Collaboration is critical for creating a MaaS platform of the future

Alexander Vysotsky, Director of Public Policy at Yandex.Taxi, explains why governments should be harnessing the experience and know-how of private tech companies in their bid to implement efficient MaaS solutions across the world.


A lot has been said about the positive transformative potential of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), but the best way to facilitate its implementation is still being debated worldwide.

The pandemic has changed the way we engage with transport, but it hasn’t taken away the need for MaaS. A working solution should contain real-time on-demand data that spans the entire transportation sector, from private taxis to public buses and personal vehicles, providing users with the ability to pay for multiples modes of transportation within the platform.

Future MaaS platforms are also likely to move away from contactless payments the way most city dwellers know them today when they tap travel cards or mobile phones to pass through turnstiles at train and metro stations. Instead, they are likely to adopt next-generation contactless passenger validation technology (with the use of biometrics or other touchless tech), which would require cities to undergo a costly upgrade to existing transportation infrastructure. These projects and the related investment they require need to be planned on a long-term timeline.

While there are also different ways in which MaaS can be implemented, ranging from a subscription-based service to a free app, the common thread is that any functional MaaS platform must have the right regulatory framework as its foundation in order to flourish.

Modernising the laws and regulations that govern the way public and private participants of the transportation sector interact with their customers – and with one another – is crucial in creating a solid foundation upon which a MaaS platform can be built.

This idea is already playing out in places such as Finland, a nation that’s recently modernised its transportation regulations and has arguably come closest among global peers to creating a seamless MaaS platform. Another example is Israel, where outdated transportation regulations are holding the tech-savvy nation back from reaching its full potential in this area.

Quality of service and competition

MaaS conveys a lot of benefits for the communities it serves. It can help make a transportation system more efficient and sustainable, boosting the availability and quality of certain types of transport. One important advantage of a working MaaS solution is similar to what’s being provided to consumers by the emergence of a modern ride-hailing industry – it is greater transparency for all amid increased sector competition.

A successful MaaS implementation necessitates uninterrupted, simple user access to an easy-to-use platform. Such a MaaS solution could also help cities become greener, given that the use of personal cars is responsible for about 11 per cent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates.

Therefore, MaaS implementation could create a more convenient user experience, helping passengers save time and decrease their carbon footprint, while also boosting their confidence in shared transport assets.

Competition and transparency are also essential for MaaS to succeed. At the moment, the field is not only dominated by specialised MaaS providers, ride-tech giants around the world are also active participants, using their expertise to partner with other industry stakeholders to create working MaaS solutions.

For example, Uber has partnered with Marin Transit and the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) in California to create a new Uber app, Marin Connect, enabling its users to enjoy the convenience and reliability of a taxi-hailing app when requesting rides through the transit agency.

Although governments may also choose to launch their own MaaS platforms, they should do so in consultation with private industry players in order to achieve the best possible outcome for consumers and for the industry as a whole.

Taxis account for a lot of passengers

Taxis move a significant number of people in some of the world’s biggest cities

Public-private cooperation

The key to a successful MaaS app is private-public cooperation. MaaS platforms require lots of data in order to help users plan their fastest or most preferred route. This means they need to have real-time information on traffic jams, timetables for trains, buses and other modes of public transportation, and locations of available on-demand private taxis and other mobility solutions.

In addition, MaaS solutions should be enabled to take payments across the transportation spectrum. Therefore, creating a MaaS platform of the future is a complex task that requires experience sharing across the board.

Today, taxis account for a significant share of passenger traffic in large cities across the globe. On average, more than 30 per cent of residents in major cities regularly travel by taxi, according to combined data from TfL, TLC, MLITT and other public sources.

At the same time, cities with outdated regulatory frameworks seem to have a more restricted taxi offering compared to jurisdictions with more progressive legal frameworks, which have been more recently updated in consultation with private industry players to account for the emergence of new technologies.

Archaic laws not only restrict supply, they keep tech companies from rolling out new features for their products, which, if implemented, could benefit both passengers and drivers in the long-term.

