The way we move is changing, and fast. More of us already take on-demand mobility for granted, whether we’re catching a ride via Uber or Lyft, using city bikes, or grabbing a car only when we need it via the Zipcar app.
Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, is the logical next step to this shift from personal modes of transport to on-demand services. According to the MaaS Alliance, integrating mobility services into a single, user-friendly app will help to create a more sustainable transport model for the future.
The Future is Now
There has already been a significant shift towards ride and car sharing. From TV to transport, we have become accustomed to getting what we want at the touch of a button.
It’s part of a gear change to on-demand services, together with the acceleration of the “sharing economy”. While companies including Uber and Zipcar are often categorized as “disrupters” of traditional business models, they could become the norm.
As we become more switched on to the benefits of not owning a car, for example, the MaaS model of digitally enabled vehicle sharing makes a lot of sense. There’s no need to worry about maintenance costs, for example, or parking fees when you use a service like Zipcar. You don’t even need to pay for petrol.
In big cities like London, personal vehicles are often used for short, occasional journeys, spending most of their lives sitting outside their owners’ homes. Paying only for the journeys you actually take could significantly lower costs—and stress levels.
All of this is driving the market further in the direction of MaaS. A report by Accenture predicts that, by 2030, revenues from mobility services could reach around £1 trillion.
A UK government discussion on the topic concluded that: “An ideal implementation of MaaS would be no more expensive than the current transport system, fully inclusive for all travellers, meet obligations on air pollution and carbon emissions, and reduce vehicle ownership.”
Bringing it all Together
The government report also suggested that: “A fully integrated ticketing system across all modes of travel will be essential to enabling MaaS in the transport system of the future, though who would be responsible for this system was open to debate.”
Whether it ultimately comes down to private or public companies—or a combination of the two working together—the underlying methodology of MaaS is to make mobility easier, safer, cheaper and more convenient for the user. It would mean public transport, bikes, car hire and ride-sharing services being available in one menu, in the palm of your hand.
In the UK and globally, more and more companies are following this business model. Transit App, for example, is a self-described “helpful personal robot” that brings together commuter transport options in around 175 cities worldwide.
Based in Fife, Scotland, the Pick&Mix Project trialled NaviGoGo, an app allowing subscribers to book and pay for various public transport services in “one single, optimised transport network”. With a view to rolling out across the UK and, eventually, globally, the app is aimed firmly at young people who, according to those behind the project, are already in sync with the MaaS model.
“There has been a generational shift in attitudes towards travel,” said Steve Cassidy, managing director of Viaqqio—the future mobility division of transport services company, the ESP Group, which worked on the project. “Increasingly young people are networked via technology and therefore conditioned to the flexibility of on-demand services. In essence, they already see mobility as a service. Pick&Mix will furnish young people with a co-ordinated solution that becomes competitive with private car ownership not just on a cost basis but also convenience and ease of use.”
The MaaS Alliance summarises the overarching aim of these services as being able “to provide an alternative to the use of the private car that may be as convenient, more sustainable, help to reduce congestion and constraints in transport capacity, and can be even cheaper”.
The Sky’s the Limit
It isn’t just ground transport that’s included in the MaaS model. Some experts predict we could soon be sailing and even flying via subscription-based services. A report by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), a nonprofit trade organisation for the aviation industry, describes it as “Spotify for travel”.
Speaking at the ZAL TechCenter Innovation Days in Hamburg in November 2017, Lars Thomsen, founder of Future Matters, said we could be travelling “at the push of a button” if companies continue to advance and develop new technologies and services.
Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), single-pilot or autonomous airplanes could eventually become the norm in future—and we could be ordering a jaunt through the skies via an app, similar to ride-sharing.
“I think that [MaaS will be adopted] if companies come up with products and services that really make traveling easier and offer mobility at the push of a button,” he said. “Just like with media, where we know we can get what we want in an instant, this will gradually become the norm for mobility as well.”