Exploring the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

Increased Options for Public Transport within the Sharing Economy: Exploring the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

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.

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