"Mobility as a Service" or MaaS is a buzzword that has been actualised for the first time as a usable instrument in Finland. Piotr Heller published an article in Deutschlandfunk in September 2018 that clearly demonstrates what this service is all about.
The proponents of the MaaS concept consider it to be a means of simplifying travel by abolishing private cars, thereby saving cities from gridlock. A practical version of this concept was turned into reality by Sampo Hietanen when he introduced an App called “Whim” back in November 2017 in Helsinki. He formed a company called MaaS Global in order to bring this App to market. The use of Whim continues to increase.
In order to demonstrate to the author the benefits of Whim, Hietanen takes him on a trip to the market place in Hakaniemi. Whilst Whim offers a wide variety of multimodal traffic options, Hietanen selects "public transport". During the journey, the author was made aware of Whim’s other excellent features. These include its ability to order a subscription that not only allows the use of the whole public transport network for only 49 € per month, but also includes hired bicycles, taxis (up to a certain limit), rented cars (for 49 € per day), and all this as an inclusive package. But it is also possible to use the App for one single trip. In this case it is also possible to choose between several transport modes. The optimum option in terms of speed and price seems to be the tram, in the case of the trip to Hakaniemi. Several other routes are also offered. The ticket can be purchased with one click and is a paperless transaction. Routing information and booking behind this simple smartphone user interface is realised in the cloud, invisible to the user. Whim offers different types of route, including: the “most environmental-friendly”, the “most comfortable”, the “most "healthy" (with parts of the trip on a bicycle), etc. Additionally, it allows the trip to be split into several single parts, using different modes of transport which, without Whim, would involve the traveller himself having to find connections and buy individual tickets for each separate part of the journey. Whim’s ability to tie all this together within one trip is what we at datagon call "intermodal travel". An additional feature of Whim is its ability to provide real-time information during the trip. For instance, we can choose an alternative route if there’s a problem on the already-chosen route. The user will be rerouted so that he reaches his target as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, the real-time information is able to support approaches of future traffic planning by providing an overview of the situation. If a “bird’s-eye-view” of the overall picture, including all disruptions and obstacles, can be provided, it would then allow for a better utilisation of transport capacity within the individual arteries of the transport network. But these are just dreams about a possible future reality. Also, our cities would be made better places in which to live if the overcrowded carparks of today were to be converted into garden restaurants and terraces. A reduction in the number of cars on the road would be possible if they were utilised more efficiently, for instance via carsharing. Megacities, which will have an increasing number of inhabitants who both live and work there, will benefit from a more effective utilisation of transport capacities and more efficient and intelligent means of transporting passengers. Autonomous vehicles, which are permanently driving on the roads transporting passengers, will boost MaaS enormously.
Sampo Hietanen came up with the idea of MaaS when he compared the transport sector with the mobile phone sector which was, at the time, a major industry in Finland. He understood that the transport sector has much more revenue potential. He challenged the typical German and British objection that they love their cars and will never give them up (see datagon Blog "The Germans will be sitting in their cars for a long time"), by pointing out that this may well be true for older people, but it is no longer the case for the younger generation. In many respects, "property" is not so important for them any more - as can be seen by the likes of Spotify, Uber or AirBnb. During their journey together, Hietanen and the author pay a visit to the Transport Ministry. A Ministry employee informs them that MaaS is subject to legal requirements, including Rules in the field of Open Data. Finland now regulates by law that all companies working in the transport sector have to publish their data - not only the timetables, but also live data and programming interfaces. All transport companies are thus forced to participate in MaaS. This is a trend that can now be seen developing in many countries around the world. Only in Germany, as is the case with many other things, does it take more time for the key players to co-operate. With MaaS, small companies can also be included, thereby solving the "last mile” problem that exists in door-to-door connections.
Siehe auch "Wie wir demnächst von A nach B kommen"