In my view, it is imperative to create partnerships between government and private sector players to improve collaboration and provide working solutions to complex transport problems, which involve many different parties. It is also crucial to analyse and exchange best practices to shape a shared vision and for implementing the resulting changes.

The more impressive results in this area have been achieved in cities like Helsinki or Singapore, which encourage open competition among different platforms, while local governments strive to adapt and modernise existing legislation. In contrast, places like Turkey or Israel have made little to no changes to the legal frameworks that regulate transportation since the mid-20th century. As a result, they have been struggling with MaaS’ implementation and losing ground when it comes to making sector improvements for the future.

Finland’s progressive thinking

Finland has recently embraced a forward-looking approach to regulation. Before 2018, ride-hailing couldn’t work efficiently in Finland and as a result, was not readily available in that market. For decades, a taxi also meant something expensive or even unaffordable for the majority of the population, but the situation changed after Finnish regulators decided to introduce reforms.

By introducing the Act on Transport Services, the government laid the groundwork for better use of modern technologies in the sector, paving the way for the creation and implementation of high-tech transportation solutions. The decision was based on studies that discovered a way to reorganise the transport sector to promote the concept of MaaS based upon a convenient provision of a versatility of attractive mobility services.

The law required any transportation provider to make its full ticketing functionality available to a third party. As a result, it established a framework allowing users to pay a subscription fee through an app or website and then distributing payments among existing transportation operators. The plan ultimately authorised unlimited use of buses, trains, trams and bikes, as well as taxis and car hire. It likewise enabled public and private modes, which paved the way for MaaS.

The new framework also abolished set prices and allowed taxi companies to set up any fares they wanted. It removed the requirement for a driver with a ride-hailing app to use an old-fashioned meter, paving the way for the use of modern on‑demand ride-hailing technology. It allowed market mechanisms to kick in when users wanted to book taxis during times of peak demand, or to travel to a distant area of low interest to drivers and were willing to pay a slightly higher price for the convenience of booking a ride when they needed it. These amendments were crucial for nations with a population like Finland’s, which is spread out across rural and suburban neighbourhoods. The new regulatory framework also simplified the requirements for obtaining a taxi license. As a result, both public and private transportation sector players have commended the positive impact of these progressive changes.

The Finnish Government’s policies delivered solutions tailored to communities across the country and matched consumer preferences and existing commercial offerings. The government also took a gradual approach, aiming to support and strengthen the relationship local authorities have with commuters and the general public. This, in turn, translated into advances in Finland’s MaaS implementation.

Other Scandinavian countries have decided to follow Finland’s example. Similar reforms have already taken place in Norway and are underway in Sweden as well. The determination of these Northern European governments to move towards more progressive regulatory regimes under which taxi services operate underscores their commitment to the development of a modern transportation sector for the benefit of consumers.

finland has progressive transport laws

Finnish operators benefit form some progressive transport laws

Israel’s regulatory gridlock

Finland’s example contrasts with what we’re seeing in Israel, which chose a different path. Israel spends a higher percentage of its GDP on research and development than almost any other nation in the world – its technologies are valued across the globe and, generally, the country is seen as a hub for innovation. However, this image is in stark contrast with how the country has handled its transportation sector, as well as the implementation of MaaS in particular.

Israel had been making some inroads into MaaS when its Moovit and Pango apps teamed up to provide a nascent MaaS solution. However, further growth and development of MaaS could be hindered because the country’s existing regulatory network isn’t conducive to ride-hailing companies’ ability to operate at full steam, using all of the latest features made possible by today’s technological advances.

As it stands, the Israeli transportation sector is governed by outdated patterns not suited to modern technology that is currently in use. This blunts the country’s overall competitive edge by halting the further development of this and adjacent sectors.

