car2gos are purposefully moved from low-demand areas to areas with higher demand on a daily basis. This is called “relocation”. We asked Clemens Kraus, Data Scientist at car2go to explain why, how exactly and when car2gos are relocated.
The Location Manager in Rome was recently asked by a professor at the university there how it is that a car2go is often available right there where he needs it. Is it just luck or is there a secret trick behind it?
The answer is: yes, there is something going on unnoticed in the background. Lots of members have also asked the same question and hence, Clemens provides answers to the most frequently asked questions here.
Clemens, are cars being relocated right now as we speak?
Clemens: Yes, we relocate in all car2go cities over several hours each day. If we look at it globally, then relocations are being carried out at any point in time.
This is also important so that the cars are available right there where they are needed by our members (red areas on the map). If we didn’t do this, then car2gos would stand around for short or long times in areas where there is no demand (green areas on the map).
Why are lots of car2gos in the wrong places?
Clemens: This indicates that more customers usually drive from the city center to the outskirts than the other way around. If we did not take action, then nearly all the cars would end up in the suburbs. This would, of course, be very frustrating for the customers.
Are there big differences in the various cities?
Clemens: Basically, relocations are made following the same logic in all cities.
We devised the procedure about a year ago and successively introduced it in all our locations. Of course, each city has its own specific characteristics which we take into consideration.
What is the logic behind the relocations?
Clemens: Ultimately, it is about estimating demand as accurately as possible – that is, predicting exactly where cars will be required in the next few hours and where not.
We use relatively complex algorithms for this, which we link with both historical data and external information such as events or weather.
How do the cars move from one location to the other?
Clemens: We have Service Teams in each city which relocate the cars. The algorithms are visualized in an app so that the relocators know exactly which cars should be driven where.
Normally, this means practically that a team drives to the suburbs which has an overabundance of cars. They collect the cars and drive them to the city center where there is high demand.
Is relocation worthwhile?
Clemens: First of all, it is important that car2go offers a product which the customers can rely on.
We are very pleased that we are able to make many additional customers happy by ensuring that there are cars available to them in places where they would otherwise not. And happy customers are, of course, good for us.
How is it then, that there is sometimes no car2go available close by?
Clemens: For the members, this is naturally annoying. It shows, however, that the concept has been well accepted and there is an ever-increasing number of members which want to use the car2gos.
Unfortunately, especially at rush hour, it is not always possible for our Service Teams to transfer sufficient cars to the hotspots quickly enough.
At certain times of day, in particular at airports and in the city centers, the cars are literally snatched up after relocations.
It may therefore be that there are no cars available at such locations because the teams are still fighting their way through the traffic jams.
We are, however, working hard at solving this problem.
Will relocations still be needed when the cars drive themselves autonomously?
Clemens: Definitely! The problem basically remains the same regardless of whether the cars drive autonomously or whether they are relocated by the Service Teams.
Even when the cars drive autonomously, the customers still want to have cars available as quickly as possible. And we can only achieve this when we anticipate demand and send sufficient cars in advance in the right direction.
Going back to the professor once again: What would you advise him to do when there is no car available?
Clemens: It is possible to use a radar in the car2go app. The app sends a message as soon as a car is available within a certain vicinity.
This is a feature which I use regularly and which has often helped me make a journey.
Thank you Clemens for the interview! Do you still have questions about relocation? Did you know that car2gos are actually relocated?