By Rebecca Sands, Content & Project Manager at Autonomy and the Urban Mobility Company

Click here to watch a recording of The French Mobility Orientation Law: Business Opportunities for a Sustainable Future

After two years of deliberation and negotiation, in December 2019, France passed one of the most comprehensive reforms on mobility that any country has seen to date. La loi d’orientation des mobilités, or the ‘LOM’, is an ambitious victory for sustainable mobility in France. With its primary objective to improve daily travel throughout the entire country, the LOM seeks to promote the widespread development and adoption of new forms of mobility as an alternative to single-car ownership.

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As the objectives of the LOM are closely aligned with the Urban Mobility Company’s own mission and vision of mobility in cities, we took the lead to help our community better understand the LOM by collaborating with our partner Choose Paris Region for the virtual workshop “The French Mobility Orientation Law: Business Opportunities for a Sustainable Future.” In this fruitful discussion welcoming a range of experts including Romain Erny, Aerospace & Mobility Lead at Choose Paris Region, Charlotte Le Roux, Senior Regulatory & Commercial Associate at Hogan Lovells, Diego Diaz, President of SNCF International, Mayya Layt, Head of Driver Growth for France, Switzerland & Austria at Uber, and Maureen Le Baud, Partner at Via ID, our panelists highlighted some of the most important aspects of the LOM, what the objectives set forth in the law mean for sustainable mobility, and how businesses can get involved in the significant opportunities that the French mobility market is now presenting. Here are the discussion’s 5 key takeaways.

A new governance structure for mobility in France

Fundamental to the LOM’s objective is an effort to decentralize how mobility functions in France. In a country where the centralization of authority has been the norm, the LOM seeks to evolve this approach by creating high-level directives that distribute new powers and tools for mobility authorities to organize mobility services at the local and regional level. In doing so, regions are granted more power to coordinate their own specific mix of different mobility services, with the goal of improving accessibility and freedom of choice throughout the entire country. Indeed, according to the Ministry of Energy, 7 out of 10 French people currently commute to work using a car, due to the lack of public transportation on 80% of the territory. With a decentralized approach, it is the hope that new and sustainable modes of mobility can be more efficiently implemented at the local level.

Part of the need to pass legislation like the LOM is because public policy in France addressing transport and mobility has not been reformed in nearly 40 years. In the past, usually it was necessary to go through a variety of different public authorities or organizations for a service to be implemented. This was typically a centralized process that made it sometimes easy for certain solutions to be carried out, but very often difficult for most. The intention of the LOM to decentralize mobility services means that regions will have the opportunity to develop the solutions that work best for their specific circumstances. For Uber, this presents more of an opportunity to work with regions directly. As there are often many layers of complexity in dealing with multiple regions, cities, or localities, the LOM sets a national framework that allows bigger actors to collaborate with regions directly and at different levels, depending on an area’s appetite for new solutions or ability to test new offerings. As another large actor that understands its responsibility to work with many different regions in France, SNCF sees the LOM as an opportunity to better connect the country and support the varied circumstances of each locality through its lessons learned as a global operator.

Pushing for cleaner cities means more opportunities for startups and new enterprises

The LOM itself is very explicit in how it wants cities to look. Promoting more sustainable solutions such as active mobility infrastructure, micromobility, electric fleets and charging stations, the LOM puts new mobility at the heart of efforts to reduce pollution, congestion, and single car ownership in cities. With 40 million daily trips being taken in the Paris region, a third of these trips are made by car with an occupancy rate of 1.1. The LOM gives many tools to address this issue, including subsidies for personal bike and e-bike purchases, the sustainable regulation of free-floating scooters through the city of Paris’s RFP, and the creation of low emissions zones.

While local authorities have already shown proactivity by increasing the availability of more sustainable modalities and shifting urban transport to meet the needs of the Paris Accord, the LOM’s prioritizing of clean cities presents an opportunity for a variety of businesses to enter the French market and play a part in this transition. For interested businesses, including the 84% of workshop participants coming from the private sector, Choose Paris Region is the go-to resource on understanding how international mobility actors can use the LOM to encourage the adoption of their own solutions in France.

