MaaS – how a European development is revolutionising mobility

March 17, 2021
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.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is shaping the future of mobility in our cities. The ability to network all modes of transport provides the basis for modern urban and transport planning. Users are empowered to decide which mobility services they wish to use and how they get around in cities. This entails a change in user behaviour - in the best case, away from personal cars and towards sustainable mobility. The widespread use of smartphones was a prerequisite for MaaS. Today, users have access to all means of transport literally at their fingertips thanks to MaaS. What's more, it offers a way to deliver the transport transition that politicians and large sections of society are striving for. When it comes to how MaaS is implemented, two different approaches from the respective sides of the Atlantic can be identified right from the outset.

Author: Felix Salfn­er, Head of Product

First movers in North America

The start­ing shot for MaaS came in 2014, the year when Uber man­aged to raise USD 1.2 bil­lion in a financ­ing round. Major investors includ­ed Google and Gold­man Sachs. This event epit­o­mis­es a trend that gained momen­tum through­out the mid-2010s: mobile dig­i­tal plat­forms as enablers for the shar­ing econ­o­my and on-demand ser­vices that go beyond local solu­tions. In North Amer­i­ca, the focus is on new brands that spend a con­sid­er­able amount of time and effort to attract users (busi­ness-to-con­sumer, B2C). The key fea­ture of the appli­ca­tions is rad­i­cal­ly sim­ple oper­a­tion via the smart­phone (user experience/UX). Mean­while, Europe has a dif­fer­ent blueprint.

MaaS – the European roots

While “big cap­i­tal” was break­ing new ground in North Amer­i­ca by devel­op­ing dig­i­tal busi­ness mod­els for the mobil­i­ty sec­tor, more mod­est ear­ly steps were tak­en in Europe. In May 2014, a grad­u­ate stu­dent named Son­ja Heikkilä sub­mit­ted her Master’s the­sis on “Mobil­i­ty as a Ser­vice – A Pro­pos­al for Action for the Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion, Case Helsin­ki”. The the­sis caused an inter­na­tion­al sen­sa­tion. Media from all over the world report­ed on Heikkilä and Helsinki’s attempt to trans­form urban trans­port using this nov­el, dig­i­tal and sus­tain­able approach. The focus is on coop­er­a­tion between munic­i­pal­i­ties and trans­port com­pa­nies (busi­ness-to-gov­ern­ment, B2G) to cre­ate a ser­vice for the ben­e­fit of cit­i­zens. The “Helsin­ki Mod­el” marked the birth of MaaS in the nar­row­er sense and gen­er­at­ed a great deal of excite­ment. A few years on, MaaS con­tin­ues to be regard­ed with the same fascination.

The fascination of MaaS

At that time, I worked first for SAP and then for Soft­ware Diag­nos­tics and trav­elled a lot for my job. Each time I arrived in a city, I faced the same race against time to nav­i­gate the unfa­mil­iar fare sys­tems and choose from the var­i­ous pub­lic trans­port options to get to my meet­ings on time. Most of the apps avail­able back then were lim­it­ed to a route find­er func­tion. On top of that, you had to install sep­a­rate apps for bus, train or taxi ser­vices and sign up with each of them. As the num­ber of mobil­i­ty providers increased, so did the num­ber of apps. At the time I was keep­ing a close eye on devel­op­ments in North Amer­i­ca and reports about the Helsin­ki Mod­el, so I won­dered if the whole pro­ce­dure could be sim­pli­fied in Ger­many as well. Today, as Head of Prod­uct at Mobimeo, I work towards mak­ing all mobil­i­ty ser­vices avail­able on a sin­gle plat­form. It con­nects pub­lic trans­port with taxis, shar­ing ser­vices for bikes, e‑scooters or cars, and much more.

The ben­e­fits of MaaS for soci­ety, the envi­ron­ment and indi­vid­ual users include:

– Per­son­al­i­sa­tion and flex­i­ble adjust­ment to the needs of the user through multimodality
– Sus­tain­abil­i­ty through cli­mate-friend­ly alter­na­tives to per­son­al cars
– Reduced con­ges­tion in urban trans­port, , e.g. through bet­ter capac­i­ty utilization
– New billing mod­els for mobility

How­ev­er, mobil­i­ty is also a com­pet­i­tive, mul­ti-bil­lion-euro mar­ket. So it’s only log­i­cal that new play­ers are enter­ing the mar­ket and investors want to see large returns.

