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MaaS: Mobility as a Service's impact on travel today

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By Johan Herrlin, CEO at Ito World

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) describes the move away from privately owned modes of transportation towards consuming mobility solutions as a service.

MaaS companies aim to reduce the friction of making this transition by integrating various forms of transport offerings into a single mobility platform.

The concept was first described back in 1996 and trialled in Sweden.

It was positively received by the public but had to be discontinued due to the lack of government support.

Since then, the concept was seemingly forgotten until 2012, when the term “E-mobility as a Service” was coined at a conference in San Francisco.

Mobility as a service was discussed as being the result of a crossover between shared electric vehicles and the accessibility to technology provided by smartphones.

Today MaaS is all about giving people customised and flexible transportation options.

It allows planning a commute through one platform with multiple means of transportation: from buses and other public transport to bike-and car-sharing options.

MaaS platforms help people plan the shortest commute, while making the change between transport options smooth and seamless. Such seamlessness is possible through a broad availability of smartphones and access to data.

Smartphones make accessibility to services easier and people already use them to call cabs, check bus timetables, map a route or pick up a shared bike.

But since most providers have this information in their own app, it requires users to constantly hop from one application to another, making it more difficult to plan a journey with multiple modes of transportation.

MaaS platforms combine the services from transport providers and list them in one place, allowing people to plan any journey with any transport.

As highlighted in our MaaS Manifesto, open and accessible data is another key enabler of MaaS.

It is a vital element of any MaaS platform, without which none of them can function.

It helps providers to convince the public that the service is reliable and benefits them, generating support for continued development and perfecting of the platforms.

Some companies, as Transport for London (TfL), already offer their data to developers to stimulate innovation.

Moreover, TfL’s open API is generating additional economic benefits in savings of up to £130m a year.

Not all companies have yet realised the advantages of making their data accessible for MaaS, and the government is helping to make data open, for example, by requiring bus operators to open their data on routes, fares and timetables.

As transport information was harder to access, the questions commuters would ask providers were broader and referred to timetables and general service.

Now that this information is easily accessible online, they are asking more specific questions, such as what exit is best or which side of the street the bust stop they need is.

These more specific questions can be answered only with data-based insights.

Service providers are even more reliant on real-time data, as technology made planning a journey ahead redundant and commuters check things on the go.

Mobility as a Service is without a doubt the future of the transportation industry.

The sector has demonstrated its potential to grow by conquering markets worldwide: China, Europe and the US have seen an uptake in the use of micro-mobility services in the past few years.

The expansion led to an unsurprising growth in investments into mobility as a service, predicted to grow from $6.8 bn in 2020 to $106.8 bn by 2030.

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