20 Mar 19

Asia, Americas fueling MaaS

Mobility challenges can always be turned into opportunities as long as creativity is looming. This is the case in Europe, but also something that is occurring in regions such as Asia and the Americas. Let's have a look.

The need for mobility thrives in highly populated areas so let's start with Asia, home to 4.46 billion inhabitants, followed by the Americas with just over 1 billion. 

Asia Pacific

The digital revolution in Asia has skipped the home computer phase and has gone straight to the smart phone area. Most people in Asia are connected to the internet uniquely via their mobile phones. Partially because of this, the consumers have acquired the belief that ordering and delivering of goods and services is not linked to a location, but is per definition mobile and on-demand.

Translating mobile connectivity and on demand to mobility is fairly easy: it corresponds exactly with what the Asian consumer wants. The mobility pioneers in Asia are Didi and Grab; both have managed to kick out Uber (by merging activities), but have been successful almost from day 1 and have grown much faster than Uber or Lyft.

To put this into perspective, we refer to research done by online platform “Business of Apps”, that has compared the 4 major ride-hailing providers; the data are from 2017.

Furthermore, many businesses suffer from lacks in mobility which need to be resolved, and this is something that has been stimulating the deployment of more sustainable alternatives in MaaS.One of the main success reasons for the Asian ride-hailers, is the integration of multiple services into what was initially a taxi application; rather than a transport service, Grab is becoming a lifestyle service, taking care of transport, food, delivery, payments, insurance… Even within the transport option, people can chose various types of cars, can rent cars with or without driver or can opt to sit at the back of a motorcycle.  

Mobile connectivity, a tradition of on-demand and delivery services plus urbanisation and a growing middle class are the perfect ingredients of MaaS. The question is what the impact of autonomous will be: most Asian cities are not ready for autonomous (again, due to infrastructure challenges) and labor cost is much lower than the investment of an autonomous vehicle. Nevertheless, the Asians are no longer interested in traditional models.

The Americas 

Latin America: Although some countries throughout Europe are going through difficult economic times, much of Latin America still has a lower GDP per capita than those on the old continent. As such, despite Latin America's love for cars, the concept of collective transport has been inherent in its culture for some time now, especially in large cities such as São Paulo, Mexico City, and Bogota.

For instance, in São Paulo, employers are legally bound to give employees a transportation benefit known as "Vale-Transporte". By using an all-in-one transportation card called "Bilhete Único", employees can use it exclusively for bus, train, or metro transport to and from work. The card is credited monthly by the employer. 

To expand on the idea, some employers in Latin America are starting to develop special mobility cards for employees in higher positions. Instead of furnishing a manager with a company car, credit for ride hailing or car sharing services may be given. This concept could flourish in the future, considering the high cost of insurance, taxes, parking, and gasoline in the region which company cars absorb.

This hits on the last subject of traffic which is increasingly growing in cities. While the urban population in Europe is approximately 74% (above the 51% world average), around 80% of the residents in Latin America live in urban areas so the need to resolve urban congestion is higher. 

Although ride-hailing services such as Uber, 99, and Cabify are quite popular in many Latin American cities, some of the new alternatives growing in large urban centers for "last mile solutions" include bike-sharing (Tembici from Brazil) and e-scooter sharing (Grin from Mexico).  

Latin America's largest metropolitan areas are Mexico City (22.9mn residents), São Paulo (20.8mn), and Buenos Aires (15.5mn).

The USA: We cannot talk about innovative mobility without talking about the US which filed 56,624 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications in 2017, the most worldwide, followed by China and Japan. 

Much of this activity is coming from the Silicon Valley in northern California, a center for sustainability seekers and a mecca for startups in technology, connectivity, mobility, and more.

Major companies such as Google, Apple, Cisco, and Intel have their headquarters there, all of which are dabbling in the world of mobility. Besides ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, among the mobility service providers based in the region are bike-sharing and/or e-scooter companies Lime, Spin, Ford GoBike, Zagster, and Bird.

With that said, one lesson that can be learned from the US is that merging technology with mobility is a trend that will not be going away soon, thanks to the imagination and drive instilled in the American culture.

Authored by Daniel Bland and Yves Helven