Increased Options for Public Transport within the Sharing Economy:
Exploring the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
By Brian Smith, General Manager, Strategic Relationships, Intelematics Australia
Continued investment into autonomous vehicles have far-reaching consequences. With most cars projected to be fully automated in the next 20 years, the networked driverless car is no longer a fantasy rather an option that provides both the public and private sector with great opportunities to build and improve transport infrastructure.
According to a Deloitte report, ‘The rise of mobility as a service 2017’, up to 80 percent of travel in urban areas will be in shared autonomous vehicles by 2040. Industry experts expect that this will have positive impacts on traffic congestion and road safety.
The ongoing development of automated cars is driving interest in disruptive Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) models. For example, Singapore has already begun testing the use of driverless taxis, while Uber has been running trials of driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, in the United States. MaaS is defined as a scenario in which transport users subscribe or pay-as-they-go to gain access to public and private transport when and how they need it. MaaS is expected to lead to a drop in private car ownership rates.
Those who choose to adopt MaaS will be able to avoid many of the costs that come with car ownership and maintenance. This allows for more rational and sustainable decisions regarding the use of public and private transport as the full proportioned cost, both purchase (capital) and running (operating), is built into every journey.
A major issue with the current private ownership model is that the capital cost (the purchase price of the car) is seen as a sunk cost (a cost that has already been incurred). Whilst the cost of an individual car trip is thought of as only the direct additional expenses covering fuel consumed, parking and a small amount for additional costs like tyres, and servicing. This means that each extra journey in a private car is usually viewed by the owner as costing much less than the true fully apportioned cost. As a result, many people believe that taking their car seems measurably cheaper than the train, tram or bus.
The alternative to MaaS is privately owned driverless vehicles, which raises many questions as to how a city would function if this were to become the norm. Two simple examples being, if you want a quick snack or are just popping out to pick up some dry cleaning or purchase groceries, why bother parking, just have the car circle the block until you are ready to move on, or chauffeuring children, which would no longer impose a personal time cost on parents, potentially increasing this activity significantly with impacts on not only congestion but health, environment and other factors.
This has been described as the heaven or hell scenario, shared autonomous vehicles, with reduced cost and congestion could be heaven, private autonomous vehicles, with dramatically increased congestion possibilities, could be hell.
The move towards MaaS models
Streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix have transformed the way people consume and pay for media and provide a guide to how transportation models in the future may operate. The shift towards the MaaS model may be led by the success of digital disrupters in the sharing economy such as Uber and GoGet, where people can hire cars, including from their neighbours, on a per-hour or per-day basis. These ideas are expanding globally with new services emerging every day.
Trip planning apps, such as Google Maps, Whim and TripGo, which help users compare different transport options for getting to their destinations are becoming commonplace. MaaS is a natural progression of this and involves providing all transport and payment options including public and private in the one platform so that transport users can seamlessly plan and pay for their trip.
In other words, rather than having to find, book and pay for each transportation mode separately, MaaS lets transport users plan and book door-to-door journeys using a single payment system. MaaS can determine the best transport modes to use through the use of telematics to monitor transport network conditions in real-time and define user preferences around travel time, convenience and cost based on data analysis. A common payment system across all transport modes also allows for variable incentives and pricing. An example could be using public transport in peak hours allows lower cost road tolls outside peak hours.
Widespread adoption of the MaaS model could turn the notion of public transport being only a provider of mass transit on its head as those individual transit options typically deemed private, such as cars or scooters, will be available on the same payment platform as a traditional public modes of transportation.
Exploring MaaS in practice
Imagine a scenario where your public transport payment system, such as Opal (Sydney) or Myki (Melbourne) is extended to include car sharing options such as Uber or GoGet? Public transport users pay a monthly service fee which automatically gives them access to a multitude of public transport options including traditional train, tram, bus and ferry options, as well as taxis and car sharing. Alternatively, existing payment systems such as credit or debit cards could also offer MaaS services by creating partnerships with transport operators.
Road users may never need to own their own car. Theoretically, driverless cars would pick people up from their homes and drop them at their destination without having to park somewhere for the majority of the day, adding to the traffic congestion associated with searching for a parking spot. In this scenario many public and private car parks could then potentially be freed up to use as community or commercial space.
Telematics functions, such as real-time data analytics on user travel across transportation networks could also be used to determine demand and supply to help inform infrastructure planning decisions. Cars can be parked where they are next most likely to be needed, not where their last journey ended.
The future of public transport is one that is constantly evolving as the digital landscape continues to develop and transform. Public transport has traditionally been mass transport, trains, trams and buses. In future public transport may well be as much about personal, individual and small group, transport as mass transport. These can be unified via MaaS to provide an integrated origin to destination journey involving a mix of transport modes.
As we move closer to this (not-so) futuristic scenario, there is great potential for the further integration of telematics technology into everyday life and specifically into everyday personal transportation. While the use of black box telemetry is still relatively new and primarily used in premium vehicles, in order to make this connected MaaS scenario a reality it will need to become a lot more commonplace, and this transformation has commenced.
This connected transportation scenario also increases the potential for the use of telematics technology to be utilised in providing real-time traffic updates to the chosen mode of transport (public or private) in order to provide a seamless and more efficient travel experience for the user. In Australia a number of organisations are developing the building blocks of MaaS, these include existing public transport operators, auto clubs such as the RACV, connected mobility operators such as Intelematics Australia, SkedGo – a travel planning app developer and MaaS Australia.
As telematics technology becomes further integrated into society, MaaS will provide a means of transportation that is unmatched in its efficiency and scope. MaaS does not have to be for everyone, nor will it suddenly appear fully formed. It will continue to evolve and develop over time and for the immediate future at least, sitting alongside private ownership. MaaS and private car ownership are not mutually exclusive, but a future with autonomous (driverless) vehicles and only private car ownership is probably unsustainable.