Mobility as a Service

Silicon Valley has been a pioneer in both the “Everything as a Service” and “Everything Mobile” trends. Companies like Uber, Salesforce and AirBnb are great examples of this. In the last few years, the idea of “Mobility as a Service” has been gaining traction. In this context, mobility mean transportation, not mobile communications.

In 2014, Sampo Hietanen, a Finnish engineer and entrepreneur first proposed the concept of Mobility as a service. The idea is simple in theory and complex in execution. Most of us are familiar with various mobile apps / platforms that allow us to get “from Point A to Point B.” Uber and Grab are great examples. More recently, we have bike-sharing and scooter-sharing apps. And we have journey planning apps for public transportation.

MaaS is more than journey planning. The big idea behind Mobility as a Service is to have a single app that integrates ALL the modes of transportation available to get someone from A to B: plane, train, tram, subway, bus, taxi, car-share, car rental, scooter-share, and good old-fashioned walking. The app would:

  • present you with the best options for getting from Point A to B;

  • book the travel for you;

  • electronically handles payment;

  • and give you e-tickets or vouchers as needed.

In this model the user can either “pay as you go” or subscribe to a package.

Heitanen has brought this vision to life with the WhimApp which is operational in Helsinki. You can book a trip combining public transportation, taxis, car-sharing and in the future bike-sharing. All from a single interface and with a single payment.

As of late 2017, there are at least 12 MaaS initiatives / apps in either the planning stage, pilot or operational in different cities around the world. And there are hundred of startups around the world that are working on this concept. It will be interesting to watch how this concept is adopted and adapted around the world.

If you want a more detailed look at MaaS, Deloitte has a good white paper, The Rise of Mobility as a Service, available on their website.