“Mobility as a Service is the 21st century equivalent of the Ford Model T, which gave people the freedom to go where and when they want,” said Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MaaS Global. He was speaking ahead of the publication today of a study that found his start-up’s Whim app has huge potential to get people out of the habit of using cars.
“A whim is better than owning your own car,” said Hietanen Forbes.com.
Hietanen is one of the “fathers” of mobility as a service, or MaaS. The concept dates back to 1996 when the creation of a “Intelligent information assistant” was suggested by data scientists at the ENTER tourism conference that year in Austria. The first steps to make this a reality came after a presentation Hietanen gave at a technical conference in Helsinki in December 2014. Hietanen, then CEO of Intelligent transport services Finland, a non-profit organization working on “smart” traffic, pioneered the idea of marketing mobility as a service to an audience of 200 people. €5,000 each. Global MaaS was incorporated in 2015.
“Originally, the [MaaS] sentence was a joint effort, ”said Hietanen.
“Prior to the 2014 presentation, I presented an earlier version of the concept and the guy behind the Nokia Communicator [a late 1990s precursor to the smartphone] said it was like traffic as a service. I can‘Don’t take all the credit for the sentence itself.
The idea of MaaS quickly spread. Evaluate the concept in a stand-alone report, the UK House of Commons Transport Committee in 2018 defined MaaS as “digital platforms through which people can access a range of public, shared and private transport, using a system that integrates planning, booking and payment of trips ”.
MaaS is often described as the ‘Netflix of city transport’, bundling transit and taxi fares, self-service bike rides and other mobility services into a monthly subscription with tickets, real time data and optimized travel planning accessible via a smartphone app.
According to a estimate by ABI Research, MaaS is going to be a trillion dollar market by 2030.
“MaaS [is] often mistakenly seen as just another digital marketplace, aggregating information about what exists and then displaying the results according to the user’s wishes, ”Hietanen wrote in a corporate blog post.
But it’s not Caprice. We’re old-fashioned in the sense that we buy the parts, then package and mark them to meet the needs of our customers, and then charge for the value we create for the customer. In practice, this means pre-purchasing bus, tram, taxi and bike rides and car rentals based on our knowledge of how people like to get around in a month. Then, we assemble those trips into packages that meet different demand profiles and focus on creating an experience that goes beyond owning a car. “
Hietanen asked Forbes.com: “What are you willing to pay for your total freedom?” Being able to go anywhere anytime on a whim? In Europe, people pay 616 euros per month to own and drive a car. They spend 85% of their personal transport budget in a car, while they only use it for 29% of their trips.“
The best membership plan on the Whim app costs $ 499 per month. For this, the user benefits from unlimited taxi rides, bus rides, self-service bicycles and car rental. Subscribers to the € 99 Whim Urban package benefit from an unlimited number of one-way tickets at a price lower than that of a regional subscription. The Whim to Go level offers slightly cheaper paid-per-use access.
“MaaS has enormous potential to give people the individual freedom they so desire,” Hietanen said.
There are now many companies promoting and selling Mobility as a Service, but MaaS Global was the first. The Finnish startup launched the MaaS-based Whim app in December 2017, and now data from the first year of using the app in its hometown of Helsinki has been analyzed by the international engineering consultancy and Ramboll design.
“Our first results show that new mobility methods and platforms seem to be successful in an urban environment rich in modes and densely populated with great accessibility to retail, commerce and employment,” says the study by Ramboll.
The study – Whimpact: Outlook for the world’s first mobility-as-a-service solution – adds:
The popularity of MaaS is strongly correlated with accessibility by bicycle. As new modes of transportation are invented and added to this platform, this conclusion may change in the future, but in the meantime, it can be concluded that MaaS enables more holistic use of existing transportation systems.
A study of tThe MaaSLab research unit at University College London has shown that offering the use of self-service biking as a modal option in a MaaS app has led people to ride more bicycles.
This is supported by Hietanen with real world data and anecdotes:
[Whim Unlimited] subscribers can use as many rental cars, buses and taxis as they want. But we can see that many people prefer to use self-service bicycles. I spoke to many of them and one of them said to me, “Look, I was nauseous in the backseat of a taxi. It was nice outside and I saw these happy people walk past me and thought about what I was doing and got out of the taxi, took a bike and started cycling instead . When you take the cost factor out, you just leave the convenience behind and you’re happy to cycle and walk, and use all of those different modes.
Caprice has 70,000 registered users in Helsinki (including 10,000 regular and active users). “Owning a private car won’t be pleasant in cities for very long: it’s slow, expensive and unfriendly to the environment,” Hietanen said in a press release last year announcing the investment. of 10 million euros from Toyota in Whim.
The company has also attracted investments from Karsan Otomotiv, Transdev, Aioi Nissay Dowa, Denso and Veho.
MaaS Global aims to become profitable between 2021 and 2023, said Hietanen Forbes.com.
“In the third year, you can become profitable within a city. It takes between 3 and 5% of the eligible population to use your app to become profitable.
Transit is the backbone of MaaS, the Ramboll study found. Whim users make 73% of their trips by public transport, compared to 48% of trips made by the average Helsinki citizen (the city has a tightly integrated public transport system including rail, metro, tram and ferries).
Whim users are “immersed in multimodalism,” according to the study. 42% of users combine public transport and self-service bicycle rental.
Users “are clearly moving towards sustainable modes of mobility, which will have a major impact on urban congestion and dependence on the car,” says the study.
“As MaaS makes it easier for users to access alternative modes when they need them, it can attract users who are considering ditching a car,” Ramboll reports, citing that in addition to jumping on bikes and buses, Whim users also jump. in many taxis.
“Whim users seem to be more open to combining different mobility options and trying new mobility services such as city bikes,” said Ramboll’s head of smart mobility. Jukka-Pekka Pitkänen, one of the authors of the Whim study.
He added: “They use taxis as a first and last mile service three times more than the average for Helsinki citizens. If this behavior were to become even more common, it would help cities solve their congestion problems, make urban areas more pedestrian-friendly and meet their sustainability goals. “
According to Ramboll, “MaaS encourages people to consider different combinations of modes to get around their communities more efficiently and challenges people to view their mobility costs as a lump sum rather than an irregular bill of disparate fares. “
In addition to Helsinki, the Whim app is also available in Antwerp, Belgium and Birmingham, England as well, through a partnership with Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM). Vienna and Amsterdam are the next deployment cities, with MaaS Global targeting another 50 cities, particularly in Asia and North America.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that MaaS Global had received seed money from the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications. This was not the case.