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Government backs off interfering in data-share debate on mobility

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The Government says it will not intervene in the provision of mobility services, in response to being warned it must show political leadership if mobility is to succeed in the UK.

Instead, it wants to allow mobility markets to develop before deciding whether it needs to legislate, with the private sector and local transport providers taking the lead.

Roads minister Jesse Norman told MPs on the Transport Select Committee (TSC): “The state can have a role. We just need to see how it (the market) is going to operate.”

Mobility experts have previously told MPs on the TSC, which is conducting an inquiry into Mobility as a Service (MaaS), that public transport operators, taxi companies, car clubs, bike share services and even carmakers, should be obliged to make their data accessible to mobility service providers.

However, Norman, who has responsibility for the future of mobility and MaaS at the Department for Transport (DfT), disagrees.

He said: “If data is a really crucial part of the launch profile of a service, nationalising their data may not be a clever way of encouraging innovation.”

He admitted that it was something the DfT would need to look at, but added: “The data will have been acquired through legitimate legal trading by private companies building up an advantage in a competitive way in many cases.

“Government should think very hard about what potentially amounts to expropriating data that they may have, or making it available to others who will not have paid for it.”

Norman also disputed whether there was a role for Government to get directly involved in the provision of mobility services.

“The department is already happy to review and support forms of innovation where they take place,” he said. “But I do not think we will be in the market for erecting public sector alternatives to things that the private sector may already be doing, and that are in the very early stages of technology and commercial development.”

An area where Norman believes MaaS has the potential to develop is the corporate market, especially to the extent to which it could act as a substitute for the company car.

On the freight side, he said that the Government was looking at the whole question of how to manage the last mile. “You can absolutely imagine how MaaS for freight might cause you to put your package in something that carries it from point to point, and then an e-biker picks it up from a distribution centre and distributes it locally,” said Norman.

“Fleet and freight operators have high amounts of buying power and you would expect them to be early sources of conversation with a MaaS provider.”

The Here Mobility company is targeting both private and corporate users with its new Mobility Marketplace platform.

Speaking to Fleet News at the technology show, head of mobility Liad Itzhak said he wanted to “democratise” the mobility market and make it more competitive.

He believes the current mobility offering is too one-dimensional, dominated by single service providers. “The mobility market is getting more and more concentrated and monopolised by a few players,” said Itzhak, highlighting the likes of Uber and Lyft. “Not only do they not solve the efficiency of people movement, they add to the problem.”

Itzhak used the example of New York, where there had traditionally been around 20,000 taxis, but now has in the region of 80,000 private hire vehicles thanks to the growth in Uber and Lyft.

“That’s a mess, but that’s what we’re facing,” said Itzhak. “We don’t have a variety of services in the mobility space.”

To combat the problem, Here Mobility launched a global open mobility marketplace in January at Las Vegas’s Consumer Electronics Show.

In less than five months, the mobility platform has gained coverage in 120 cities in Europe, the US and Latin America, and more than 150 transport suppliers have already joined the platform.

He said: “They understand that if they don’t adopt this idea of an open mobility marketplace, the future will be a monopolised market and they won’t have any place in it.”

An additional 100-plus cities are expected to open by the end of the year.

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