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Vicky is MD at Boilerhouse Communications and programme director for both the Better Connected Programme and the Connected Care Programme

@vickysargent

Why own a car when mobility is provided ‘as a service’

Just when we are getting to grips with the full promise of 'software as a service’ (SaaS) – where software is available on demand from ‘the cloud’ rather than being procured and installed locally – we are being asked to prepare for ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS).

So says a new report from the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), which claims we are at the beginning of a ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) revolution that will change how we travel and could see a move away from traditional car ownership.

TSC research shows that users increasingly view transport as a service to be bought when they need it. The growth of services like Uber shows that where supported by digitally available, dynamically updated and user-relevant information, customers will be quick to adopt them.

The increase in urban populations and changing preferences of younger generations that care less about ownership and more about experiences will fuel the trend from an ownership model to a service model as recognition dawns that they need only occasional access to a vehicle.

The availability of data, processing power and the ubiquitous use of mobile phones has enabled travellers and their needs to be better understood. Passengers no longer need to collect and keep timetables to work out the most optimal connections between transport modes, while the growing number of apps that deliver information in real-time help avoid congestion and delays and enable the customer to choose travel options according to specific needs and preferences.

Technologial advances which allow tailored travel options - fastest, lowest-cost, the most direct route, most environmentally friendly, or most accessible for people with reduced mobility or those travelling with children – are enabling new business models under the umbrella term ‘mobility as a service’.

James Datson, lead author of the report, describes MaaS as being about using a digital interface to source and manage transport related services to meet customer needs.

‘MaaS embodies what many of us working in the transport industry see as the future. There are many opportunities ahead - it’s an exciting time for investors and for the travelling public. The private sector sees MaaS as an opportunity to offer customers better journeys, and the public sector can embrace MaaS to help address the UK’s transport challenges.’

The report suggests that the rewards of moving from existing business models that focus on single modes of transport, to the provision of flexible end-to-end travel services, could be significant. MaaS can address many of the pain points in journeys and enable policy makers to make more efficient use of transport assets.

MaaS could also help local and regional areas meet policy objectives around the economy, congestion and pollution, and local transport authorities will benefit from the rich data emerging from providers and operators. This could also provide evidence for re-framing how government subsidises and provides public transport services in the future.

Although MaaS offers the potential to address transport challenges facing society and an opportunity for achieving behaviour change and managing travel demand, its full impact is as yet unknown: the jury is still out on whether it will result in more journeys and distances travelled by car or potentially less.

Public policy makers will need to engage with the private sector to achieve beneficial outcomes from MaaS since value propositions can be developed to suit a range of target customers and the private sector may develop business models that do not align with transport policy goals.

Existing transport operators face significant opportunities but also threats in moving from current ‘business to consumer’ models and towards ones focussed on supplying transport capacity directly to MaaS providers.

To help readers understand the possibilities of MaaS, the report describes the transition of a suburban couple with school-age children from a the traditional setup in which the father commutes to work by car and the mother uses a second car for the school run.

Subscribing to a ‘family package’ of MaaS services (via smartphone) opens up a range of options, including rail, bus, on-demand mini-bus and bike sharing,that can be selected on a daily basis according to family members’ needs and travel conditions.

The MaaS app can provide the real-time location of an on-demand school the bus, its predicted arrival time, its registration plate and driver. If times are convenient the school run is not needed. An on-demand mini-bus to the train station works for the father’s commute, for which he can use the MaaS app as a virtual ticket. The app warns that the planned bike route is not feasible today because of an accident and suggests a better alternative by foot.

Confidence in these options enables the family to sell one car and offer the other car for short-term rental using the MaaS operator’s community car club.

The report Exploring the Opportunity for Mobility as a Service in the UK can be downloaded at https://ts.catapult.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Mobility-as-a-Service_Exploring-the-Opportunity-for-MaaS-in-the-UK-Web.pdf. A free to attend event on the report findings will take place in Birmingham on 21 September https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mobility-as-a-service-conference-tickets-26637412217?aff=eiosprexshresmsx&ref=eiosprexshresmsx

 

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