When I look ahead to the future of urban mobility, I often think back to the challenge of coordinating air travel in the mid-20th century. In the 1950s, it took a dozen people 15 steps and three hours of time just to process a simple round-trip reservation for a major airline. It was an expensive process for companies to operate and a frustrating one for the average person to navigate.
All that changed with the advent of Sabre, a reservation system originally developed by American Airlines. Sabre combined real-time search, pricing, booking, ticketing, and other reservation processing functions into a single system, ultimately giving rise to the seamless online services we all use when flying today. Through its behind-the-scenes process and data integrations, Sabre unlocked the greatest travel gifts of all: more choice, more convenience, and lower costs.
People living and working in cities today have more options than ever to get around, from existing modes like cars, buses, and trains to emerging services like bike-share, car-share, and ride-hail. But real-time information about all these options isn’t widely available. Navigation apps typically don’t offer a full menu of travel options; some do provide the ability to search options but don’t let you book them in-app. It’s also a challenge to integrate these services with the parking spots, loading zones, and the other types of transportation infrastructure found in cities.
That’s why we’re excited to launch Coord, a platform that makes it easy for companies creating and offering digital navigation tools to integrate real-time information about new modes of transportation and to facilitate transactions. Coord provides software developers with access to APIs (basically, code that’s designed to be easy for other computer systems to talk to) for data on tolls, curbs, and parking in cities across the U.S., with more options like bike-share to come.
By serving as the coordination layer for new mobility services, navigation tools, and urban infrastructure, Coord can help unlock a seamless trip experience for people in cities and inspire new solutions to urban mobility challenges. Coord can help a ride-hail service reduce curbside congestion by enabling it to locate a legal pick-up or drop-off zone. It can help a navigation app feature trip options that users can book in-app, including a nearby bike-share dock. It can help a car-share service bill members for tolls in real-time, giving people a better sense of the true cost of their trip.
As we look to the future of urban transportation, we see a world of truly coordinated trip options. Digital navigation tools will show people real-time options and prices across all travel modes. You will be able to organize these options based on what’s important to you, whether that’s cost, travel time, environmental impact, or some other measure. They will help integrate the separate fare or payment technologies often needed across a system, making it possible to find a parking garage and pay the fee without leaving your car. They will empower cities to create and enforce rules around curb usage, encourage vehicle sharing, and repurpose excess parking space for other purposes. And over time, this backbone of street data will incorporate and guide new modes, from ride-hailing today to self-driving shuttles tomorrow.
We believe Coord can help coordinate it all.
Dynamic Integrations for Scalable Solutions
Urban mobility data tend to exist across many different owners with no real incentive or ability to share information and format it in a consistent way. That’s a challenge for mobility companies trying to deliver seamless, multi-modal trip experiences and build scalable transportation services across many cities. What distinguishes Coord from other mobility data platforms is that our APIs are standardized for the whole industry to use—not one-off, custom integrations. We also build dynamic integrations that enable users to book and access the services.
This access to standardized data and services can make all the difference for an app developer considering whether or not to integrate a new mobility option into its services. For example, a single integration that enables a navigation app to locate, price, and book a ride-hail service can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, and more to maintain. And in the future, companies that operate fleets of self-driving vehicles will need this type of transportation commerce platform to pay tolls or reserve a spot at an electric charging station.
We’re launching Coord with a focus on several types of integrations:
Curbside assets. Cities have long struggled to keep track of what’s happening at their curbs, making it hard to enforce existing parking rules or to create new rules around pick-ups and drop-offs. To address this challenge, we’ve developed a tool called Surveyor that can “code the curb” using digital photos of parking signs and other curbside assets. It takes about four minutes to digitize a single block using Surveyor—a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods, making it possible to record every curb regulation at scale.
Coord provides developers with APIs to access curb-related data around loading and passenger pick-up zones, street-parking rules, bus stops, and more for New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Integration through the API makes it easy for a navigation app to show users which blocks have ride-hail pick-up zones, for example. Developers can also test out street regulations for Seattle using our Curb API.
Bike-share. In the past few years, bike-share has become one of the most popular ways for people to get around cities, with many people using it to ride to a nearby transit station. But real-time information about bike-share services isn’t widely available in navigation tools, nor is the ability to purchase a pass or a membership in-app.
Coord is in the process of building a bike-share API that supports in-app transactions. For example, travel apps could help tourists book these options when they reserve a hotel room or make their travel plans. This integration will also make it easier for users of navigation tools to include bike-share as one leg in a multi-modal trip—just like air travel tools make it possible to book a seat on one airline going there and another coming home.
Tolling. Navigation apps typically don’t show drivers information on toll prices, largely because various tolling agencies release the data in various formats not easily standardized into a single tool. By standardizing toll data from across the U.S., we’ve created an API that developers can use to show people toll prices before a trip, making them more fully informed about the true cost of driving and potentially encouraging them to make other travel decisions.
Our API also helps companies integrate transactions with tolling authorities, making it easier for a car-share service to account for tolls wherever its users go. Coord is launching with updated prices for 85 percent of all U.S. tollways, with more to come.
Helping Companies Tackle City Challenges
Coord developed out of Flow, which Sidewalk Labs launched in early 2016 to help cities tackle their biggest transportation challenges. Long, congested car commutes take time away from work and loved ones. Tight budgets mean public transportation can’t always connect homes and jobs. Like it or not, car-ownership remains the most reliable choice for many families despite its high household cost and environmental impact.
Our conversations with cities often came back to the role that data can play in improving transportation services. By launching Coord, we hope to inspire new solutions that help companies and cities work together to make better use of existing resources.
Take circling for parking, which creates a significant amount of congestion on city streets. One way to address this challenge is to direct drivers to a parking space at the start of their trip, rather than to a destination. Coord provides all the information a company would need to create such a navigation tool: data on parking availability, prices, and rules for all nearby public street spots and private lots or garages; data on toll prices to give people a better sense of the true cost of their trip, potentially leading them to consider alternatives to driving; and data integration capabilities that can hook into standard payment and reservation systems.
In fact, we piloted a similar navigation app last year in Seattle and found that many drivers would happily trade the frustrating search for a homerun street-parking space if they’re guaranteed a reasonably priced spot in a nearby lot or garage. Using Coord’s integration, Google Maps is now piloting the option of finding available parking in Seattle and San Francisco. By giving people full insight into all their trip choices—and seamless door-to-door service—tools like this one can lead to better mobility outcomes for cities.
Today, Coord will enable navigation apps and mobility companies to provide a better trip experience. In the future, Coord can power fleets of self-driving vehicles that adjust their routes and prices in real time, dynamic curbs that eliminate double-parking and make deliveries easy, and tools we can’t even imagine yet that help people find, book, and pay for trips. We believe Coord can become the central nervous system for a next-generation transportation system anchored around choice, not around car-ownership.
Transportation in the 20th century was all about connecting cities with new roads. The challenge of the 21st century is coordinating the roads and streets that already exist to improve convenience, cost, and economic opportunity. We’re looking forward to a future where people can reach great jobs without owning a car, where local government is free to invest in transit service or road maintenance rather than new roads, and where companies and cities can work together to make streets that work for everyone.