Mobility as a Service is the next paradigm for travel
The digital revolution has hit the transport sector and is ushering in a new era of travel. Mass urbanisation, the desire to minimise pollution, combined with technological advancements, access to vast data sets, the ubiquitous use of the smartphone, and change in consumer preferences, are just some of the factors driving the surge in new Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions.
What is MaaS?
MaaS uses digital technology to provide users with end-to-end trip planning, booking, electronic ticketing, and payment services across one or several modes of public or private transportation. Rather than passengers having to locate, book and pay for each mode of transport separately, the ultimate aim of MaaS is to let users plan, book and manage door-to-door trips using a single app.
These apps find the best travel solutions for passengers, based on real-time conditions throughout the network, and take into account all the possible options and each user’s own preferences (for example, time and convenience vs. cost) as well as facilitate seamless mobile payments.
Why is MaaS happening now?
Consumers are increasingly digitally savvy and want seamless, personalised experiences at every touch point in their lives. A range of industries such as retailers, banks and even media companies have already responded and have redesigned their services to meet this demand.
In addition, technology has advanced so much in the last decade, that people become accustomed to the “Uber effect” and the notion of frictionless travel. Users now want to experience this with every service – whether it’s car sharing (currently 5 million members using this worldwide), bike sharing (there are more than 1,000 public bikeshare schemes globally) or even when planning the best route to walk.
As a result, in recent years there has been an explosion of journey planning apps. The likes of Citymapper and Moovit, which help users identify and compare different ways of getting to their destinations, have become commonplace, with local and global offerings available in every major city. However, these journey planning tools, whilst transforming the daily travel experience of many city-dwellers, solve only part of the problem.
Key features of the future MaaS offer
Whilst MaaS can refer to the digital enablement of one or a few modes of transport, true “Multimodal” capability is its ultimate aim. MaaS solutions that bring together multi-modal journey planning across public and private transport options, alongside a single, flexible payment and personalised journey management capability, will be the future of travel.
Ticketless travel is a key component of this MaaS model. Using a smartcard or smartphone, passengers should be able to enter and exit any transport mode required for any given journey, without needing a physical ticket. This has been possible in Japan since 2004, when NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile phone provider, created a mobile wallet which serves as electronic money, member card, credit card and a ticketing mechanism.
Ultimately, MaaS should aggregate both private and public transport providers’ services, across all travel modes, as part of a national integrated service. Yet, at present, very few apps, with the exception of Deutsche Bahn’s Qixxit and Daimler’s Moovel in Germany, are close to making this a reality. There are a range of challenges still facing service providers, transit agencies and transport operators themselves that mean that it’s only by true public-private partnerships in specific locations that progress is likely to be made.
Who is doing it right now?
There are numerous companies piloting MaaS schemes around the globe. Broadly, all the solutions available allow for a degree of door-to-door journey planning – where users can plan and/or pay for some or all modes of public and private transport – be it by train, taxi, bus, carshare, or bikeshare, in a single app. Depending on the provider, users can either pre-pay for the service, as part of a monthly mobility subscription, or pay as they go using a payment account linked to the service.
Seven companies pioneering multi-modal solutions right now
In Quebec, Canada, some municipal transport authorities have offered mobility packages that include bikesharing by BIXI and carsharing provided by Communauto. For example, a user can save on the regular price of a public transport pass and bikesharing by subscribing to the BIXI-AUTO-BUS package.
Kelbillet launched Gopili.com in January last year to capture a wider share of the fast-growing European market. Today the firm has a presence in France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, and has secured real-time inventory from over 500 partners including airline, train, coach and ride-sharing firms.
Developed by Germany’s Daimler, Moovel enables users to search, book, and pay for rides with a single app. Users can book and pay for car2go, mytaxi, and Deutsche Bahn in a single experience. Public transportation mobile payments are available in Stuttgart and Hamburg. This is also being testing in Boston, Portland, and Helsinki.
Created by Deutsche Bahn Germany, Qixxit has more than 21 service providers and enables users to plan routes according to their needs. It offers carsharing, ridesharing, and bikesharing options; identifies ideal train connections; and shows all travel possibilities for users to compare and choose from.
This provides real-time and multimodal journey information for planning door-to-door journeys. In addition to its core purpose, TripGo provides various comparisons on price, trip duration and carbon emissions, and allows the user to prioritise which is most important to their journey. Currently travellers can use the app in 50 locations worldwide, including Ho Chi Minh City, Dublin, Sydney, Vancouver, Auckland and Chicago.
UbiGo is a fully integrated mobility service that combines public transportation, carsharing, rental car service, taxi service and a bicycle system – all in one app, all on one invoice, with 24/7 support and bonuses for sustainable choices. Part of the project Go: smart by Lindholmen Science Park, with partners from industry, academia, and government, co-funded by Vinnova 80 households; approximately 200 users in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Whim app is a subscription-based integrated mobility app currently being trialled in the Midlands. This Finnish MaaS Global app offers users access to a variety of transport options, from taxis to rental cars, public transport and bikeshare. The app learns users’ preferences and syncs with their calendars to intelligently suggest ways to get to and from work.
The introduction of MaaS and multi-modal transport solutions has been driven by passengers’ demand for a better travel experience, digital technology advances and interest in alternative methods of travel. In the last 10 years there has been x100 growth in bikeshare schemes globally and x15 growth in carshare schemes, whilst Uber is now available in 500 cities. At the same time some traditional modes of transport are falling – for example, in the UK bus journeys fell by 2.6% in 2016.
Ultimately travellers want 5 things:
- ease of planning across a range of different modes, in real time;
- ease of transaction – being able to pay by smartcard, smartwatch or mobile and use the same payment process for whatever mode of transport they take;
- the option of different payment methodologies – like being able to bulk pay in advance, pay as they go, or even pay retrospectively;
- a personalised service, which recognises and understands what the customer is trying to achieve and serves the most appropriate option;
- ease of journey management – so there are no barriers to getting around, no entrance gates, and bike hire or car share hubs are easy to access.
There are a number of things that need to happen to makes this a reality.
Firstly, development companies need open data access. To create MaaS solutions, providers need to be able to present ticket and journey information across multiple sources. However, only 292 out of 1000 global transit agencies currently share their data. That’s not enough if we’re going to try and connect and make it a better experience for customers. Having worked closely with Train Operating Companies (TOCs), we know they sometimes don’t have total access or control over their data, or if they do, their data sits in silos. As a result TOCs are struggling to create a single view of their customers, let alone share journey and fare information with others.
Secondly, fares and tickets need to be more flexible. The current ticketing situation is hard for customers to understand (off-peak, super off-peak, etc); this has definitely got to change.
Finally, there must be a cultural shift in the industry. Currently, there is a dichotomy between what MaaS means, and how the current transport service operates. In order for the vision of MaaS to become a reality, a number of different modes of transport need to be consolidated and enabled by one platform that offer a single payment scheme. That means the brands offering these transport types ultimately become constituent brands of this mobility service. This is contrary to how TOCs and other transport providers currently operate, where they actively seek to steal market-share from each other and other modes of transport.