This is a global world with billions of people crisscrossing the earth in every possible mean of transportation, from bicycles to jet airplanes. For travelers, occasional or hard-core, it can be daunting to figure out the best possible route between point A and point B, even though we have apps for that now. But that's only part of the requirement for smooth traveling. Another important consideration to take into account is the mean of transportation: do I rent a car, take a metro or use Uber? And this is for in-city traveling. Complexities arise when trying to move from your own home to your client office located in another country. Then, you will need to book planes, pay a taxi, or figure out how to buy metro/bus/train in many cities if you're constantly on the move.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could use your hometown public transportation everywhere in the world, not only for bus or metro but for all means of transportation?

Mobility As A Service

I'm very interested in the future of mobility, in particular with the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS, similar to the more familiar SaaS format). What if instead of owning our means of transportation, we could consider them more like a new utility? The same way you don’t really care if the electricity of your house comes from a wind farm on the coast or the hydroelectric plant far away when you switch on, you wouldn't bother with the means of transportation but rather on the most efficient way to get to your destination.

This company already does it at a local level, in Finland: http://maas.global/.

You pay a monthly fee and it gives you access to whatever transport available to get you where you want to go. Simple. No hassles related to the payment to multiple service providers. Or to manage different access cards, tickets or reservations in as many apps, systems or memberships. All you transportation needs in one stop shop.

Now just imagine a global MaaS service: you just need to select two points anywhere on the globe and then use whatever mean of transport to get from point A to point B (plane, train, taxi, metro, etc.). All this for a monthly fee, adjustable according to your need. No need to book airfare, taxi, or own city bus/metro pass separately: you’d get a “multipass” (to quote Milla Jovovich in the Fifth Element) and would show it to board a plane, a taxi or a bus anywhere in the world.

Nitty Gritty

For this to work, it would require many different actors to accept to play together.

1.) First, cities and their public transportation systems would be at the core of this project. After all, they already know how to manage complex movement networks. They also possess an existing infrastructure and an important customer bases used to navigate between different transportation means. Cities also have financial interests here: more people using their services only mean more paying customers and, in the larger picture of thing, a cleaner environment for their citizens in a world where car ownership is becoming less attractive.

2.) Second, other transportation providers, from taxi lines to airlines. In order to be completely holistic, we need a critical mass of service providers, at least between two important cities. If people still need to book international transportation separately, the concept of global MaaS lose a bit of its appeal. Due to the many levels of regulations between different countries, it is probably a better idea to begin with two major cities within the same country and then leverage out to other countries when the business is stable.

3.) Third, service providers, such as petrol stations / electric car charge stations, restaurants, shops etc, which could contribute to a new sale experience. Service providers would reach a new audience and for the user, the customer experience would be enhanced through more convenience. Maybe your “multipass” could get you discounts at certain stores or earn you points per usage to be spent on your membership fees or on many other elements.

Conclusion

Can a Global MaaS work? Although an initial implementation might prove difficult, the potential system benefits and fundamental economics of this transportation-as-the-new-utility vision are compelling. Change cycles may take long periods to play out, but eventually change occurs. The global context is ripe for change: people are more and more environmentally conscious and are seeking eases in everything they do, from shopping to working. Competing effectively in the future mobility ecosystem requires building new and different capabilities and profound disruptions will extend far past the traditional automotive industry as every aspect of the modern economy based on the assumption of human-driven, personally owned vehicles will be challenged in the coming years.

In that context, a global MaaS solution might be able to attract a sufficient number of customers eager to reject the hassles related to transportation.


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