By Ross Douglas, Founder & CEO, Autonomy
This speech was delivered by Ross Douglas at the Prague City Data Congress on 30 May 2019.
Most cities are faced with the same three challenges: how to reduce pollution, congestion and CO2 emissions? In the last decade hundreds of billions of dollars has been invested in EV companies, new charging infrastructure, mobility startups and public transport infrastructure. However the results have not been in line with the investment. Cities are still polluted and congested and 2018 was a record year for CO2 emissions. The reason for this is that cars are often still the best door-to-door solutions in cities.
What can replace the car as the “weapon of choice” for the urbanite? The best way to change commuter behavior is to implement a strong MaaS offering in cities which cities need to take control of and use data gathered to make appropriate data driven transport decisions.
What is MaaS?
UITP in their policy brief, Ready for MaaS, gives a great answer:
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of, and access to, different transport services (such as public transport, ride-sharing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, taxi, car rental, ride-hailing and so on) in one single digital mobility offer, with active mobility and an efficient public transport system as its basis. This tailor-made service suggests the most suitable solutions based on the user’s travel needs. MaaS is available anytime and offers integrated planning, booking and payment, as well as en route information to provide easy mobility and enable life without having to own a car.
Furthermore, UITP states that If MaaS does not respond to the traveller’s needs, it will not be able to attract enough users to trigger the shift towards sustainable transport modes. The MaaS solution must be built around the traveller’s key expectations, which include:
- Trustworthiness: It should provide accurate real time travel information and be a reliable resource.
- Simplicity: the service needs to be easy and convenient to use with all the information necessary to help the traveller make their mobility choices .
- Impartiality: The platform needs to provide access to all available mobility options with the most importance being placed on efficient and sustainable options.
- Flexibility: MaaS must be able to take into account that traveller’s needs are always changing.
While the concept is simple the realities are far from simple. In Paris, where I commute daily, I have to hop between 12 mobility apps deciding how I should move from A to B. Too often, the result is defaulting to a ride-hailing service that sends a polluting car as it provides a door to door service. A better alternative would be an app that suggests different vehicles or modes and allows me to book and pay for them through the same payment gateway.
There are three ways that MaaS can work in cities and I believe that in the future, cities, through their transport operators, will start taking control of their city’s MaaS platform.
- Mobility as a “Private” Service: This is the offering from Uber, Grab in Southeast Asia, Bolt and Lyft where they offer a range of vehicles on their platform. They are able to build a massive user base very quickly and use this to raise large amounts of capital to offer increasing services to their clients.
- Mobility as a “Neutral” Service: This is what 3rd party platforms like MaaS Global’s Whim and MiGo do by aggregating private and public transport operators on the same platform and then charging urbanites a flat subscription to use whichever service they need.
- Mobility as a “Public” Service: This is where the city’s public transport operator uses a white label software platform to aggregate all the public and private operators onto one platform that they control giving the commuter the choice of all the city’s mobility solutions.
All solutions of these solutions come with a number of challenges:
In the Mobility as a “Private” Service scenario, private mobility operators are unable to get other private mobility operators onto their platform as no one wants to share their data. In addition, Public Transport Operators (PTOs) refuse to go onto their platforms for similar reasons. Finally, they promote services that are profitable for their business and not necessarily the best for the city or environment.
Another problem of the business model of private operators is that they over-deploy free-floating bikes and scooters in the hope of outlasting the competition. There are 11 electric kick-scooter operators in Paris offering the same vehicles at the same price and this excess of scooters has turned many Parisians against a great mobility solution.
The Mobility as a “Neutral” Service could work since, as the name implies, they are neutral but examples to date have shown that they don’t have the power to convince both public and private operators to come onto their platform. Whoever has the transport data has the power to convert this to revenue at a later date and no one wants to lose this opportunity.
This leaves the third option of cities and their PTO’s taking control of the MaaS offering. As they are the only entity that has the power to get private and public operators onto their platform, they probably have the best chance for success. There are numerous benefits of having cities control the MaaS platform:
- They can appoint private operator solutions as per the demand for a specific service as opposed to “letting the market decide” that leads to an over-deployment of vehicles on the street as we have seen with scooters.
- The city can use the data generated to make transport solutions that reduce pollution and congestion.
- The city can nudge commuters in the right mobility direction. How to get them on shared shuttles as opposed to single lifts in a car
- They can charge private operators a commission and thereby have an effective way of getting revenue from private operators – something that cities have been unable to achieve to date from companies that operate as platforms
- They have access to voters through the app and can communicate directly with their constituency about road works, metro delays, weather and demonstrate how tax money is benefitting citizens.
It is, of course not simple to build and deploy a MaaS platform, but this is where private companies offering white label MaaS solutions step in. Companies such as Alstom’s Mastria, Door2Door, SkedGo, Kyyti and Moovit can provide the technology and tools cities need to run their platforms. It’s important urbanites have the best possible mobility options available to them and a fast and convenient way to take advantage of them. This is the only way people will ditch their cars for cleaner and less congesting forms of transport. Furthermore, it is important for cities to show their citizens that their taxes are going to good use as this builds greater trust and improves relations between cities and their populations. To realize both these objectives, Mobility as a “Public” Service is the ultimate door-to-door solution for cities around the world.