MaaS: a precursor to Automated-MaaS
The large majority of daily trips in North America, just as in many other countries around the world, are undertaken with individually owned/operated passenger vehicles. These vehicles are increasingly understood to be unsustainable as the primary means of mobility. High congestion, pollution and constrained government budgets render the current transportation system unsustainable. In fact, combatting congestion by expanding road infrastructure is like combatting obesity by loosening one’s belt.
Our current mobility system is unsustainable for many other reasons:
- Increasing urbanization of the population ➜ urban mobility demand is expected to triple in the next three decades
- Aging population that will increasingly need to be driven as opposed to driving themselves
- Individual passenger vehicles are used inefficiently:
- At any given point, approximately 85% of vehicles carry only one individual: the driver
- The average passenger vehicle sits idle 96% of the time
In addition to all of the above, transportation contributes to approximately one-quarter of overall GHG emissions.
“But using my own car is just so convenient.”
Convenience and ease of use are the often mentioned as top reasons for owning/operating a passenger vehicle.
For some of us, the alternatives to using our own car have been limited. Depending on where we decide to live, traditional public transit service may be inadequate and using taxi services may be expensive.
New mobility services, including ride hailing, car sharing, bike sharing and other shared mobility services, certainly improve flexibility and provide options, but the use of each of these services means creating separate accounts and paying for each service separately with different user cards, passwords and codes. Coordinating trips with two or more modes can be complicated.
While a variety of apps, like Transit and moovel, are incorporating several modes of mobility (including transit) on one platform, seamless modal integration is lacking.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the seamless integration of numerous modes of mobility on one platform. Whim, developed by MaaS Global, is the first MaaS product aimed at changing urban travel. Through both monthly mobility packages, as well as pay-per-use services, Whim offers users the flexibility and convenience available to date only through vehicle ownership. However, because it is more cost effective than owning your own vehicle and because it is hassle free (e.g. no maintenance headaches, no insurance payments), it is actually better than owning a vehicle.
Whim is currently being pilot tested in Finland.
MaaS: the transportation disruptor
Many sectors of the economy have already undergone a disruption through digitalization. Those that remain are the “dinosaurs”: the large, inflexible behemoths that demand an important share of our wallets. Housing, transport and food are the three most important areas of consumer spending. These sectors are essentially functioning the same way they have for decades, and many parts of these sectors, in particular mobility, are ripe for disruption.
Disruption through digitalization tends to occur in three phases:
- first is denial
- second is acceptance of change but a general unwillingness to move away from old structures
- third is disruption by enabling new business models.
What is the commonality in the sectors that are disrupted? The new players look dramatically different from their predecessors. Whether we think about media, music or hotels, the business models and revenue streams change significantly from what they were prior to the disruption. Technology-induced market disruptions are also generally propelled by more important economies of scale and/or productivity gains than the mature markets they enter.
Arguably one of the biggest potential areas is transport. Households spend thousands of dollars per year on transportation and according to MaaS Global, roughly 4/5ths of this amount is dedicated to spending related to the individual passenger vehicle. As stated above, these vehicles are used, on average, 4% of the time, and in 85% of cases, there’s only one individual in the vehicle: the driver. Consequently, the potential for increased asset utilization (productivity) is enormous.
The challenge is to deliver the freedom of mobility associated with car ownership WITHOUT car ownership. MaaS is up to meeting that challenge.
Through MaaS, mobility users will have access to most transport resources through the use of a single interface. Bringing MaaS to fruition necessitates cooperation and collaboration between mobility providers. The issue, however, is that many of the current providers are unwilling to truly cooperate as they are fearful of “losing ownership of the customer.” Consequently, some players are closing their interfaces from others, unwilling to share data, and other players are attempting to aggregate mobility services around their own service in an attempt to remain dominant suppliers.
Globally, mobility is a multi-trillion-dollar per year industry that cannot be served by any one player or by a small group of players. The opening of interfaces and sharing of data will allow and encourage innovation and better business models that will benefit the consumer. Open platforms are more likely to be successful.
MaaS as a precursor to A-MaaS
In addition to all the previously mentioned reasons for moving to MaaS, the shift to a truly integrated shared mobility ecosystem will facilitate the transition to shared automated mobility.
The ingredients of tomorrow’s sustainable mobility ecosystem are: sharing, electrification, automation and multi-modal integration. Each of these ingredients is positive, but together they have the potential to help us achieve truly sustainable mobility. Together, these ingredients create the SEAMless Mobility model.
While automated vehicles have many benefits, this technology has the potential of increasing the distance travelled (vehicle km travelled or VKT) and increasing congestion if left “unchecked.” It is only when combined with the other “ingredients” mentioned above (electrification, sharing and multimodality) that this technology has the potential to truly help governments optimize mobility.
To facilitate the transition towards MaaS, the government of Finland embarked on a process to change its transportation code.
Governments will need to plan tomorrow’s mobility and set the parameters / regulations within which mobility providers will provide their services in a way that encourages citizens to move to a more sustainable mobility model. Without government intervention, we risk missing the opportunity that technology is presenting us.
The mobility disruption necessitates leadership as this disruption will have profound impacts on urban design, on infrastructure and on society as a whole. Are our governments up to the task?
 A trademark of MARCON 2014