Every new technology creates its own language and not all terms are consistently used. Here are some common terms and their meanings. But be aware: the terms listed here might not be consistently used as described here. This glossary is also not meant to be set of academically correct definitions. It should just help to understand terms and abbreviations in articles not commonly know outside of the transport and mobility domain. Feedback and suggestions welcome using the comment function.
Autonomous Rail Transit (ART)
Autonomous, trackless tram or light rail system. The construction and drive train has similarities to a regular tram but it can drive on streets and does not require rails.
Autonomous Vehicle (AV)
Vehicle which does not require a driver – or at least assists the driver depending on the level of automation.
Automatic Plate Number Recognition (APNR)
APNR has important applications in traffic surveillance, toll collect, parking lot management, no stopping/parking zone, etc.
Automated Vehicle Location (AVL)
Means for automatically determining and transmitting the geographic location of a vehicle to support vehicle tracking
Bike as a Service or Bicycle as a Service extends the Anything as a Service (XaaS) approach to offer bicycles with maintenance and insurance as a full service package. Compared to bike sharing in the BaaS model users keep their bikes for a longer time as if it were their own bikes. Just in case they need maintenance, the BaaS company either fixes the issue instantly or changes it to a similar bike while fixing the first one. A pioneer of this business model is the Dutch company Swapfiets.
Bike Sharing operators offer access to bicycles on a ride basis, provided and maintained by a fleet operator. Common types of bike sharing schemes are station-based, free-floating GPS tracked bikes or hybrid systems using both concepts. Even the concept was invented in the Netherlands, it became very popular in China recently and is now available in most countries, see https://bikesharemap.com.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Bus-based public mass rapid transport system (MRT) which consists of buses, an organisational setup, regulations such as intersection priorities and infrastructure such as bus lanes and stations.
Number of people in a car. The minimum number is 1, i.e. the driver (not considering Autonomous Vehicles for now). A low Car Occupancy is an indication for poor and inefficient use of the car and the space it requires as resources. From a transport efficiency and environmental perspective a high Car Occupancy is desired. Depending on the source average car occupancy in developed countries is claimed to be between 1.1 and 1.4 leaving 3 to 4 seats empty and underutilized.
Car Pooling or Carpooling
Ride Sharing using cars in order to increase Car Occupancy. Commonly Carpooling is referred to the non-commercial shared use of empty seats in a privately owned car where the passenger usually contributes to the costs of the driver. This is also referred to as Peer-to-peer (P2P) Ride Sharing. In a wider definition Carpooling also includes Taxi Pooling, Shared Shuttle Services, Hitch Hiking and Slugging. Not to be confused with Car Sharing and Pool Cars.
Offers access to self-driven vehicles provided and maintained by a fleet operator. Car Sharing is commonly referred to short-time car rentals as offered by companies like ZipCar, Share Now (Car2Go/DriveNow) or peer-to-peer car sharing companies like Getaround. There is no clear distinction between Car Sharing and rental cars. Sixt Share has even combined long and short-term car rentals into one offer.
This term refers to a behavior of staying inside one’s own area of control, insulated from perceived danger or discomfort, instead of going out. Related to mobility it describes the preference of one’s own car instead of using shared mobility following a “my car is my castle” attitude. To overcome this behavior many producers of shared mobility vehicles cater for this attitude by providing “private spaces” within these vehicles, such as seats with separations in buses, trains or airplanes.
The movement of people between one’s home and place of work or school on a regular basis. This term usually refers to daily, rather short distance trips. Also see Travel.
Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT)
A form of transport where vehicles adjust their routes and/or times based on a customer’s demand rather than using a fixed route and timetable. Depending on the allowed flexibility DRT systems allow door-to-door transport. DRT is commonly used for on-demand Shared Shuttle Services. Demand responsive public transport (DRPT) could be seen as a sub type of DRT where ride hailing services replace public transport buses in off-peak times or low demand areas in a public-private partnership.
Dynamic Ride Sharing
Ride Sharing offered in real time and on-demand usually via smart phone apps in contrast to pre-booked rides
Electric Vehicle (EV)
Vehicle powered by electricity instead of a combustion engine. EVs may include battery-powered vehicles as well as fuel cell-powered vehicles using e.g. hydrogen as fuel. Sometimes also Hybrid Vehicles are also subsumed under EVs, which is not strictly meeting the definition. Only if powered with regenerative energy, EVs can be considered carbon-neutral in operations (not including production and disposal)
Shuttle or Taxi services for the last mile between a bus or train station and a passenger’s origin or final destination. Feeder systems “feed” Mass Rapid Transit systems and so complement Public Transport and avoid competition with it and will likely not cause additional traffic. Examples for Feeder System providers are IOKI or ISTMobil in Austria.
