Smart software finds the best eco-route for youWhat if you could wake up in the morning, tap on your smartphone and instantly get the fastest, least stressful, most eco friendly route possible to work at that time—turning the usual nightmare commute into an easier, more pleasant affair? Well if you live in certain parts of Asia, you can do that right now with Toyota’s innovative Ha:Mo network.
A contraction of “Harmonious Mobility,” Toyota designed the Ha:Mo network to reduce traffic congestion in urban areas and emerging population growth centers, with an eye toward dramatically reducing their carbon footprint. Their goal is to “achieve mobility that is friendly to people, the city, and society by utilizing the optimal combination of public transportation with private vehicles.”
To achieve that optimal combination, the service is made up of two parts, Ha:Mo NAVI and Ha:Mo RIDE, one informational, one physical.
The Ha:Mo NAVI info service takes data from the Energy Data Management System (EDMS) and the Traffic Data Management System (TDMS) and combines it with info from commuters, transportation operators and other people in the community. Then once it has your starting point and destination, it figures out the best route and combination of transportation for you to get there, analyzing factors like traffic congestion, construction, and weather.
Ha:Mo NAVI will then make a suggestion, like leaving your car at home and taking the bus to the train station, then walking or using a car sharing service, like Ha:Mo RIDE (more on that in a second), to get to your destination. Depending on the data and other factors, tomorrow’s route suggestion may be to drive your car the entire way. Whatever it suggests, the goal is to get you there as stress free and ecologically as possible.
It’s not only constantly getting feedback from data and commuters, but Ha:Mo also alerts public transportation operators that they may experience an increase in demand on the days it recommends using buses and trains. And it self monitors to continuously improve the system.
The physical part of the service is Ha:Mo RIDE, ultra compact electric vehicles (EVs) that you can use to travel short distances when needed. What Toyota calls the “last mile” between train stations, bus stops and your final destination. You can reserve a Ha:Mo RIDE with your smartphone, unlocking the vehicle with a special card that has a chip in it that’s activated when you reserve. When you’ve arrived, just drop the RIDE at any Ha:Mo station and you’re done. The pick up and drop off stations double as recharging stations (with some of the power supplied by solar), so each available RIDE is always topped off with electric juice.
The tiny RIDE EVs can carry only one passenger and are made to navigate narrow streets in overpopulated urban areas, but they do have a decent sized (for a one passenger vehicle), trunk in back, so you can stow your laptop bag and maybe a couple of bags of groceries on your way home from the office.
I had the chance to experience one during a recent trip to Tokyo to test drive Toyota’s Fuel Cell Vehicle, and at just about 6-feet tall, I found the RIDE to be a fairly tight fit, but not uncomfortable. I’ve been in some less accommodating sport coupes. And since the RIDE is only meant to be driven for a few miles, it’s plenty roomy enough.
Ha:Mo RIDEs are also meant to be as economical as they are ecological. The fee for using one is 200 Yen (about $2) for the first 10 minutes, then 20 Yen (about 20 cents) per minute after that. Try finding a cab in any urban area that costs you $2 for a ten minute ride through town.
And Ha:Mo RIDEers can also earn “eco points” as they use the service, redeeming them for eco friendly products, credits at participating local merchants or put them towards their energy bills.
Toyota’s plan is to not only put the Ha:Mo service in Asia and Europe but also in emerging centers where the number of vehicles is growing rapidly. And so far no plans on including North America on the list. Which is a shame, because we could definitely use some harmonious mobility for a change.