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What is Mobility as a Service (MaaS)?

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The transportation industry has always been a sector of unlimited growth and potential—an industry that’s ready to handle all types of change. Transportation began with our own two feet and then on the backs of animals, like horses. Then there were bicycles, steamboats, trains, cars, planes, and on the list goes. Our ability to get from one place to the other has few limitations, and in fact, our options are only growing. Companies like Tesla offer us exceptional ideas of a hyperloop, underground highways, and SpaceX. They pose reasonable potential for fully electric and autonomous vehicles. Innovators are even reimagining fleet trucks as autonomous entities. Which brings us to mobility as a service, or MaaS.

What is MaaS?

MaaS can be easily defined as the idea that society is moving away from personally owned types of transportation and focusing on mobility as a true service. We are familiar with busses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine life without them today. New transportation concepts, like ride sharing, has gained popularity quickly all throughout the world. Today, we’re also more accustomed to paying for things using our mobile devices and even smart cards. We use apps to hail our rides, book tickets, pay for public scooters, or catch train times. Mobility as a service incorporates several of these ideas but, could mean a reimagination of transportation as a whole.

With a mobility service platform, users don’t pay for individual rides. Instead, we view all transport as a total unit. All transportation methods are on-demand, immediately available, and prepaid. With this concept, users would simply subscribe to an app and pick their mode of transport and log a duration of use.

This seems familiar because we’re already seeing the beginning stages of MaaS. We’re all familiar with Uber, where we request our rides and pay directly through the app. Most have likely seen public scooters and bikes around various cities—all rented through an app and picked up at charging stations. Today, we can even pay for public parking through apps. In cities like Munich, Germany, you can even rent a car for a few hours through an app, making it accessible to nearly everyone in the country. To rent a vehicle, the app simply sends a code to your phone and it’s entered into the door of the nearest parked rental vehicle. Mobility as a service incorporates all of these individual apps into one system. You no longer have to know which apps to use and pay separately, because it’s all on one platform.

Why Do We Need Mobility as a Service?

In the ‘50s and through the ‘70s, the ideal American life was a house in the suburbs and a nice car. But today, most jobs are in a skyrise in the city or busy stores, some are even solely online. As life shifted from factories to skyscrapers, populations in small towns dwindled. Cities grew, as did the areas surrounding cities. Today, the technology industry is bigger than ever, attracting even more families to urban areas. This pushed many to sell their vehicles and seek cheaper more convenient transportation options. Those working remotely, a trend gaining popularity, are also deciding to get rid of their cars as they’re not frequently used and it saves families money each year.

In other words, transportation is once again in the midst of a great shift. It’s entirely necessary since this trend of growing cities will only continue. As a matter of fact, the United Nations estimates that 66% of the population will live in cities by 2050. Congestion, traffic, pollution, and fuel consumption are all issues that can be solved with MaaS.

Challenges of a MaaS Platform

All new ideas face push back and some type of challenge when they’re first introduced, and it takes time to solve these issues. The transportation industry today already faces unique challenges outside of the idea of MaaS. Although it’s lucky we’ve already established a foundation for ride-sharing apps, it will likely to still take time before it evolves into a fluid MaaS platform.

One major challenge MaaS faces is that it works best in urban areas. The vast distances between locations in rural areas make MaaS less ideal. We already see this today with busses and subways, so it wouldn’t be a jarring disappointment. However, it doesn’t solve the problems it’s set out to, such as eliminating the need for cars.

MaaS is also designed for portable, on-demand, convenient use. This means users access all MaaS options through an app on their phones or tablets—and not everyone in the world has access to a mobile device. For example, older generations aren’t as technologically savvy and some like to book their travel ahead of time. It’s understandable that some of these factors may change has the population fluxuates, but it still leaves a glaring hole in the idea of MaaS.

Another hindrance to the concept of mobility as a platform is capitalism. Transportation systems operate individually, even if they are government owned. Car rentals, scooter rentals, and rideshares are all private enterprises. Even if there were an app that linked all systems together, who would operate it? Who would profit from it? Would it make transportation more expensive? How would you get other companies to agree to this when it could cut into their profits? There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but there are few answers today.

Focusing on the question of cost, it leads to yet another challenge. The ultimate goal is to make transportation more convenient and affordable, but there’s no way of knowing whether MaaS is actually cheaper than owning a vehicle until it’s fully in place. If you’re using multiple modes of transportation, the costs could add up quickly. This may pose more of a problem with the integration of private companies onto the platform.

How Mobility as a Service Will Change the Transportation Landscape

In truth, it isn’t hard to imagine a world where mobility service is the norm. We already utilize several consumer-centered modes of transportation today. There are, however, a few changes that we will benefit from. This includes:

  • Easier route planning
  • Simpler payments
  • Less congestion
  • A boost to the economy
  • More mobility for those that don’t have a car
  • Lower pollution
  • Optimized routes for faster transport

MaaS makes it easier to customize a transportation experience, as well. If you’re trying to get exercise into your route, you could add a bike for a portion of the commute. If you’d enjoy taking the scenic route, or a chance to stop at a cafe on the way, it’s easy and convenient to do so.

Freeing space on the streets not only means less pollution, but more room for enterprise. Streets could turn into parks, outlet malls, or community centers. As cities expand, they’ll focus more on people and growing infrastructure rather than spreading businesses over vast distances. There will no longer be a need for oversized parking lots and tangles of highway. Of course, this won’t be an easy future to reach, but MaaS could make it possible. In the very least, mobility service platforms save drivers money. Congestion alone costs US drivers $305 billion. Will MaaS be the solution? We’ll likely be around to find out.

Don’t wait to reap the benefits of route planning, easy payments, and fleet optimization. Azuga fleet tracking can help you optimize your fleet, reduce costs and liability, and much more. Learn about Azuga fleet management today.