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Why MaaS can’t just be about mass public transit…

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2017 has been a huge year for Mobility-as-a-Service. As we recently noted in a guest post for the Business Travel Show, searches for the phrase have seen significant growth in the last year. We’ve seen serious entrants to the marketplace and substantial investments made into MaaS applications, initiatives, and projects. Just last month the UK Government announced the start of an inquiry into Mobility-as-a-Service and what it could mean to the country.

As a leading MaaS technology company, we’ve seen a huge growth of enquiries, requests, and commentary about what we’re trying to build here in the United Kingdom. Car manufacturers have started to be involved in conversations and looked at ways of monetizing MaaS as an alternative option to car ownership. Corporate thought leaders like KPMG and Deloitte have helped create a real buzz in the business world about the value MaaS potential could bring.

However, all the while, for many in the Mobility-as-a-Service industry the conversation is still limited to talking about public transport and driverless cars. It is telling that the areas the UK Government have asked for submissions about (topics such as “urban public transport systems”, “improving air quality” and “rail franchising system” are all used) seem to forget entirely about the private sector’s role. In fact, the only area where this is suggested is when the submission guidelines mention “transport providers’ unwillingness to share data”.

That’s not to say the above points aren’t important or they have less value, but it is worth highlighting that the debate needs to broaden its view.

Google data – monthly search volume for “mobility as a service” in the United Kingdom as of December 2017.

Bridging the gap between public and private

MaaS isn’t just about mass public transport, it’s not even just about transport. Issues that many are trying to resolve such as congestion, air quality, accessibility can’t and won’t be achieved by just thinking about buses and cycle schemes. The reality is that these issues are caused by both the public and private sector. How much of these travel issues in a major city like London are directly caused by businesses? Whether it’s a taxi to a meeting or an employee commuting to and from work.

The discussion about MaaS needs to incorporate the private sector if it wants to address the issues properly. This means that a MaaS solution needs to cater for not just public transport but private transport options that business users would use – flights, taxis, car hire etc.

MaaS isn’t just transport

Furthermore, MaaS isn’t just transport, it’s mobility – this means every aspect of travel needs to be considered. For businesses, we’ve built Mobilleo so that it doesn’t just allow users to find, book and pay for transport but also accommodation, airport lounges, WiFi access codes, parking charges and even meals. All of these elements are just as important as they all require additional cost and often additional transport to get there.

If the industry fails to broaden its scope, then it runs the risk that it creates a solution that doesn’t quite help businesses fully. Business travel expenses are often restricted to transport tickets but as such, the business is failing to capture the true cost of that journey. A true MaaS solution needs to record and analyse how long it took to make the booking, what other elements of the journey need to be tracked and even issues such as “how much did it cost the business for an employee to leave the office during office hours to go pick up the tickets?”.

What does this mean for MaaS?

It means that for MaaS institutes, companies and application developers that they broaden their objectives and scope of work. True Mobility-as-a-Service has to cover every aspect of travel for every type of user. If the government wants the private sector to share their data then they need to provide a worthwhile incentive. Perhaps inviting them to incorporate their services into the MaaS solution so they can market and compare their costs versus competitors or public transport.

Partnerships with private travel providers can be sensitive and challenging, but it’s well worth the effort as we know from our own partnerships with Trainline, Europcar, and Travelport. Likewise, integrating with readily open APIs can allow immediate access to data and services, it just requires talented development to tap into this resource. These are practical challenges that anyone can attempt to take on to get fast results, rebuilding an entire city to become a “smart city” requires a lot more time, a lot more effort and a lot more of the public’s money.

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