The product view: Digitalization enables the transport transition

January 26, 2023
4 min
Die Corona-Pandemie hat sich auf fast alle Bereiche des öffentlichen und privaten Lebens ausgewirkt. Auch mit Blick auf die Mobilität hat die Krise für noch nie da gewesene Verhältnisse gesorgt und Entwicklungen beschleunigt, die sich sonst wahrscheinlich erst in einigen Jahren realisiert hätten. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) kann eine Lösung für Mobilitätsanbieter sein, um mit den Folgen der Pandemie umzugehen.
Mobimeo is developing a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform for everyday mobility. Our goal is to make getting around easier and cities greener – throughout Germany. To this end, we support public transport companies and associations as partners in digitalising their services. To accelerate this process and not leave the digital customer interface to tech companies from outside the sector, we believe it is crucial to establish standards for the key aspects of a MaaS platform. In a series of blog articles, the Mobimeo teams reveal how important standards are for a nationwide MaaS platform. This time we speak to our Head of Product, Felix Salfner.

Hello Felix. Off the top of your head, what three hashtags would you associate with the term "standard mobility platform" from a product perspective?

My social media-savvy sons are always asking me about hashtags too (laughs). For me, the three key ones are:

#DigitalTransportTransition 

#MakeMaaSEasy 

and #MakeMaaSMainstream

 

Could you tell us a little more about these?

Let's take #DigitalTransportTransition: I am convinced that the transport transition must be digital in order to succeed – by linking numerous different services and offers together. In rural regions, for example, a real change in mobility behaviour can only be achieved if, with the help of autonomous on-demand services, we can enable everyone to start their journey using sustainable transport within ten minutes. Anyone must be able to digitally book these services without any hassle – ideally via a single app. And that's where Mobimeo comes in as the provider of a standard mobility platform.

 

Why is it so important to establish standards for the development of the MaaS platform as a digital product?

Our MaaS platform integrates public transport with sharing and on-demand services. We strengthen transport companies and associations by supporting them in digitalising and continuously developing their services. If we all want to maintain contact with the users of public transport, we must not cede control of the digital customer interface! From an economic point of view, there can only be one solution: to improve the quality of this interface by pooling resources. The more partners participate, the more we can achieve. In order to be efficient in this venture, standardisation is essential. 

 

What exactly does that entail?

We need an attractive offer to counter the big players, such as Google, Apple and Uber. What we currently see in Germany is a jumble of local transport apps, often with a limited range of services and an uninspiring user experience (UX). These apps are built by different agencies and then hardly developed any further for five years. Five years! That’s like an entire century in the digital world. The big tech companies, on the other hand, are constantly developing their products. That's exactly what we have to do, but we can only do it by pooling resources and establishing standards.

 

How many of these kinds of apps are out there?

There are currently more than 100 mobility apps in Germany, which is madness. For me, there's a historical comparison: the current situation reminds me of the confederation of small German states before 1848/1849. Each transport association is doing its own thing instead of working together. None of these apps can really unfold its full potential. They either lack capital or insights in the form of data to raise their level of performance. Google, on the other hand, not only has a substantial budget, but with millions of monthly active users, it has a huge treasure trove of data to keep improving its offering. We need to join forces now to strengthen public transport, the backbone of mobility, with a single platform where users can log on once to search, book and pay for all services directly.

 

What do you think is still needed to make a successful standard MaaS platform?

It's quite simple: full resolve to place the user at the centre of product development and to learn from user behaviour and user feedback. The more information we have, the better we become. Standardised evaluation processes also assist us in this. 

 

Let's turn to the second hashtag, #MakeMaaSEasy. What does that mean for you as Head of Product?

The apps we develop for our customers follow established UX standards and are simple to use. To achieve this, we need to experiment, analyse and iterate – and quickly bury things that don't work. The benchmark for users today is the usability of digital offerings like Amazon – and the level of service they provide. Making every feature intuitive to use is the key to minimising barriers to adoption. This is the only way we can offer a genuine alternative to the big players and retain users in the long term.

 

How should Mobimeo's apps set themselves apart from those of the big players?

Besides the ability to search and book, apps now provide the most important digital communication channel between customers, on the one hand, and public transport and private mobility providers on the other. The apps are becoming a navigation system in the complex mobility ecosystem that is forming around public transport.

 

You mentioned #MakeMaaSMainstream as your third hashtag. Please tell us a little more.

Today, MaaS is still an offer for early adopters, around 80 percent of whom are males aged under 35 in our case. To achieve the goals of MaaS – more options for sustainable mobility, the transport transition and climate protection – we need to broaden the user base. We work as a team every day to ensure that tomorrow’s MaaS solutions will also be used by older people, for example. Only if they have easy access to mobility will users choose to use a sharing bike instead of their own car in future. Creating barrier-free apps is an essential part of this. Beyond that, we want to open up new use cases: to do the weekend shopping, you may be better served renting a cargo bike or an e-car. For these purposes today, you no longer need to own a car that sits idle on the side of the road for 95 percent of the time.

 

Final question: From a product perspective, what is your future vision for a standard mobility platform?

I would like the majority of people to answer the question "How do I get from A to B?" not with Google Maps, but with the aid of our apps. The apps will present a connected offering of public transport, sharing and autonomous on-demand services, allowing everyone in the city and the countryside to get around easily and sustainably while having that travel time at their disposal. Meanwhile, the spaces formerly used for garages and parking could be repurposed in a whole variety of ways.

 

Thank you very much for the interview, Felix.

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