Moving toward MaaS transportation
Mark Ruddy, Interim CEO and Chief Operating Officer at Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), considers how rapid technological evolution is looking to shape the future of our transport industry and highlights the next steps the sector must take to meet the high standards of today’s customer.
2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of the smartphone, a technology which has literally changed the way we live our lives. Our expectations of what is, or should be, possible go way beyond what we could have predicted a mere decade ago. We now expect services to be on demand and accessible wherever we are; the ability to buy goods at the touch of a button and have them delivered to a designated location at a certain time; and we expect entertainment to be streamed directly to us when desired.
The digital revolution is now sweeping into the transport industry and heralding a new era where smart, integrated, on demand travel is desirable and made possible through new technologies.
At the TSC we see a huge opportunity to create ‘Intelligent Mobility’ – a smarter, more sustainable transport infrastructure, which makes use of innovative technology to overcome traditional problems such as congestion and overcrowding at a systemic level. The likely outcome is an integrated service model that gives people access to multiple means of transportation in the same way we have mobile phone service contracts offering minutes, texts and data. This new business model is called Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).
Artificial Intelligence; the Internet of Things; smartphone technology and automation all combine to make MaaS possible. We will soon live in a time where it will be possible to ask your smartphone assistant to arrange a journey from Manchester to Sydney and everything will be taken care of on your behalf from that point. Your MaaS provider will book the journey for you door-to-door – including taxis, planes and trains to get you to your destination on the other side of the world.
The customer’s budget and timetable will be taken into account based on previous preferences and personal calendar. All that will be required of them is to follow notifications on their phone on the day of travel. They will arrive at each point of their journey at just the right time, given that schedules will be adapted to account for delays, or updated when opportunities to speed up the journey arise.
All this will be available through a monthly subscription package similar to the mobile phone contracts commonly used today.
The building blocks of MaaS
This manner of seamless travel is not a million miles away. There is plenty of data currently being generated to support such a system by smart devices and connected infrastructure if we can learn how to adequately harness it and enable sharing. This data will be the lifeblood of this new world, enabling everything from personalised journey planning to dynamic timetabling.
With 75% of current transport users also being smartphone owners, we now have a logical way of delivering this data to the end-user, allowing individual journeys to be optimised with data from across the entire transport ecosystem. Given that smartphone apps are in everyday use for most transport users, the leap to MaaS transportation delivered in this manner will not be huge.
The building blocks of the MaaS business already exist within limited geographical areas. London’s Oyster card is one example of a cross modal ticketing system and many similar urban systems are in place all over the world.
Cities like Helsinki and San Francisco are already taking it a step further and establishing MaaS programmes at a local level. Meanwhile, the TSC is currently supporting a trial of MaaS with Transport for West Midlands. Dense urban areas where there is a concentration of transport modes will likely be the birthplaces of many MaaS systems.
Disrupting the system
MaaS is likely to bring considerable disruption to current business models. We are already seeing the likes of Ford, Volkswagen and Daimler shifting their focus towards mobility services. Transport operators may have to consider a future where their services are provided through a third party.
Our latest report of MaaS1 suggests there will be multiple stakeholders in the MaaS system alongside traditional operators. These will include new and emerging opportunities to act as a MaaS provider or data brokers.
There are examples of businesses securing positions across the stakeholder groups and examples of businesses focusing on a narrower set of capabilities. Helping organisations find their place in the MaaS ecosystem will be a vital activity for business strategists over the next few years.
There are, however, barriers to overcome. Whilst more data is being created than ever before, much of it is still siloed and transport providers can be reluctant to share their information. Treating road, rail and other services as separate entities is also ingrained in our culture, making collaborative approaches feel unnatural. Furthermore, whilst large cities are natural environments for MaaS, extending such services out into rural areas – or making them work between different cities – will require a great deal of new thinking.
Finally, any MaaS solution must be firmly focused on user experience and the needs of the traveller in order to succeed in the long run. If the provision of MaaS is too complex for the end-user, is badly designed, or forces changes in behaviour that seem unnatural, then it won’t work.
However, huge gains could be expected in the event that the UK takes a lead in this area and pursues a shared vision. It is predicted that the Intelligent Mobility market could be worth £900 billion by 2025. MaaS represents a huge opportunity for the UK to attract jobs and investment whilst addressing some of the most pressing concerns in our transport network.
Mark Ruddy is accountable for programme delivery at the Transport Systems Catapult. Hailing from a military background, Mark served with the Royal Engineers for 28 years, building capability in battlefield engineering, innovative construction in austere and hostile environments, adult education and post-conflict resolution/nation building. Leaving the army as a full Colonel, he successfully transferred his knowledge and experience to Network Rail, where he initially led the company’s training and development directorate – building up the UK’s largest residential apprentice programme in the process, and transforming Network Rail’s competence management system. He then spent three years overseeing the Sussex Route, Europe’s busiest and most congested section of railway, before taking up his role at the Transport Systems Catapult. He has been a member of the Rail Industry Skills Forum, the CBI Skills and Education Committee, Network Rail’s most senior safety committee, and is a former Non-Executive Director of the Association of Rail Training Providers. He currently sits as a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Learned Society expert panel on capacity building.