MaaS requires long-term commitment

An ear­ly peri­od of enthu­si­asm in the mid-2010s ini­tial­ly gave way to dis­il­lu­sion­ment. First movers includ­ing Uber, Lyft and many mobil­i­ty ser­vice providers (MSPs) are still not prof­itable to this day. The first decade of MaaS, which has yet to run its course, is marked by rel­a­tive­ly low user num­bers and a pro­lif­er­a­tion of ser­vice providers. Even in Helsin­ki, the Euro­pean birth­place of MaaS, user num­bers are far low­er than expect­ed. The real­i­sa­tion is that a fun­da­men­tal change in mobil­i­ty behav­iour, the kind that MaaS is aim­ing for, can­not be achieved with­in a few years. These are longer-term goals that require the inter­play of numer­ous actors. Cur­rent­ly, Ger­many and Europe offer the best frame­work con­di­tions to pur­sue these goals.

Good prospects for European innovations

Leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives of the Euro­pean Union such as the Dig­i­tal Mar­kets Act, the Dig­i­tal Ser­vices Act and the Gen­er­al Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion (GDPR) are a strong sig­nal that Europe has a new sense of con­fi­dence to build and oper­ate its own dig­i­tal plat­forms. The Euro­pean frame­work helps to raise stan­dards for trans­paren­cy and data pro­tec­tion. It means that Euro­pean tech com­pa­nies, when they first begin design­ing their offer­ings, can already con­sid­er the relat­ed requirements.

Better than Google & Co

Pub­lic trans­port is the cor­ner­stone of the trans­port tran­si­tion in Ger­many. It is the back­bone of mobil­i­ty in com­mu­ni­ties, cities and regions and it enables us to get around sus­tain­ably while pro­tect­ing the cli­mate. Today, mil­lions of users already use the dig­i­tal ser­vices of their local pub­lic trans­port oper­a­tors, for exam­ple search­ing for the best route on the web­site or app. The trans­port com­pa­nies and asso­ci­a­tions have there­fore tak­en a first step and laid a cru­cial foun­da­tion for a suc­cess­ful trans­port tran­si­tion: a dig­i­tal inter­face to their cus­tomers that must now be devel­oped and expand­ed in order to make these apps the cen­tral access point for mobil­i­ty and to retain cus­tomers in the long term. With the estab­lish­ment of this inter­face comes the task of han­dling emerg­ing data and find­ings respon­si­bly. Since access to every­day mobil­i­ty and the use of avail­able funds to build an infra­struc­ture that meets demand will pri­mar­i­ly have a local and region­al impact, munic­i­pal­i­ties, trans­port asso­ci­a­tions and com­pa­nies are also the first point of con­tact for cit­i­zens and users on site for MaaS. The great oppor­tu­ni­ty lies in the con­nec­tion of all means of trans­porta­tion in order to be able to pro­vide offers from a sin­gle source for the needs of all user groups – from dig­i­tal natives to com­muters – which can be adapt­ed to their respec­tive needs.

Mobimeo – changing the way cities move

With intu­itive apps, seam­less­ly inte­grat­ed mul­ti­modal alter­na­tives and all rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion through­out the jour­ney, we inspire users of apps built on our plat­form for MaaS solu­tions. As a prod­uct com­pa­ny, we are able to trans­late our find­ings – from user sur­veys, for exam­ple – into new fea­tures that we make avail­able to our cus­tomers. This allows us to reach a large num­ber of users with short devel­op­ment cycles. Based on the data we pro­vide, local author­i­ties, trans­port asso­ci­a­tions and com­pa­nies can make bet­ter deci­sions about what dig­i­tal offers they want to make to their users, how they com­mu­ni­cate with them, and how they retain users.

Build­ing on our plat­form, they can cre­ate com­plete apps as well as indi­vid­ual mod­ules with­in their exist­ing apps, thus expand­ing their offer­ings and cre­at­ing last­ing cus­tomer relationships.

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