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16 Jun 22

“MaaS needs an open ecosystem”

For MaaS to be a success, we need platforms that take the work out of multimodal mobility. Unified platforms that book, manage and pay for the trips so the user doesn’t have to. How far off is that Promised Land?
 
This is an abridged version of a longer article published in Fleet Europe Magazine #129 – out now in print. You can consult an online version via this link.

We put that question to one provider of MaaS platforms, Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MaaS Global; and to Saskia Harreman, Fleet Europe’s own smart mobility expert. 

Flexible and environmentally friendly

Mobility-as-a-Service is a brilliant idea. And it’s one whose time and place is here and now, says Ms. Harreman. “In our recent research for the Mobility Maturity Map, we find that half of all companies are reviewing their mobility policies this year – up to 60% in countries like Belgium. And it’s no longer just about cost. The main reasons are: companies want mobility tools that are more flexible, and more environmentally friendly.” 
 
The only way to do both, she says, is “to implement Mobility-as-a-Service. When we ask fleet and mobility managers what they want, they say they want mobility options that are smart, safe, sustainable and seamless. The answer is MaaS, and the technology and connectivity to deliver it is increasingly available.”

Two main hurdles

But its two main hurdles are protocols, and trust. On the first point, we need open APIs, which will make it easier for software from various providers to talk to each other. And on the trust point, many mobility providers have yet tointernalise the notion that in a MaaS environment, competition gives way to cooperation. If MaaS links all mobility modes, then all mobility providers benefit from more and better MaaS. 
  
As far as MaaS Global is concerned, those hurdles have already been taken, says Mr Hietanen: “Our unified platform Whim is the first and most advanced MaaS platform in the world. It’s the most mature MaaS solution on the market, as it allows users to plan, book and pay for all their trips in one app. Different payment options include pay-as-you-go, ticket bundles and subscriptions. But of course, it still needs plenty more supply to cater to all consumer needs.”

Remarkable progress

While more needs to be done, we can already look back on a remarkable progress on the road to MaaS-ready technology, regulations, and mentalities. European cities have been at the forefront. “The best example of this is Antwerp,” says Mr Hietanen. “There, the city has taken a strong role in creating the market environment but has refrained from being a MaaS player itself.”
  
So, which are the current stumbling blocks? And who needs to do better? Just about everyone, Mr Hietanen laughs: “In order to develop more and better MaaS services, suppliers – by this I mean: transport service providers – MaaS platforms and legislators need to up their game.”
 
By working together, they can improve services and add value to the end user. But that can only happen if all stakeholders accept the uniquely collaborative nature of Mobility-as-a-Service. “Instead of walled gardens, we need to focus on an open ecosystem,” Mr Hietanen says. “MaaS is competing with the service promise of a car, and we can’t match that with a single mode or single service provider.”

"Dream big"

The scale of what’s needed may be daunting, but we should not shrink away from going truly global, says the CEO of, appropriately, MaaS Global: “We should dream big. Instead of building MaaS for one city, we should build a global service. Just like telecom. For that, we need international roaming services. And a change in attitude.” That’s a big ask, but Mr Hietanen is optimistic that we’ll get there in the end. 
 
But all those professionals interested and invested in MaaS should not be misled by the search for a ‘unified platform’ as the industry’s Holy Grail, Mr Hietanen says. “That term leads us in the wrong direction. We don’t need a singular central server, a bottleneck or platform to control everything. In the API economy, what we need is a multitude of open interfaces.”

Different things

Ms. Harreman agrees that the future of MaaS will be plural. “I see three stumbling blocks we have to overcome. Firstly, we must pay a lot more attention to achieving an end-user interface that fits the purpose of the individual user. Secondly, we can’t have each mobility service provider impose their own app and its protocols on others. That would lead to chaos. »

“And thirdly, we need to keep in mind that accessing alternative mobility should be super easy. But ‘easy’ means different things to different stakeholders. So we should listen carefully to the needs of the end users – whether they be corporations, their employees, or other actors.”

Image: Shutterstock

This is an abridged version of a longer article published in Fleet Europe Magazine #129 – out now in print. You can consult an online version via this link.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs