing structure. The standard approach could be setting up a contractual service based around guaranteed availability of vehicles during working hours. Because not all government use is within working hours, there will have to be a separate guarantee of availability for after hours and weekends. Identifying these availability set points is not difficult as DOD Installations can research current utilization of government fleets to make informed decisions. The benefit of this strategy is it provides guaranteed budgeting for the government and equally as important, a guaranteed and stable income for the third party.
Another approach could be a fee for services contract where the government agrees to a fee per mile or per hour of usage. For example, a government worker requires a vehicle from 9 to 11 in the morning. He would use the scheduling app to reserve a vehicle similar to how an individual does out in town. It is recommended that the government agrees to a price per hour greater than that of standard personal use for two reasons. The first is to incentivize a company to see on-base carsharing as a solid business opportunity. Secondly, to create market forces that ensure the government workers have priority during working hours. Because the company receives higher compensation, they will work hard to optimize availability for government workers. DOD should work closely with the carsharing company to develop an app-based billing strategy, which they are uniquely suited to develop based on their core business. Many readers will have a sense of unease at the thoughts of how much this will cost the government. It should therefore be reiterated that the removal of government-owned fleets and the subsequent O&M costs present a tremendous amount of displaced cost. This strategy for meeting the mobility needs of the government worker would be much cheaper.
After Hours — Individual Use
This is a standard carsharing model based on the current Zipcar and car2go business model. The individual hires a car as required. The company meets that demand by optimizing supply. Some will ask, why doesn’t this currently take place on military installations? It does, in unique locations like the Air Force Academy, where vehicle ownership is restricted. So why then is it not more prevalent? The answer to that centers around what was previously discussed concerning a single user pool. Companies recognize that on-base residents typically will only use a vehicle on nights and weekends, presenting a very unbalanced opportunity window for making a profit. Additionally, unlike at the Air Force Academy, there is currently no restriction on vehicle ownership on military installations. Installation commanders should consider restricting car ownership, thereby creating a signal to the carsharing industry that the opportunity they see at the Air Force Academy exists across all installations. This signal is the extent of the government involvement in this aspect of the plan. The market can effectively dictate how many vehicles should be provided based on the utilization of the program. The most complicated aspect would center around charging stations. This would require creativity and leadership by the DOD.
A vignette involving Naval Base San Diego offers an example of the potential impact of this On- Base Mobility.
This 154 fleet of vehicles operated by a third party car-sharing company would convince many young sailors to no longer own a vehicle. The estimated number of displaced POVs is between 1075 and 1997. This represents a reduction rate between 42% and 78% of the 2560 POVs there today.
As discussed, charging stations create a complicated capital cost that must be provided from the outset of the plan. In 2014, Rocky Mountain Institute estimated that charging stations cost about $6,000 for an individual charger in a parking garage. That price dropped to about $4,000 per charger when five chargers were installed.  Unlike current government plans, this Future of Mobility plan provides an opportunity for the government to have a third party pay all or part of that bill. By creating a robust and viable business opportunity for a third party, the Navy can incentivize both the carsharing provider and the utility company to assume the capital cost. The carsharing provider will see the fee for services and/or government contract as an ample return on investment for the initial cost of the charging station.
Here is where leadership by the DOD is critical. By bringing both mobility service companies and utility companies to the table and supporting healthy negotiation, the DOD can ensure an optimized solution. This type of leadership is no different than the work the DOD has done with third party renewable energy projects aboard bases. For example, the Navy’s Renewable Energy Project Office regularly works with local utilities, installation energy managers, and the renewable energy developer in similar negotiations.
Benefits of Transforming On-Base Mobility
As the DOD faces the daunting challenge of transforming the NTV fleet to EVs per the aforementioned Executive Order, an opportunity exists to throw away the old model of government vehicle ownership. Providing mobility to government workers is the true requirement. Mobility services are a more economical and efficient means to do that. The economic advantage has been detailed at length. Contractual or fee for services both eliminate the capital costs currently facing the DOD on this EV transformation. As for efficiency, who will provide the best optimized solution for the blend of sedans, SUVs, vans, and trucks? A government fleet manager driven by policy or a third party fleet manager driven by economics? The market will adeptly shift as the demand shifts.
This plan also presents a leadership opportunity for every base commander. Taking steps towards viable mobility sharing on base ensures young enlisted have the mobility opportunity they desire. It alleviates the pull on young enlisted to own a car. It reduces the risk of the service member buying a car they can’t afford via a predatory loan that can be as high as 18% interest. In fact, carsharing on-base provides base commanders the perfect leadership opportunity to restrict car ownership for all young enlisted living on base.