Global Distribution System (GDS)
Computer networks in the travel industry, which empower service providers to carry out travel-related transactions, e.g. book or see real-time information and data about the availability of hotel rooms, flights and other travel services. Common GDS are e.g. Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)
ITS is commonly defined as systems in which information and communication technologies (hardware and software) are applied in the field of road transport, infrastructure, vehicles and users, and in traffic and mobility management and other modes of transport to improve the efficiency of transport.
Traveling using multiple means of transport during one trip, e.g. use your car to get to the airport, then take a plane, then a shared shuttle to the destination. Similarly, to multimodal travel, walking does not count for intermodal travel, and all Public Transport rides may be counted as the same mode. Also see Multi-modal Travel.
Internet of Mobility (IoM)
The idea of connecting all mobility-related services and assets using the Internet with a unified protocol
High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes
Also known as carpool lanes, bus lanes, diamond lanes, 2+, T2, T3 lanes are restricted traffic lanes reserved for the exclusive use of vehicles with one or more passengers, taxis, carpools, vanpools, and transit buses. They exist in several countries and aim to increase car utilization and reduce the number of Single-Occupancy Vehicles by allowing for a higher speed due to less traffic.
The most basic form of Ride Sharing where a passenger indicates the need for transport to drivers passing by using a hand signal or a paper sign mentioning the desired destination. In contrast to organized Carpooling drivers who give a lift to hitch hikers usually do not expect a contribution for the ride other than socializing. Also see Slugging.
Vehicles using multiple energy sources for propulsion. Common combinations are muscle power and battery-powered electric drives are Pedelecs or electric drives in combination with combustion engines for hybrid cars.
Originally referred to the last section of a network or grid from the last distribution point to the user, in New Mobility it usually refers to the distance between a trip’s starting or end point and the next (public) transport hub such as a train station or airport
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
High performance transport system system for transporting passengers in urban areas, mainly relying on rail systems. Also known as mass transit, subway, underground or metro. Due to their unprecedented traffic density, MRT systems are known to be the backbone of urban transport. They usually belong to a Public Transport authority.
Micro Transit / Micromobility
Usually referred to as short distance transport on the Last Mile. It can include walking. Common services dedicated to micro mobility are bike and electric scooter sharing.
Microtransit is sometimes also referred to on-demand mini vans or buses.
Mode of Transportation
Mean of movement. It represents the different transportation options that are available, e.g. to go on foot, to cycle with a bike, to drive a car to use public transport or to get driven in a taxi.
The ability to move or be moved freely and easily. In a wider sense Mobility is the ability to access things, even if it is virtual e.g. via video conferences, which would not require Transport. It focuses on the satisfaction of needs. To be distinguished from Transport.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
A system in which a wide range of mobility options are provided to customers as a service, i.e. tailored to their needs. The different modes of transport are often integrated, curated, managed and billed by a Mobility Service Provider. The underlying idea is to replace individual car ownership with a superior mobility service, which serves the user’s mobility needs better and at lower costs. MaaS could also be considered a mobility marketplace. Also see Mobility on Demand (MoD).
Dedicated locations for switching modes of transport are often referred to as mobility or transport hubs or stations. Sea ports, airports and train and subway stations often serve as hubs. Hubs can enhance the travel experience by providing a smooth transition between multiple modes of transport, complemented by aspects of safety, information, convenience and more, see the respective article about Mobility Hubs.
A concept to promote sustainable transport and manage the demand for car use by changing travellers’ attitudes and behavior mainly using information and communication, organizing services and coordinating activities of different partners. Compared to the provision of mobility infrastructure, Mobility Management does not necessarily require large financial investments.
Mobility on Demand (MoD)
Concept by which mobility can be obtained when the need arises through a service that does not require a reservation in advance. In North America MoD is often used synonymously with MaaS, which is the more common term in Europe.
Mobility Service Provider (MSP)
Public or private companies that offer mobility services. Not all MSPs are also Transportation Service Providers (TSPs) but are instead only brokers and offer a platform for TSPs. The two terms are often used synonymously.
Mode of Transport
The way how people or goods get moved from A to B. Common modes of transport are walking, cycling, driving by car, bus, train, sending goods via trucks or ships or planes.
