By Scott Shepard, Chief Business Officer, Iomob Technologies
Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) has been receiving quite a bit of attention lately. Stakeholders, investors, operators, and the general public have become quite familar with the concept of MaaS. However, many are wondering what this all means for the future of mobility and how we function as a society of individuals left with personal choices related to how we move about the urban environment.
This attention is specifically related to what is the value MaaS can deliver to society in terms of contribution to the betterment of environment, economy, and public health. While COVID-19 has served as an inflection point in moving cities towards even more sustainable investments in infrastructure and urban design, MaaS has the potential to play a critical (digital) role to play in supporting the transformation of the built environment. As an enabler, MaaS can be the nudge that finally allows travellers to choose more sustainable (and active) modes of mobility.
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Criticism of MaaS
However, criticism of MaaS success factors have come from a commercial and economic perspective. There are those who point to MaaS and its nascent B2C (business to consumer) business models and not materializing and able to sustainably demonstrate profitability. Yet, layered into this narrative is the proof that more complex quantitivate and qualitative success factors are indeed necessary to evaluate the long term value of MaaS in the complex ecosystem in which cities actually are.
Beyond Traditional Success Factors
Societal and equity goals, as discussed recently by Crissy Ditmore in her ITS International article “Dignity should be a key measure of MaaS” need to be more qualitatively considered when assessing success factors in MaaS. According to Crissy, “Discussions on Mobility as a Service (MaaS) focus primarily on the potential for it to achieve profit”. On the other hand when assessing economic potential, business models rooted in the simple notion of aggregating as many shared mobility providers as possible and anticipating future profitability based upon revenue share of transactions are also flawed. As Boyd Cohen, PhD has stated in his article “The MaaS Monetization Matrix”, there are in fact six revenue models to consider in the MaaS ecosystem (subscriptions, commissions, core service value adds, premium, super app, and corporate).
MaaS Operational Frameworks & Use Cases
Many of these and other themes were recently captured in the Iomob webinar, “MaaS Operational Frameworks & Use Cases” and featuring Piia Karjalainen, Secretary General (MaaS Alliance), Aurelien Cottet, Innovation Project Leader (Transdev), and Adrian Ulisse, Chief Business Officer & President (Iomob UK). While there has been much discussion over the recent months regarding the long term potential for MaaS, the webinar analyzed concrete examples in action. Specifically, the following topics were addressed in the webinar panel:
- Use cases of how MaaS is currently being operationalized in public implementations
- Frameworks (policy, regulation, tech) that are necessary to ensure MaaS can be a sustainable alternative to private cars
- Key barriers to entry for widespread MaaS consumer adoption
- Incentives that can be leveraged to make MaaS a preferred mobility alternative
- Future outlook for MaaS ecosystem and commercial / business models
Highlights from the Discussion
Kicking off the discussion related to public implementations being operationalized, Piia Karjalainen highlighted new MaaS pilots and implementation approaches in spite of decline in public transport and the global COVID pandemic. She mentioned the MaaS in Skane project as a great example of a new deployment being developed, as well as four new MaaS projects being launched in Norway alone. As for operational models, Piia mentioned how MaaS Alliance is developing the “Tools for Cities” white paper, which is an evolutionaty document designed to enable cities to structure MaaS based upon their own unique contextual requirements.
According to Auerlien Cottet, when developing smart frameworks for MaaS we cannot be so quick to eliminate the personal automobile from the ecosystem. In addition, he states the opportunity to leverage MaaS as a nudge for individuals that use their personal automobiles to discover and try alternative forms of mobility, in close proximity and convenience to their continued automobile use (parking, navigation, etc).
Finally, Adrian Ulisse took a long term view of massive industry disruption with regards to the future viability of more complex and multi layered business models in MaaS. Specifically, Adrian mentioned that more is going to happen in mobility in the next five years than in the past 100 years, which is a bold prediction to say the least. Finally, he discussed how mileage-based procing and universal basic mobility as two concepts which the public sector is implementing to ameliorate the externalities of personal automobiles.
We are at an inflection point in MaaS and shared mobility. While the ecosystem has witnessed a healthy dose of apps, pilots, and concepts all looking to compete with a consumer market projected to be worth over $520 billion by 2027 according to Emergen research, there still exists a fragmentation user experience which can realize overarching societal, economic, and environmental goals. In addition, as MaaS providers have pivoted many of their offers to more complex and indirect-to-consumer business models, public and private enterprises are now seen as the key stakeholders in orchestrating the roles, frameworks, and integrations of shared services in MaaS platforms. Yet, this level of complexity and nuance, which also considers equity and dignity into the equation only boosts the long term realization of MaaS as a digital enabler ensuring a sustainable (and active) built environment in our cities.
Key Takeaways from the Virtual Workshop “How Europe is Moving MaaS – And Vice Versa”