Towards carfree use of all transportation
By Jonna Pöllänen, posted 27 June 2017
Contact on twitter @maas_global
Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, is a term that has been used a lot in the transportation industry for the last few years. The concept is this: all the different transport modes - taxis, bikes, public transport, car services etc. - are brought together, not only for route planning but also to combine all these modes seamlessly as one single transport solution and to pay for these services through one single solution.
At the heart of MaaS is a question: ‘What would it take for you to give up your car?’
The car has been positioned for a long time as the only transport method that can provide ultimate freedom and access comfortably to any destination at any time. But at the same time, it is one of the most underused assets in the world. It is difficult for many of us to understand or monitor how much it costs us to run and how those annual costs are formed. We mostly just accept it. That must change. But to persuade people to change their habits relies upon providing a more desirable option.
The better offer is a seamless experience via a seamless use of transportation.
It is not enough to solve a single trip from A to B. Potential passengers need to get going any time regardless of what kind of journey: short-distance trip, long-distance trip or while they are in a hurry. No one uses just one transport mode for their whole life as different transport modes are answering to different needs and different life situations. In a regular week for people (i.e. not committed riders of bikes [editor]) might commute to work using public transport; perhaps in rush grab a taxi (even a taxi bike) or jump to a car sharing service. For first-mile or last-mile you might cycle with a city bike and during the weekend you might need a car to get away to see friends or do the ‘big’ weekly shop.
What should happen to be comparable to a private car and its immediate accessibility is to have a real connectivity to transport services and to guarantee a good enough service promise. That means users won’t need to register one by one to different services. They won’t have 10 different travel apps only for their mobility and booking and payments. The same applies to different tariffs and terms and conditions. It should be all about providing an easy access and simplicity with everybody’s daily travel. It is all seamless, which means it can compete with the accessibility of the car that so many of us take for granted.
MaaS is an interesting concept because the change that’s coming can be compared to what happened in telecom.
It is about connecting people. Transport markets are similarly organized to telecom thirty years ago and both deal with frequent daily needs. Like in telecom so the transport infrastructure experience changes both in design and market structures.
Many sectors have already faced similar kinds of disruption. There are several players such as Spotify, Airbnb and Ebookers that are making users daily life a bit easier. What connects these players is that none of them can survive alone. You need to be a good partner, to provide a good service. It is same with MaaS operators.
A MaaS operator should remain a neutral player for the end-user so exclusive deals should not be taken into consideration and it would be challenging if you would be operating any transportation by yourself. Competition in the markets can be also seen as a positive thing as it always drives to a better service quality, and of course guarantees that users have choices.
Whim, developed by a Finnish company MaaS Global, is the first MaaS service aimed at changing urban travel. It is currently available in the Helsinki region and expanding to the UK (look out for developments in the west midlands) and Netherlands in 2017. Through Whim’s monthly mobility packages as well as pay per ride services, it offers users the flexibility and convenience for their daily travel. Currently Whim combines taxis, public transport, car rentals and city bikes and in the future, many more.
MaaS as a concept is great because as it does not focus on operating transportation by itself. It welcomes any innovation that enters the market and tries to make the use of these services easier. So also, electric bikes, Hyperloops and self-driving cars are all welcome to be part of the ecosystem as soon as they are ready.
In the future, we will move around without a second though to private cars because with Maas it will be more about easy access to all modes of transport. You should be able to plan and pay for the trip all in a single app. Ultimate MaaS is a subscription and, in theory, unlimited usage of all transportation and because you will have pre-paid via the subsciption that hassle of travelling will dissappear.
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All images: Maas, 2017