Building Slé: The Future of Transportation is Multimodal
By Chessin Gertler, Founder @ Slé
It’s safe now to say that the EV revolution is in full swing. The Climate-Conscious Left has ballooned into the Climate-Conscious Majority and despite a few bumps in the road (see an admittedly farcical, but still horrifying Wyoming bill pushed to phase out the sale of EVs) there is an indisputable mode shift in attention towards the promotion of more sustainable (and just generally more appropriate) transportation options. Beyond the automotive sector, government, tech, and manufacturing are also betting hard on an electrified future and getting their ducks in a row to both make sure it happens and be set up to reap the rewards when it does.
There is, however, a significant conceptual roadblock holding this transition back: a simplification of the nature of human movement in the failure to recognize the omnipresent reality of multi-modal mobility. Critics of the automotive EV transition point to often less-than-promised emissions savings, continuation of traffic congestion, price-hurdles, and growing safety challenges that come with bigger and heavier vehicles. Critics of the cycling evangelists, transit purists, and micromobility futurists point to the major distances and infrastructure hurdles that comprise great swaths of the non-urban world — the US being a prime case study. A bicycle is going to serve a commuter in New York City a lot differently than a commuter in Montana. Same for a pickup truck. Both vehicles are pieces of much larger pictures. The interconnectivity of modalities must be accounted for in strategy and policy. Doing so will open up a windfall of new opportunities.
Human beings move in a variety of modes. In cities, we walk (or use adaptive mobility solutions), cycle, take advantage of transit, increasingly use micromobility such as e-scooters, and use private vehicles such as automobiles and rideshares/taxis. Outside of cities, where distances are greater and nonautomotive transit infrastructure substantially less prevalent, we are far more reliant on private vehicles — which must be inherently less contextualized than their more city-appropriate counterparts. Where an e-scooter can serve a specific segment of a person’s mobility needs — one perhaps outsized for an urban inhabitant — an automobile serves a variety of roles; efficiency isn’t its end goal.
Slé is designed to address these realities of human mobility in three major ways. Firstly, the AI built into the app’s foundational algorithm recognizes journeys as inherently multi-modal. A work commute may consist of a series of modalities: A ten-minute car-ride to a train station → 30 minutes on the train in to the city → Four stops on the subway → A short walk to the office. These are not four separate instances of travel but rather a single, interconnected journey. Slé’s consideration, analysis, and in-app services reflect this.
Secondly, Slé’s Connected Fitness-inspired incentivization strategy (See my previous post) is focused primarily on incremental improvement, not absolute performance. While a cyclist in Amsterdam may have a substantially smaller carbon footprint than their commuting counterpart in Los Angeles, Slé’s algorithm incentivizes small changes in mobility habits as catalyst for more all-encompassing transportation practice overhauls. This is fundamentally important to Slé’s role in climate action at large and part and parcel of the app being able to capture a substantially larger market size. Slé is a solution and service not just for the climate action evangelist but just as much for the “swing voter” — the large segment of the population increasingly aware of their carbon footprint from transportation, interested in exploring the possibility of changes in their habits but not ready or able to make immediate and drastic changes. An SUV commuter carpooling or opting out of their full commute for a train ride once per week should be recognized, encouraged, and incentivized, as should a purely cycling commuter.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Slé is a social media platform. The service’s primary focus is connectivity between users through the shared pursuit of efficiency improvement in their transportation patterns. Where Strava “connects millions of runners, cyclists, hikers, walkers and other active people through the sports they love…,” Slé aims to connect the billions of human beings with smart devices engaged in all forms of human transportation through community, competition, actionable information, and aggregated services. We believe this approach will unlock new opportunities, create new markets, and catalyze new efficiencies in human mobility.
We’re excited to set out on this journey.
Version 1 of the Slé App will be available in the Apple App Store March 2023. For more information and to join our waiting list, please visit movewithsle.com or email email@example.com.
I will be sharing more thoughts behind Slé in new posts in the coming weeks and months.
Originally published in Medium