Part B: Diversify Off-Base Mobility
Ridesharing is the natural evolution of mass transit in this country. Just as the government subsidizes bus, metro, and rail for everyday commuters, it should subsidize ridesharing passengers. Perhaps the best example of the potential for ridesharing for commuters starts with the Slug line in Northern Virginia. For years, there has been a pooling of commuters who wait at designated areas and are picked up by random drivers headed to DC for work. The Slug line, as it’s called, offers a simple system for drivers to retrieve enough passengers to facilitate access to the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, thereby decreasing commute times. For the passengers, it offers the opportunity to expedite most of their commute without having to drive. Typically these passengers will drive from their home to one of the slug line locations, park, and then wait in line for their turn to claim a seat. On the other end, they will be dropped off by their driver in designated areas, which then often leads them to take mass transit the rest of the way to their workplace.
Now compare the Slug line to the efficiency of coworkers carpooling. They organically determine which coworkers live in close proximity to one another. This is more efficient because of the door-to-door service for the passengers. Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft can offer a “mass transit” solution that is just as efficient as these carpoolers, but on a scale exponentially larger than carpooling coworkers. Envision a future where an app used by drivers and passengers working on the same installation effectively marries a driver with passengers that live in or by his neighborhood. The passenger would receive door-to-door service, while the driver minimizes any additional miles added to his normal commute. This future could be a reality for DOD Installations with the proper leadership and incentives.
Both Lyft and Uber have attempted “Commuter” services in the past. Lyft created LyftCarpool in San Francisco which has since been discontinued. Uber created UberPool, which has been plagued by poor reviews. Both commuter services were hindered by a lack of interested drivers. Working in partnership with DOD, Lyft and Uber can successfully establish a commuter model. Here’s how:
Facilitate Commuter Drivers
The DOD can help support the establishment of a driver pool out of everyday commuters. This can be accomplished in three steps. First, DOD should work with Lyft and Uber to minimize the fees and screening of government workers that want to become “Commuter Drivers”. Combined with promotions on base, this will lower the hurdle for adoption. A “Commuter Driver” is different from typical Lyft and Uber drivers as the primary purpose of becoming a driver is not financial gain. The primary incentives are access to HOV lanes, shorter commute times, and potential additional perks offered by the installation, such as VIP parking. While nominal financial gain can be achieved by the driver, this is not the primary incentive. Reduction in financial gain by Commuter Drivers, as compared to typical drivers is actually an integral part of the plan as it allows the DOD to help negotiate reduced rates for government “Commuting Passengers”. As you will see in the next section, lower “Commuter Passenger” rates will enable government mass transit subsidies to support this plan.
Facilitate Commuter Passengers
The DOD can incentivize passengers by offering subsidies and working with Uber and Lyft to reduce the cost of ridesharing for Commuter Passengers. The key to incentivizing ridesharing passengers is thinking of it as a merging of mass transit and vanpooling. An example is in Northern Virginia where the federal government subsidizes government workers at the Pentagon by providing funds to their metro cards for their daily commute. Additionally, the government has programs that provide a van for service members that agree to commute to work together. Both of these programs are useful, but they cannot compare to the potential presented by ridesharing.. As previously mentioned, ridesharing offers door-to-door service in an optimally managed system.
Before entertaining a subsidy for passengers, the DOD must work with Lyft and Uber to reduce the cost per trip. Current Lyft and Uber pricing is not tailored for 30 mile commutes. The price for such a commute would be wholly uneconomical. With the DOD’s leadership in developing Commuter Drivers and their articulation of the reduced financial incentives of the driver, they can work with Lyft and Uber to create a rate that is more applicable to the commuter market.
Lyft currently has programs with the municipalities in Centennial, Colorado and San Clemente, California that could offer some interesting insights. Both offer last mile or last 3 mile rides for passengers of mass transit in their areas. The city of Centennial recognized that they spent $23 for every passenger riding city shuttles between local neighborhoods and the local Denver light rail terminal. Centennial’s current pilot program with Lyft costs the city about $4 a ride. Lyft created a coupon for passengers living within three miles of the terminal. The passenger doesn’t pay Lyft, instead Lyft bills the city. Additionally, this reduces parking spaces and congestion around the transit center.
Another useful example is the agreement between Lyft and McKinsey & Company, the international consulting firm. McKinsey worked with Lyft to facilitate that all traveling consultants will take a Lyft ride rather than taking a taxi or renting a car. To do this, McKinsey established a Lyft account where each passenger’s bill automatically goes to McKinsey’s account. McKinsey then pays Lyft directly. For being a loyal customer, Lyft reduced the fare for every ride as compared to typical passengers.
Benefits of Transforming Off-Base Mobility
Working with ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to create Commuter Drivers and Commuter Passengers will reduce the demand for parking spaces, reduce gate delays, and reduce congestion on nearby highways. This potential is captured in the below vignette for Naval Base San Diego.
