The company car is losing its status as the default means of transport for employees while MaaS gathers momentum. Jonathan Manning reports
Perk car or mobility package? The day is rapidly approaching when employees will have a viable choice between spending their company car allowance on a new lease vehicle or a comprehensive travel plan.
Under the umbrella of ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS), public sector organisations and private sector start-ups are racing to deliver a seamless transport experience for personal and business travel.
Definitions of MaaS vary widely and change constantly, but the industry consensus is that it should involve multiple modes of transport, be app based, operate on real time information and include ticket transactions and payments.
Naturally, this is fraught with difficulties. Transport operators appear reluctant to share route and customer data; through-ticketing between different companies is fiendishly complicated to deliver; and discounts for advance tickets are hard to factor into an on-demand travel solution.
The result, according to the Deloitte consultancy, is a compromise that fails to deliver the essential ease of a genuine MaaS solution.
“Consumers can use journey-planner apps (e.g. Citymapper) to identify and even arrange some mobility options into a trip chain, but they must click through to each mode of transit’s app and make payment for each leg on an ‘à la carte’ basis, and not as a single payment.
The potential win, however, is so great that the British Government identified ‘The Future of Mobility’ as one of its four Grand Challenges in the Industrial Strategy announced last year.
This prompted the Department for Transport (DfT)to launch an inquiry last November to explore the potential for MaaS and the obstacles that stand in its way.
Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: “Integrating urban transport modes into a single, integrated MaaS app represents a really exciting opportunity to transform how we get around in cities.
“An integrated MaaS app can create a single, seamless journey, cutting out the hassle of separate ticketing for different legs of a journey.
"The app can plan and book your whole journey from door to door in the most efficient way possible, using real-time service data across all the transport modes in the city.
“This could substantially reduce reliance on the private car, ease congestion, increase productivity and lead to more pleasant, healthier cities with better air quality.”
The first genuine MaaS experiment in the UK, called Whim, is already in beta testing in the West Midlands, offering travel by bus, Metro or taxi.
Whim is the idea of Maas Global, a Finnish firm which has launched a version in Helsinki. The app-based service offers three options: pay-on-use and two different levels of subscription, covering public transport, taxi rides of up to 5km and Sixt hire cars.
The higher priced service costs €499 (£440) per month, roughly the price of a BMW 320d on a three year/30,000 mile personal lease in the UK, and provides unlimited public transport, unlimited taxi rides and unlimited car hire.
It doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to see a London-based perk car driver mull this type of arrangement as a more attractive alternative to the company car.
In its submission to the DfT’s MaaS inquiry, fleet association ACFO said: “MaaS should be imperative for companies to assist travel, in both business and as part of a benefit package solution.”
ACFO forecasts the evolution of the company car for perk fleets moving into the MaaS arena, and said some companies are already looking to incorporate their fleet and travel in a wider ranging position with the creation of a ‘mobility manager’ who has the responsibility for ground transportation within a business.
“Ground transportation in a company can cover everything from rail, company and private/grey car usage, taxi, mini cab, car hire, car share, tube, bus, coach, cycle, and even short-haul flights,” it said.
Underlining the benefits of MaaS, ACFO added: “MaaS should be at the forefront of how businesses should be travelling to ensure they are using the best options for the journey, for environment, cost, safety and employee reasons.”