Maximising the potential of tomorrow

Tomorrow's Journey CEO Chris Kirby speaks to Alex Kreetzer about his newly-formed company that provides a global platform for mobility services to thrive on.

When cars are autonomous, electric, connected and on demand, someone is going to have to own a network for it. One company alone cannot own everything and, if everyone out there who is offering a competitive service remains separate from one another, customers will be the ones feeling the backlash. Tomorrow's Journey birthed from a brainstorming session between now CEO Chris Kirby and Nick James, who is a part of the founding team. The two understood that there wasn't something quite right with mobility services. For example, Uber has changed the taxi market but it hasn't really done anything apart from connecting location data from a mobile phone into an app and connecting it with people's location data. This may be a better way of hailing a taxi, but it is not a new service - rather a digital disruption, which applies to many different areas of the transport sector. This is a limiting factor to the mobility services' element of the market because, from a customer's perspective, you haven't got the cost benefits, flexible access and the service scope to be able to give up on a private car. “What we found was that a lot of the car sharing platforms are actually putting more cars on the roads, rather than taking them off,” says Kirby. “This is the same as Uber, who are filling areas like central London with more and more vehicles.”  

Tomorrow's Journey looked at future technology that centered around the connected car and who was going to control and help join the networks together. Vehicles are massively underutilised, whether involved in logistics or a personal car. “If we could help solve this problem, then this will help car sharing companies increase the scale of their operations without having to put more cars on the road. This increase in utilisation will, in turn, reduce costs and pollution, so the concept is really simple and is open to anybody who has a vehicle asset business,” continues Kirby. The company takes the vehicles to organise and price them, before providing them to relevant network users who will be involved with the mobility service providers. Eventually, it will be open to anyone with a consumer demand, such as a hotel chain that wants to provide transport for guests or an event organiser for attendees. This open-source platform will soon allow anyone to easily access fleets for a range of different services without having to purchase and monitor vehicles.  

Maintaining efficiency

There are huge issues within global cities where mobility services are, in fact, increasing congestion and inefficiencies such as a lack of parking due to dedicated spaces for carsharing vehicles. In many cities, you have a number of different mobility companies putting cars in the same place which are serving the same set of demands. Kirby believes that this does not make any sense, as transport in cities could be utilised through one single platform that would overcome the issues we are seeing today in urban settlements. "Introducing a new batch of vehicles into an area doesn't enable flexible mobility, but worsens it." Kirby uses the example of a University in the Midlands that incorporated a 'car club', where 15 vehicles were placed around a campus to improve transport. This idea backfired, as most students were still driving to the university, which meant that it only created more problems, such as less parking spaces and more traffic around the campus.  

"Even if fewer people drive to the University, it doesn't mean that they give up their own car. This service then becomes niche as you cannot use it outside of the area, such as driving to an event or going away for the weekend. This doesn't take cars off the road and doesn’t help the environment in any way." Tomorrow's Journey provides a solution to this problem, allowing underutilised mobility vehicles to be used by different services or companies, thanks to one standardised platform. "We want to make better use of the assets, which will make the services cheaper as the costs are already covered,” says Kirby. “If this can happen in others areas, then it means that people can genuinely give up their car for a mobility service." 

In terms of rollout, Tomorrow's Journey is working on pilots with large blue chip companies, including a logistics company that decided it wasn't utilising its assets well enough. This shows the flexibility of the platform, which can be applied to any asset, not just carsharing and mobility. Kirby explains that he aims to launch the first pilot in Milton Keynes - where the company is based. "We want to try and prove the concept from a scale point of view in Milton Keynes, as its close to us and the Transport Catapult team, who are keen for innovation. We are also working with one of the rail operators in the area to build a better service around the station, as they see that we are able to provide a more flexible solution through sourcing and connecting vehicles for different providers." Rather than testing autonomous, electric and shared vehicles, it is difficult to run a pilot for a system that will operate as the platform for these innovation. Kirby and his team have overcome this by splitting the pilots into different use cases so that they can create appropriate testing scenarios. "The real benefit of the Journey platform is when we get a network effect and scale, which will allow customers to put 50 vehicles on the platform and allow 10 different companies to access them.” Tomorrow's Journey can obtain the correct vehicle data, supply it in the right way and effectively control the use. Kirby will then try to upscale in order to bring in additional vehicle and service providers. "We are aiming to achieve this in 2018 so that, in January next year we can go out into the global market with a serious proposition.” 

Creating a mobility infrastructure

Although companies such as Uber and Lyft have introduced a new method of transport, they are extremely protective over their own technology, refusing to share the system with anyone else. This mindset is toxic for the future of mobility services as it prevents further development or global standards that everyone can benefit from. Despite this, Kirby explains that his platform has had very little pushback, as customers have been open to the new idea. "A lot of people realise how simple and effective the platform is, so this has worked really well, although there have been a few cases where people have said that it doesn't fit into their strategy; which occurs when they believe that it will cross over with their own service," he says. "Because we are working business-to-business, our partners can provide their customers with a wide range of vehicles, without the cost of owning them. This may be a small margin to some, but they won't have any operating costs. This is the same case for vehicle contributors, which make better use of the vehicles they already have." What this does is illustrate the flexibility customers will have through the platform, allowing a vehicle's purpose to change on a daily basis, from a subscription service to a rental plan which will remove cars off the road, help areas utilise transport management and give companies a better return on their assets than a straightforward lease. 

For Kirby, he believes that the platform should not come across as a threat for players with their own application, because all Tomorrow's Journey is doing is giving them a better selection of vehicles and a better utilisation of their current vehicles. There is no point in buying a large fleet and storing them somewhere, as companies will be left with stationary cars taking up space and costing money. With this new platform, all that Tomorrow's Journey needs is basic vehicle data which it can collect through a registration lookup process and connect them to a telematics device and location data. "We will be able to offer better predicted services and protection of vehicles through a live feed, passing information through to the network users via their applications," says Kirby. "When users are looking to book vehicles, they can map their requirements against our fleet availability and set limits on mileage, use and cost." Through this process, customers can eliminate the complexity commonly found throughout these kinds of services and focus on increasing efficiency throughout each tailored business. Now all Kirby has to do is turn pilots into commercial relationships and grow in the global market. "Between now and the end of the year, it's about proving our business case and showing some real numbers rather than forecasts, as well as opening up once more to investors which will enable us to move forward," says Kirby. "The plan for next year is all about scaling up the business, which will see global mobility services powered by Tomorrow's Journey."  

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