Imagine you’re in a hurry. You need to catch the bus to get to the train station, and you also need to know how to navigate the last mile to your destination in an unknown city. How great would it be if you could plan and pay for your whole trip from your departure point to the destination beforehand, with the greatest possible accuracy?
This is what MaaS is all about. MaaS stands for Mobility as a Service, and the name says it all. The concept intends to eliminate travel hassles by providing options for completing your door-to-door journey that fit your personal lifestyle. Instead of worrying about the bus schedule, you can take your journey in other ways. Think of a shuttle bus that waits for you at a bus stop near your house, then takes you to the station. Then you take a train, and when you arrive a taxi driver is waiting to drive you to your final destination. Or you can ride a rental e-bike instead of a taxi to cover the last mile, if this better fits your preferences.
The MaaS concept was invented by Maas Global, a Finish company. It aims to optimise a door-to-door journey by combining options from different transport providers into a single mobile service. The suggested routes are a mix of public and private transport – such as trains, e-bikes, taxis, on-demand busses and share car – bundled in packages. MaaS is an environmentally sound alternative to owning a car. (Source: Maas-Global).
Users can arrange their trip via the “Whim” app, which was launched at the end of 2016 in Helsinki. Whim offers a complete transport package by combining the most efficient and cost-effective options. The costs are determined by the trade-offs between journey time, comfort and price. The journey options adapt the customer’s personal needs to the service experience.
Such a platform has actually been developed by other parties in several countries. Before Whim, Daimler launched “Moovel” in Stuttgart in 2012. This platform combines the search, book and ride options into one payment. “Thanks to ‘Moovel’, the capital’s wide range of mobility services is much more transparent, resulting in a completely new mobility network,” says Stefan Müller, Managing Director of car2go Europe GmbH. “The ‘Moovel’ platform also gives our customers a fantastic tool that makes it even easier for them to move around in the city using multiple modes of transport.”
These mobility packages are similar to the mobile phone bundles from telecom providers with call, text and Internet options. The following chart shows the difference between Whim and Moovel at a glance:
Get involved or left behind
When Uber emerged, many providers, especially public transport providers, saw it as a business threat that would take part of their market. MaaS is no different. However, if these providers collaborate, they will have access to an ever-growing pool of customers in a rapidly growing number of cities. If there is a place where owning a car is redundant, it is a city. This is where such a platform has a growing market.
In 2050, urbanization is expected to increase by two-thirds of its present extent. At the current rate, according to Arthur D. Little, the length of an urban journey will increase three times a year. For travelers, this means more traffic jams, air pollution and parking problems. A market opportunity for public transport! And such opportunity is being seized by TransDev, which will introduce this concept for the first time to the Netherlands, together with Whim in December 2017. Soon people in Amsterdam will be able to travel in the Amsterdam region for a fixed amount per month.
Car manufacturers don’t want to lose their piece of cake either. Realising that the “sharing economy” poses a threat to their business, they are already manufacturing small electric vehicles that are well suited to sharing schemes, as they are easy to maintain and can be charged when they are parked.
What is the role of the government in a world that seems to be controlled by tech firms that keep innovating and are willing to take risks?
The answer is the thing that the firms do not have: the power to regulate. We don’t want to see our roads dominated by private or autonomous cars that are mere tools for an Uber-like service.
Working together with – or by creating – policy incentives for such initiatives, a healthier and more sustainable mode choice could be promoted to App users.