Achieving Reliability in Your Shared Mobility Operations

31. May 2023 Reading time: 8 minutes

Is your software provider empowering you to achieve the highest levels of service reliability? Let's review the basic principles they should be (and we are) following.

Reliability is a term every shared mobility operator strives to associate with their business, yet achieving this status can feel far from straightforward. There can be many hurdles in constructing a fail-proof operational system, from damaged hardware to network outages, anything and everything can lead you to the dreaded “rental that never happened.” And in many cases, the inciting incidents that lead to service disruptions may be entirely out of your control owing instead to third-party partners whose own services may not be entirely reliable (e.g. telecommunication network failures, offline IoTs, server outages).

But none of these reasons matters to your users. After all, their needs aren’t complicated. They expect that your service is available to them when and where they need it. If at a particular moment, you can’t deliver and your competitor can, you risk losing profit that may never return.

Gartner estimates that IT downtime can cost organizations an average of $5,600 USD per minute (numbers may vary depending on company size)

Source: The Cost of Downtime from; Gartner

The indirect costs of downtime can also be reflected by the loss of customer and partner loyalty, negative news about your brand and damage to your employee morale and productivity. So, however you look at it, there is a lot at stake to get this right.

What’s a shared mobility operator to do?

Service reliability in shared mobility: the basics

First, let’s agree that service reliability is not a “nice to have” but an imperative; the ability to find a vehicle at the expected place as well as to start and end trips without disruption are the bare minimum requirements of the end user. Doing so will also allow your team the time it needs to build brand-defining experiences that can ultimately differentiate you from the competition.

Next, let’s define exactly what we mean when we talk about service reliability. In the context of shared mobility, we can describe healthy levels of service reliability in the following ways:

  • consistently available vehicles (e.g. vehicles remain online)
  • accurate information and communication (e.g. real-time information on vehicle availability and regular communication between IoT modules to the operating system)
  • operational stability (e.g. operations are resilient to technical failures, disruptions and outages)

Finally, let’s consider whether it’s better to build or buy for the sake of service reliability. As described earlier, there’s a lot at stake should you fail to maintain consistent service levels. If you develop entirely in-house, there are also plenty of components you will need to bring (and keep) together from identity verification to telematics connectivity, the latter of which becomes even more complex when you’re a multi-modal mobility provider.

All things considered, opting to outsource certain tasks to a software partner can help bring all these moving parts into one single command center, removing the initial development and ongoing maintenance burdens from your team. Of course, there are plenty of other benefits to choosing a capable software provider, but having a dedicated team of experts with experience delivering consistent service to large and diverse fleets can be transformative to your bottom line.

goUrban’s approach to service reliability

As a software provider, enabling our clients to deliver their mobility services to customers in a consistently stable manner is our bread and butter. After all, even the most extensive list of features becomes trivial without a stable infrastructure foundation in which to deliver them.

Our approach to reliability is one of the leading reasons operators switch from their current providers to goUrban.

Test thoroughly and often

As an operator that offers multiple vehicle types, the complexity of rolling out new features or managing system updates and upgrades can be extremely complex. If you’re with a third-party software provider, you must be certain that all updates are tested across your vehicle models and IoT modules. If you aren’t yet multi-modal but plan to be in the future, you need to be sure your current software will even be able of supporting testing in a way that’s relevant to your fleet.

As a multi-modal software provider, we’re used to testing across a wide variety of vehicles and IoTs. With every change to our systems, we have procedures in place to make sure that functionality is as expected – including in-person testing on a variety of physical vehicles.

Prioritize availability and learn from mistakes 

We consider service availability at the start of every system design and architecture plan. In fact, at goUrban, there’s an entire team dedicated to maintaining a stable and reliable operating system. Their efforts are essential to building stable environments from the start. While some issues are out of even our control, part of our post-mortem process is to analyze the causation and to develop defensive measures that prevent the same problem from repeating.

Be agile

If using a third-party provider, make sure that your software is delivered in an agile manner. This means delivering small and incremental changes to your platform that are implemented alongside unit and integration tests, with metrics that allow you to monitor performance accurately. At goUrban, being agile in this manner allows us to monitor all our infrastructure updates thoroughly, which means we can respond to detected problems immediately and before they impact our clients or their end-users.

Control the impact 

Releasing major updates? Stick to our model: roll out your updates to small user groups and you’ll have better control over the impact on your systems. We reduce the blast radius of potential hiccups, verifying with a small group of users first before incrementally rolling out to all clients.

Make use of zones

Our team also employs the use of zones to ensure an even stronger system.

In this case, using “zones” means dividing our infrastructure across different geographic regions, each relying on different servers. This distribution reduces potential downtime caused by events such as hardware failures, network outages, or even natural disasters that would otherwise cause major outages.

In other words, our zones compensate for each other in case of issues. The end result is reduced latency and enhanced overall responsiveness with an additional layer of fault tolerance, spelling a better experience for your end users.

The more proactive the better

This suggestion is for those of you already working with a software partner. While it may be tempting to blindly trust your partner, you should consider how proactive they are in responding to issues with the third-party service providers they integrate with.

For example, experienced mobility operators know that vehicle communication isn’t possible without the cooperation of a telecommunications provider. But not all telecoms are equal. At goUrban we found ourselves encountering issues with our previous telecoms provider because we had our own internal system of checks and standards to measure their performance against. Without waiting for a client to encounter a problem, we made the decision to prioritize the improvement of this service element and proactively searched for alternatives. We were then able to transition to a new provider without any disruption to our clients.

Transparency as a tenet 

Although we are always striving to provide the best service and minimize downtime, sometimes such occurrences are unavoidable. Be aware of those who try to tell you otherwise or who are not willing to disclose tangible downtime data.

At goUrban, transparency is extremely important, which is why we provide a publicly accessible real-time status view to our clients.

goUrban status page

Clients can use this resource to autonomously review details on incidents as they occur, as well as updates throughout an incident’s resolution period. This resource also includes a history of all past events as well as updates on the current service levels of our external partners.

What’s in a name? Breaking down our Service Level Agreement

A service level agreement (SLA) acts as a foundation for building trust and accountability. It helps manage the client’s expectations by providing them with a transparent and measurable framework with which the service provider’s performance can be assessed. Additionally, an SLA also serves as a valuable tool for the service provider, as it provides a reference point to demonstrate their commitment and compliance to the agreed-upon service standards.

goUrban contractually guarantees a service availability rate of 99.8% during business hours and 99.7% during non-business hours. However, these figures only represent our basic commitment. A recent internal analysis determined that we consistently exceed our contractual obligations by delivering an average service availability rate of 99.9%. Routinely exceeding our SLA represents our dedication to both clients and their users; it’s our priority to ensure that end-users access vehicles when they need them and that operators never miss out on revenue.

By entrusting their operations to a software partner capable of assuring a high standard of service level reliability, shared mobility operators gain the confidence and peace of mind necessary to focus on their core business while maintaining a solid foundation of reliability. A stronger focus on their day-to-day activities can ultimately lead to stronger customer loyalty, operational efficiency, and long-term success in the dynamic landscape of shared mobility.