The promise of MaaS

One of the questions we have always in mind when we deal with Mobility as a Service is: “Will MaaS be able to keep the promise”? The promise to produce value for the whole mobility ecosystem, both in terms of business opportunities and in terms of societal goals?

22 Settembre 2020

by Matteo Antoniola

During these last Summer weeks, on the internet emerged an interesting global debate about the real capability of MaaS phenomenon to revolutionise our approach to mobility, combining the development and offer on the market of new simple, digital, integrated, multimodal, flexible and economic solutions, with the possibility to reach benefits in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability for the whole community.

I have therefore tried to organise the most stimulating thoughts that international friends and experts have shared with the community of MaaS lovers like me, with the aim to disseminate knowledge and give updates from the MaaS world.

Our story starts one day at the beginning of August, when David Zipper (Harvard Kennedy School) shares with the community his doubts about the effective sustainability of MaaS solutions’ business models in the short and medium term.

Immediately the first act goes on stage and Boyd Cohen (Iomob) suggests to suspend judgement on this crucial question, since MaaS is still too young to understnd today wether or not it will become the winner of tomorrow. While Sampo Hietanen (MaaS Global) offers his positive view of the ongoing change and argues the reasons why we should believe in a brilliant future of MaaS. MaaS has an organic approach to mobility and aims at contributing to a comprehensive and systemic improvement of the mobility system by offering integrated and multimodal solutions and counting on cooperation, trust, win-win business and open ecosystems. MaaSbusiness models are not ready for full-scale deployments yet, in the future we will probably face failures and bubbles, but the MaaS market will become far bigger than telecommunications one. Shortly after Aurelien Cottet (Transdev) examines the different business models of MaaS and shapes a future where MaaS services may grow following three main models. The Public MaaS, that is a G2C service (Government to Consumer), aimed at pursuing mainly public-interest goals for any local communities, somehow considered as a “common good” like public transport and then subsidised by public resources. The Commercial MaaS, that is a B2C service (Business to Consumer), aimed at pursuing mainly business goals with large-scale global (or better multi-local) deployments. And the Corporate MaaS, that is a B2B service (Business to Business), aimed at producing value for the companies in their mobility-related operations, be it managing corporate fleets, managing employees mobility budget or managing travel expenses.

A few days later, the second act starts with Krista Huhtala-Jenks (MaaS Global again), who reminds us that MaaS is so transformative that business models viability is only part of the analysis and that we should take into account the whole map of relationships among the different players of the mobility ecosystem, where the public authority is like the bassit of a heavy metal band and has to set the groove. Sharing the same view is Piia Karialainen (MaaS Alliance), who highlights that MaaS key success factors lie in the capability to define new public-private cooperation models, thanks to regulatory actions by the public authorities in the frame of mobility digital platforms, in order to promote open ecosystems for the benefit of the users and their freedom of choice. So with the second act of this story we understand that MaaS is about Public Authorities and their key role in governing this huge digital transformation for the future of our mobility.

At the beginning of September we move to the third act and Stijn Vernaillen (City di Antwerp, one of the most innovative local administrations in Europe for MaaS) adds freshness to the debate, by comparing MaaS business models to the beer industry. MaaS ingredients are, just like with beers, always the same (public transport, taxi, railway, shared mobility, park&ride, car rental, etc.), but combining them you can provide an unlimited number of MaaS services (or beers) with different features, quality, price. In this simile, the glass that bring the beer to the customers represents the MaaS app, that is the brand, the service to be provided to all the future MaaS users (or beer passionates), whatever mobility needs they may have (or beer preferences). The story ends so far with an open question about the successful communication strategy to convince the users of the value of the upcoming MaaS services (or of the fabulous taste of new beers).

I totally agree, and not from today, with this question and I would like to share mio point of view. When MaaS services will become available on a large-scale market, we all hope as soon as possible, they require an appropriate marketing and commercial strategy. The name of the MaaS product or service will be crucial to determine its market penetration. Well, in my opinion, selling a “MaaS service” to the general public will be much easier if we give it a sexy and familiar name, offering for instance a new on-demand mobility service. Fot this reason, at 5T we have started to say that “MaaS is MooD”, in other words MaaS is mobility on demand. The acronym MaaS is tremendously fashion today in the mobility sector, but it is perfect for the professionals, like me and you. Once we will have together built the MaaS ecosystems we have now in mind, by identifying cooperative models and involving all the players needed to be successful, our citizens will be (hopefully, and happily) able to buy new digital services called “mobility on demand”.

This should be the joint objective, towards which it is worth to work all together, learning day by day and getting a bit closer to the goal. Especially thanks to the knowledge of the world’s pioneers, who have already attempted, succeeded or failed, and who wants to share their experience. Exactly like the friends and members of the MaaS lovers community, who gave me the chance to tell this story. Thank you.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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