Israel still uses the regulatory framework that was initially introduced in the 1960s. Specifically, local taxi operators are regulated by the Transport Regulations of 1961 that, for instance, insists on the application of iron meters. The framework de jure blocks the implementation of fixed pricing and ultimately hinders the development of a fully‑fledged MaaS solution of the future. Because of this, it’s impossible to implement surge pricing or offer a higher fare when the nearest car is far away from the passenger to guarantee driver availability. Both of these are the pillars upon which the ride‑hailing mechanism and indeed the entire ride-hailing economy are built. It also means that it is more challenging for consumers to order a taxi in rush hour and reach their destination on time.

Yango, one of the ride-hailing brands within Yandex Group, has tried to implement something similar to a fixed-pricing feature for its Israeli app users in compliance with existing regulations. By 2020, the share of Yango users in Israel who preferred this feature for its convenience and low prices exceeded 93 per cent.

However, the old fashioned laws mean that not all features that would benefit both passengers and drivers can be fully adopted. Israel’s outdated regulatory framework contributes to the disruption of supply-demand mechanisms and creates negative unintended consequences for customers.

The regulation also establishes a very high bar for licenses and introduces limitations on the availability of licensed drivers and cars. This creates a shortage of drivers across locations where they are needed the most. Also, there is some lack of clarity in the existing law, which allows a taxi firm to sign a ‘one-year agreement’ with the user and then set any price for a particular ride when the route and the price are fixed. Because of that, both passengers and drivers are occasionally forced to rely on pricing schemes from the past century.

The framework ignores the fact that instead of a paper table with route prices, the app can set a fixed price for any given destination, and this fixed price would depend on the actual supply and demand, calculated in real time. In effect, this could facilitate better service and also improve the quality, availability and cost of transportation for all.
In addition, fixed pricing for any ride via a taxi or another mode of transport would make it more likely for passengers to choose something other than a personal vehicle for their trip. Therefore, allowing fixed pricing could have a positive environmental impact, while furthering the development of a better MaaS solution – one that contains a plentiful supply of different modes of transportation and transparent, real-time pricing.

Shared goals

MaaS implementation should help attract and support high technologies in the transportation sector, while also improving the quality of service that the end users, or the passengers, receive.

The challenge for creating a modern MaaS platform is less about the existing technology and more about governance. Only governments have the power to build a solid foundation for a MaaS solution of the future since the legislative powers lie firmly in their hands. With the right foundation, public and private transportation sector players can work together productively for greater sustainability, efficiency and convenience for all.

It is crucial to remember that private companies have many of the same goals as governments, and have a wealth of industry and sector expertise which they can leverage to provide a valuable perspective on a shared problem.

The world continues to urbanise, and while about 55 per cent of the global population currently lives in urban areas, this number is set to rise to 68 per cent by 2050. MaaS provides an important solution for managing increased urbanisation and the transportation patterns that go along with it.

Cities could leverage existing tech platforms and transportation sector players instead of reinventing the wheel when it comes to MaaS. Big tech companies already have a wealth of resources, technologies and know-how, which is scalable and advanced, and could be drawn upon to serve communities. Ultimately, such a collaborative approach could even save the taxpayers some money and result in the deployment of a unified, comprehensive MaaS solution.

However, negative consequences of outdated regulatory frameworks could constitute a major obstacle to the adoption of MaaS. It is imperative to facilitate supportive and comprehensive policies across the geographies committed to improved and cost-effective transportation solutions.

Most countries will eventually have no choice but to develop more progressive and flexible regulatory frameworks as technology continues to evolve; those who manage to reform early on are set to be the biggest beneficiaries of progress. 


Alexander joined Yandex Group in 2019 as a Government Relations Director at Yandex. Taxi, the ride-hailing, logistics and food-tech division, and was promoted in 2020 to lead the division’s public policy work across the 17 countries where Yandex.Taxi services operate.

Prior to joining Yandex, he had worked for the Russian government since 2008, first in the speechwriting division of the Prime Minister’s office and then in the department of international affairs, until leaving government service in 2019. He also worked as a speechwriter for the Mayor of Moscow between 2011-2012.