Aligning corporate mobility with pandemic precautions

As the first published decree of the LOM that further outlines the legal framework for its implementation, the corporate sustainable mobility reimbursement package is an important step forward for corporate mobility in France. Prior to the LOM, corporate reimbursement to commuters only included compensation for public transit costs. While this incentivized many employees to use public transport for commuting purposes (if it was available), the LOM expands this compensation (up to €400 per year) to include modes such as cycling, carpooling, car-sharing, or free-floating micromobility.

In the age of COVID-19, where our ways of working and moving have changed so dramatically, new ways of regarding mobility have had to be created. With the responsibility of employers and governments to keep citizens safe while traveling, this package is one of the many tools on hand in France that can help employees diversify their preferred modalities while effectively practicing social distancing. For Uber, the package creates an opportunity to develop greater awareness amongst users of other means of transportation that are readily available, and for companies to support those multimodal opportunities more directly.

While the corporate mobility package is creating a more dynamic and progressive step forward for sustainable mobility to be implemented across all levels of society, the scheme is not yet compulsory for employers. Many companies have shown interest in the scheme and while it certainly presents an excellent opportunity for different mobility actors to enter the fast-growing corporate mobility industry, we do not yet have a clear understanding of its rate of adoption. For Choose Paris Region, the hope is that the scheme will become compulsory and more ambitious with its compensation. Alongside social distancing, there is a very strong business case for a more robust scheme, particularly in areas that have limited public transportation available.

Reinforcing the link between MaaS and open data

When it comes to supporting the deployment of MaaS in France, the LOM has left little behind. For all mobility authorities, each will have to implement an information system that enables MaaS solutions in their area. With the importance of multimodality at the heart of MaaS, the LOM supports the direction that many actors – including Uber and SNCF – are taking to integrate multiple options all on one app, while encouraging them to do more in collaboration with local authorities. By interacting with users via an app that creates a better understanding of all the mobility options available, this ultimately creates a more sustainable offer with a diversity of options beyond single car usage.

Closely linked to the successful functioning of MaaS will be the open access of both public and private transport data under the LOM. For Hogan Lovells, data sharing for the benefit of users is becoming crucial and will pave the way for more innovation to come. Without such regulations in place, it will be very difficult to create the best offerings based on factors such as pricing and availability of MaaS services. While the opening of transport data is derived from EU regulation, the LOM will aim to share as much data as possible while still providing adequate compensation to both users and providers.

AVs: A high priority but significant challenge

While the development and deployment of autonomous and connected vehicles are a high priority, particularly in Paris and in preparation for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, the LOM is less explicit about how this will manifest in France. While there will eventually be a legal framework and incentives put in place for autonomous and connected mobility under the LOM, the roadmap requires that international and EU regulation be solidified before France can implement its own strategy.

The discussion highlighted that connected and autonomous vehicles present two key challenges: technical and legal. While legal discussions are still ongoing, this is more of a theoretical than practical debate. For Hogan Lovells, there is legal justification to implement autonomous and connected vehicles, and the question really lies in liability thereafter. The bigger piece of the puzzle will be on the technical side, mostly due to the driving itself and the use of AI technology, which is notoriously difficult to get approved. While there is already favorable support in France with actors in the sector experimenting at level 4 and an authorization process that is fairly straightforward, a complete framework under the LOM can only be expected to be released in the next 24 months.

With over 100 articles in the LOM waiting for legal decrees, the law still remains a largely high-level document. With each decree will come a better understanding of implementation, addressing the legislative and information challenges that 52% of workshop participants cited as barriers to operating as a non-French company in France. Although COVID-19 has delayed this process, mobility actors in France and abroad can still expect to see the many different aspects of the LOM coming into effect in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the Urban Mobility Company’s white paper on the key aspects of the LOM can be used as a helpful guide for companies looking to position themselves in the French mobility market.

Click here to watch a recording of The French Mobility Orientation Law: Business Opportunities for a Sustainable Future.