Traveling which allows to select different means of transport for the same ride – but using only one means of transport per trip, e.g. either one time take a bike, next time a car, another time a bus. Public transport can be seen as one single mode even multiple vehice types (e.g. bus and tram) are being used. Walking does not count as a mode in this definition as it is part of every journey to a certain extent.
- A trip from A to B with public transport
- A trip from A to B by bike
- A trip from A to B on foot and from B to C via car sharing
Also see Inter-modal Travel.
Mode Split or Modal Split
This described the percentages of transportation types used. This usually refers to certain geographical areas or use cases, such as commuters in the Paris area.
This is a buzzword describing new and upcoming mobility options and their combination into an integrated traffic system. Not everything labeled as “new” is really new, e.g. ride sharing is as old as the use of horses and buggies and even electric scooters were known in the 20’s of the last century. New Mobility is sometimes also referred to as Smart Mobility.
A bicycle where the rider’s pedaling is assisted by an electric motor.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) Ride Sharing
This term is usually referred to Ride Sharing between private people not earning money with transportation but who are willing to share private rides. Not to be confused with Ride Hailing.
Examples for P2P Ride Sharing companies: Flinc, TwoGo, BlaBla Car, LiftShare, Carma Carpool, …
Personal Mobility Device (PMD)
Small vehicles such as bicycles, unicycles, monowheels / self-balancing unicylces, hoverboards, as well as electric skate boards and kick scooters belong to this classification.
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)
PRT is a system of small automated cars guided on a fixed guideway. It is also referred to as Podcars and often considered as a type of demand-responsive public transport. Compared to mass transit systems the smaller cars allow a higher frequency and so lower waiting times as well es lighter structures.
Rental cars from a pool of cars, usually within a organization’s fleet
Public Transport (PT)
Public Transport (also known as collective transport, public transportation, public transit) is an organized system of shared transport for use by the general public, usually operated by Public Transport Operators (PTO), mainly using mass transit modes of transport operated on scheduled routes, and usually subsidized and regulated by municipalities via Public Transport Authorities (PTA). Recently new modes of transport operated by commercial Transport Service Providers tested complementing services based on Shared Shuttle and Micro Mobility services. This private operation of publicly accessible modes of transport as well as tendering public transport contracts has led to a discussion on how to properly define “public” transport, i.e. if it is publicly owned, managed or just publicly accessible.
Taxi-like on-demand chauffeured rides. This term is usually used for rides with TNCs like Uber or Didi although it could also be applied for any Taxi ride or demand-responsive transport (DRT) ride. Ride Hailing is NOT Ride Sharing! Usually you share the ride only with the driver, which is a chauffeured ride but not a shared ride as you don’t share it with other passengers. The driver would not drive the route without your order. Ride Hailing can be combined with Ride Sharing in case the driver picks up passengers along the way, like with UberPool, CleverShuttle, IOKI or MyTaxi/FreeNow Match. Synonyms are Ride Selling and Ride Sourcing.
See Ride Sharing
Shared use of a vehicle by multiple passengers. In the wider definition this can even be the shared use of a train or bus. Common sub types are Car Pooling, and Taxi Pooling. Especially the term Ride Sharing is often used misleading for Ride Hailing. which can be combined with Pooling or Sharing – but if a passenger calls an Uber or Taxi, this passenger is not “sharing” the ride with the driver equally as hotel staff is not sharing a hotel room with a guest. Only if the driver would anyway drive the same direction as the passenger, it could be attributed to sharing or pooling. Considering taxi-like Ride Hailing services like Uber or Ola per se as Ride Sharing is just common nonsense.
See Ride Hailing
See Ride Hailing
This term refers to allowing ride hailing passengers to offer their rides to be shared with other paying passengers and so allow ride sharing or carpooling.
The term “roaming” is often referred to strolling around. In the context of new mobility it can have multiple meanings:
- In the taxi and ride hailing context roaming describes fire hire vehicles driving around in areas where they expect occasional passengers to hail them ad hoc. If more vehicles than needed roam in an area it can lead to so called “harmful roaming”, i.e. congestion due to an oversupply of vehicles.
- Borrowing from the telecom industry roaming can also mean the delivery of a service using other service provider’s capacities, see the post on mobility service roaming. In case competing transport service providers do not share their resources via roaming, it can lead to a multiplication of (over)supply, see the availability dilemma post.
This term refers to using shared transport resources such as shared bikes, cars or electric scooters. Conceptually it also includes any mode of transport which gets shared by multiple people, such as in a bus, train or on a plane.
