Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) has huge potential to contribute to a positive human future in a technology-driven world. A seamless, integrated and multi-modal transport network can optimise existing capacity and, most importantly, better meet the needs of passengers.
Embracing MaaS would enable passengers to access the transport they need and personalise their journeys. Imagine, a single app that lets you select a journey that runs to your schedule and preferences on cost, comfort levels, environmental impact, journey time and more. With much of the required technology available today to make this a reality, MaaS is a future of transport that’s within our reach.
The UK Government recognises the potential of MaaS to deliver better experiences for passengers, improve sustainability and better manage demand and capacity on transport networks. Its Future of mobility: urban strategy outlines plans to enable this kind of innovation. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport is engaging with a broad range of agencies and local government to share best practice and build understanding of the risks and challenges associated with MaaS.
And yet – despite the clear opportunity for transport operators to offer user-centric, multi-modal travel – progress is slow. Take the example of Whim, an app which gives its users all city transport services in one place via a subscription or pay-as-you-go model. Offering access to public transport, taxis and rental cars via a single platform and operated in the West Midlands by Maas Global, the service has been running since 2008 but is yet to scale nationally.
There are several barriers stalling progress. The key players – Government, established transport operators and new market entrants – are pushing hard to deliver a shared vision, but most continue to operate reactively and in silos. Industry continues to debate which is the optimal form of MaaS. Government is battling to keep pace with the required legislative changes to enable a transport evolution. And infrastructure operators and transport providers are trying to understand their place in any new ecosystem as their customer relationship becomes one step removed by app owners/providers.
With other countries such as Finland, Singapore and America setting the pace, the UK needs a new approach if it’s to lead the world in shaping the future of mobility.
To bring all the relevant stakeholders together and set a clear vision, Government needs to drive the MaaS agenda in collaboration with infrastructure operators and private sector service providers. It needs to clearly state its commitment to enabling and supporting change. For Government, the priorities should be to:
Can old dogs learn ingenious new tricks?
Agile thinking will benefit business too
A clear statement of intent from Government will allow the private sector to invest with confidence, with a clear set of rules within which they can operate and build a viable business. As with new entrants, existing operators should borrow from agile thinking and:
The Mayor of London’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce is an example of what business, infrastructure and government can achieve when they come together to shape a common goal.
While MaaS remains a concept for many, the way we use transport is changing. There are pockets of MaaS, but we’re still at the start of this complex change. We can’t ignore consumer demand and the potential of MaaS to create a positive human future.
By taking a more agile approach, we can collaborate and innovate on the scale required to deliver a complex, integrated transport system, and inject new pace into making it happen. By adopting an agile mindset, the UK transport sector will be better placed to meet the challenges of the future and create the right environment to better contribute to, and support, the UK economy.