PHASE 2: ENVISION AN AUTONOMOUS FUTURE
Impacts to On-Base Mobility
With the implementation of the On-Base Mobility plan detailed above, the DOD can position itself to be the perfect early adopter of autonomous vehicles. The early adoption would consist of slowly integrating autonomous vehicles into the carsharing service that will already be on base. DOD can sell autonomous vehicle companies on early adoption partnerships based on three key principles. First, installations are controlled environments with clear boundaries. This will help with policy. Second, installations have low speed limits. As laid out in Zimmer’s article, the 5–10 year vision is adoption for low speeds. A controlled environment with all vehicles moving at low speeds is ideal, making the DOD a perfect partner. Finally, installations have a known user pool. This user pool of service members, their families, and government employees are accustomed to being subject to base protocols and policies. Early adoption of autonomous vehicles for mobility services can be the subject of a marketing program where the “customer” is very well known. Additionally, with the adoption of The Future of Mobility plan, these customers would be accustomed to utilizing carsharing services, making them more inclined to utilize and be comfortable with autonomous vehicles.
In fact, the carsharing services implemented in the early stages of this plan perfectly align DOD to autonomous vehicles in more than one way. As mentioned above, the users will be accustomed to sharing. This can’t be overstated. Take DOD installations outside the continental United States for example. Many service members will utilize car sharing simply because they no longer need to ship a vehicle overseas, which is costly and time consuming to both the government and the service member. This creates an atmosphere where carsharing is not just a novel idea, but rather is looked at as a true enabler for the service member. This type of supportive user is more inclined to accept innovations in carsharing such as autonomous vehicles.
Additional benefits of autonomous carsharing are a) mobility services become more optimized as vehicles move to the user and b) parking lots/charging stations can be remotely located. First, the optimization will take place because vehicles will arrive at the user’s door at a prescribed time. Once the user is dropped off, the vehicle will move on to the next user requesting a ride. In traditional car sharing, the vehicle is restricted to where the driver is planning to go. Therefore remote places, will remove the car from the available pool for hours at a time. This will not happen with autonomous vehicles. Secondly, autonomous vehicles can move themselves to charging stations after a ride is over. This is truly an enabling factor for installation facility managers as they determine where to install chargers. Currently, locations that are ideal for the users are the only locations considered. Autonomous vehicles enable selection of locations ideal to the grid and the third party fleet manager.
Impacts to Off-Base Mobility
Autonomous vehicles actually merge carsharing and ridesharing into a single business plan in the future. Therefore, the most important impact is that carsharing companies servicing on-base mobility can be the same provider for off-base mobility as vehicles become autonomous. As described in Zimmer’s article, traditional ridesharing drastically transforms with the adoption of autonomous vehicles. This is because individuals no longer own the vehicle. Instead mobility service companies will own them and operate them more in a carsharing model, such as Zipcar and car2go do today. The major difference is that carsharing will become much more optimized when the cars can autonomously migrate to match the commuting patterns of the area.
For example, look at the ridesharing plan detailed earlier. Drivers in the act of commuting to work provide the only available source of cars. Therefore supply doesn’t always match demand, due to other factors that influence the driver. With autonomous vehicles for off-base mobility, third party companies will meet the demand based on market factors, which are simpler to manage. They will ensure their supply of autonomous vehicles in suburbs match the demand for rides in that area. Bottom line, autonomous vehicles will make mobility services much more efficient for the riders headed to work on DOD installations.
Again, the DOD is in position to be an early adopter. By implementing the ridesharing strategy detailed in this report, installations can present to third party companies a known commodity of locally pooled riders. Once the drivers and riders organically identify who lives closest to whom, they represent a pattern for autonomous commuter vehicles to emulate. In fact, the first autonomous vehicles for commuters could be specifically programed for this known route, thereby supporting early transitions in automating the entire fleet. Additionally, the user pool is a known commodity that is open to transitions as they would have already adopted ridesharing services as a norm. Autonomous vehicles would simply present the next step in optimizing the service they already rely upon.
It is recommended that DOD partner with the Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Energy (DOE) in this endeavor. Both DOT and DOE have experience in mobility transformation which could serve DOD well. The DOT recently held the Smart City Challenge where it selected Columbus, Ohio for a $140M award to transform the mobility landscape of the city. Similarly, DOE’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is working to bring the Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation, or SMART Mobility framework, to the forefront on a national level. EERE is actively pursuing partnerships with other organizations to “build new concepts, models, and visions for a new transportation system”.
DOD has an opportunity today to leverage mobility services for both on-base and off-base mobility and in the process save money and improve the standard of living for service members. Meanwhile, the utilization of mobility services perfectly positions DOD to be an early adopter of autonomous vehicles. Early adoption benefits DOD by creating an opportunity to negotiate favorable contracts for the government, while reducing congestion, gate delays, and fatalities. For technology and mobility service companies, DOD becomes a strategic partner on the path to full scale adoption. This Future of Mobility plan offers an industry solution with a “whole of government” support system to transform mobility on all military installations.
About the Author: Major Brandon Newell is the Military Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He has 15 years as an active duty Marine, specializing in Communications and Energy Systems. He has a M.S and B.S. in Electrical Engineering. You reach him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-newell-712b6793.
 The following day, the State of California gave a cease and desist order to Uber for operating these vehicles. The governor of Arizona subsequently tweeted, “California may not want you; but AZ does!”. Uber immediately shipped the vehicles to Phoenix. http://thebusinessrelocationcoach.blogspot.com/2016/12/regulations-mean-san-francisco-loses.html