Shared Shuttle Services
Special kind of Taxi Pooling with the use of buses or mini vans far a higher passenger capacity. Therefore sometimes also called Vanpooling. Some Shared Shuttle Services offer point to point connections like a taxi, other services only go into certain directions rather like an on-demand bus service with a bit flexible route and some only operate as Feeder Systems serving the last mile between a bus or train station and the final destinations. Commonly known Shared Shuttle Services operators are e.g. Via Van, Moia, IOKI, and Clever Shuttle.
Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV)
Vehicle occupied by only one person, the driver. SOVs are not allowed to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes or certain parking lots reserved for carpool vehicles. Single occupancy refers to the lowest possible Car Occupancy.
The municipality of a “smart” city makes extensive use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance urban services such as administration, energy, transportation and utilities.
Similar buzzword as New Mobility, emphasizes more on the use of IT systems to make it happen.
Monetary incentive via increased prices for ride hailing drivers to make themselves available in high demand areas. The concept is widely used by ride hailing companies like Uber.
Motor vehicle licensed to transport passengers in return for payment of a fare. Taxis are often considered as part of Public Transport and therefore highly regulated.
Shared cab in which the first passenger sets the direction and other passengers might join either the whole ride or parts of it. If passengers hop on or off during the ride, some Taxi Pooling systems allow for short detours. Some Taxi Pooling systems require passengers to come to a pickup location at a next larger street along the taxi’s route in order to avoid time-consuming detours.
This term often refers to the carriage of people or goods from one country to another through a country where no stop is made – or between connecting flights at an airport.
Transportation / Transport
Conveyance of passengers or freight from one place to another. To be distinguished from Mobility. While transportation is the process of changing a person’s or good’s location, Mobility is the ability to do so.
Transport as a Service (TaaS)
Legacy term for Mobility as a Service, still sometimes used synonymously despite the fact that mobility covers more than just transport.
Transportation Demand Management (TDM)
Programs to reduce the need to travel and increase travel options by promoting alternatives to driving alone in a car
Transportation Network Company (TNC)
Connects paying passengers via websites and mobile apps with drivers who provide transportation in (often noncommercial) vehicles (e.g. Lyft, Uber, Ola, Grab, Careem, and Didi Chuxing). TNCs are usually referred to Ride Hailing.
Transportation Service Provider (TSP)
Public or private companies that deliver transportation services, e.g. taxi or bus companies but also Ride Hailing companies such as Ola, Grab, Lyft or Uber. Also see Mobility Service Provider (MSP)
The movement of people between distant geographical locations by any means of transport, be it a one way or round trip. The term Travel usually refers to less frequent long distance trips. Also see Commute.
Urban Aerial Mobility (UAM)
UAM is adding the third dimension to urban mobility by using a city’s airspace for transport systems. The main purpose is to circumvent congested streets by using VTOL planes and drones, which should fly between widespread, small airfields specifically dedicated to these vehicles. Also see VertiPort.
Mobility in cities and urban areas can be divided into freight transportation and the mobility of passengers – both via public and individualized transport. It will become a cornerstone for the further development of urban areas. By the middle of this century about 2/3 of the world’s population will live in urban areas, which are already facing huge challenges with congestion, accidents, air pollution and noise.
Uni- or bi-directional energy exchange between electric vehicle batteries and the power grid. V2G is essential for the sustainable energy transition as the vehicle batteries could store renewable energy when there is a surplus. In case of bi-directional connections vehicles could also provide energy to the grid when there is a power shortage from renewable energy sources. So V2G helps to stabilize the power grid. For more information see the blog post Garage-to-Grid.
Airfield specifically designed for VTOL aircrafts, which don’t need a long runway. Synonyms are heliport, helipad, droneport, or dronepad. In a dense city landscape this could allow inner city air traffic with rather low land use. Vertiports could be located on roof tops or large buildings, which is common for hospital rescue helicopter landing sites. In context of urban mobility they will likely be located at airports and mobility hubs.
Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL)
Aircrafts, which are able to start and land vertically without a runway. Classic VTOL aircrafts are helicopters and VTOL jet fighters auch as the Hawker Harrier. For new mobility purposes autonomous, electric, flying drones (eVTOL) such as the Airbus Vahana, Boeing Aurora or Volocopter are under development.
Figurative description of a closed ecosystem which limits options to users by keeping out unwanted options. Related to Mobility as a Service a walled garden refers to a MaaS application, which keeps out competitors in the attempt by the leading MaaS platform to control the market and establish a monopoly or oligopoly. Without a regulatory framework and antitrust policy enforcement walled gardens can lead to situations where “the winner takes it all” to the disadvantage of the public.
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