We’re at the beginning of a new epoch. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is changing the way we move in cities all over the world - and it’s impact is huge. This is technology bringing about a cultural shift in much the same way that the proliferation of the internet or the smartphone did.
If you’re my age or older you’ve surely marveled at young kids swiping magazines or deftly navigating screen media and thought - they’ll never know anything other than the digital world. Hot on the heels of Digital Natives will be Mobility Natives - people who move seamlessly through our cities via a variety of connected transport modes, and they’ll pay rent to do so.
So what does this new transport age look like and what does it mean for the taxi industry? In this article, we’ll look at some of the key trends in Mobility as a Service and examine where taxi companies fit in.
Mobility as a Service: Overview
MaaS (sometimes called ‘shared-use mobility’) is an ecosystem for providing access to transportation services that are shared among users, including public transport as we know it; taxis and limos; car/ride sharing; shuttle services; and third-party provisions of a host of rentable transport, e.g. bikes, scooters and mopeds.
It’s a concept that’s grown at pace in recent years, with a move towards environmentalism and a lesser focus on private car ownership and traditional public transport, i.e. trams, buses, and trains.
TNCs, ridesharing, taxi apps and traditional taxi companies will be the bedrock of an integrated MaaS ecosystem. With more and more young people not owning or leaving their cars at home, they’ll be turning to ride sharing and taxis to bridge the gap.
Cab company owners will have two options: to move towards the MaaS revolution or to be left behind.
In order to embrace this new age of transport you need to understand it, so let’s look at some of the key themes and trends taking place in Mobility as a Service right now.
Urban Mobility and ‘Smart Cities’
When it comes to MaaS all roads lead back to the goal of enhancing Urban Mobility. Cities are busy places, full of busy people. Historically, the paradox has been that the busier the city the slower its traffic becomes. But MaaS seeks to remedy this by innovating and solving problems related to how people move and consume urban spaces.
Maas is imperative to Smart Cities and is therefore high on the agenda of urban planning departments and regulators. MaaS:
- Provides more mobility choices, especially for both aging populations which are less mobile and Millennials who are eschewing expensive transportation options like cars.
- Reduces traffic congestion and pollution levels.
- Reduces transportation costs and improves general city efficiency and accessibility.
- Frees up city spaces for urban recreational and commercial rezoning.
Take New York, for example – it’s a hell of a town. It’s also the smartest city in the world according to the ‘IESE Cities in Motion Index’, a yearly report that measures the sustainability and quality of life in 180 cities around the globe.
I recently curated my favorite Ted Talks on the Future of Mobility, included in which was one by Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City. She shares some of the projects that have reshaped street life in the five NYC boroughs, including pedestrian zones in Times Square, high-performance busses and a 6,000-cycle-strong bike share.
Amongst other innovations in NYC, is the continuing growth of mobility via car sharing services and increased connectivity. In the first move of its kind, it’s also planning to expand its taxi dispatch service for the disabled to allow wheelchair users to order accessible cabs. In partnership with iCabbi, this initiative initially ran in Manhattan. However, it’snow being rolled out citywide in a move towards enabling Mobility for All.
New York encompasses many of the key trends iin MaaS. But let’s look at some of thes ein greater detail.
Bike sharing has seen a particular boon since it was first established in Amsterdam in 1965. In 2005, there were 74 bike sharing systems in the world. Now, there are over 1,000 – in no small part due to an emphasis on environmental stewardship, urbanism, and a proliferation of easy to use the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled smart technology.
For bike sharing, China leads the way with almost three times more public-use bike programmes than its nearest compatriot, Italy.
According to Statistica, public-use bicycles have grown from 2.3 million in 2016 to 18.2 million in 2018 – with both Lyft and Uber adding bike sharing to their respective wheelhouses in moves considered “natural extensions” according to Lyft’s CEO, John Zimmer.
China’s Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride sharing megacorp founded by Cheng Wei, has bought bike sharing start-up Ofo in a similar move, which signals clear intent for a two-wheeled future.
Of course, it’s not just bikes: car sharing is expected to reach 36 million users by 2025, up from 7 million in 2015. This is good news for taxi companies.
Taxis were the flagship ridesharing system and should see a knock-on boom as people move towards more eco-friendly solutions. And this doesn't just mean ditching their own cars. Environmentalism is as important as flexibility in the future of mobility. Consumers want to be able to choose cleaner rides, for example, electric over diesel cars.
Taxi companies are waking up to this trend around the world by choosing to mobilise electric fleets. Téo Taxi, which covers all of greater Montreal with its service coverage is often held up as a success case for electric taxi fleets.
MaaS’ effects on the roads could be astronomical too: a CleanFleet report notes that, “As car sharing attains critical mass, it’s estimated one vehicle can take between 7 to 11 vehicles out of a metro area.”
When we think about this in relation to cars the equation simply becomes one of optimisation over pluralisation. Privately owned cars are used for only a fraction of the day. For the most part, they’re just taking up premium rent space.
Given the expected jump in car sharing, roads around the world could be emptier, with streamlined traffic, a more efficient system, and less pollution.
The German city of Hanover is considered an innovator in the mobility space. In February 2016, Üstra and the Greater Hanover Transport Association (GVH) launched the ‘first’ example of multimodal MaaS. ‘Mobility Shop’ combines registration, routing, booking, and invoicing for multiple transport modes into one integrated workflow.
Instead of having independent accounts on a ride-sharing app and a bicycle scheme, for example, users can tailor bundles for their individual needs to directly book journeys utilising several different modes of transport. Üstra then invoices users monthly with a combined mobility bill.
For €9.95 a month, users get car sharing membership at heavily discounted rates, access to taxis, and a Deutsche Bahn discount card for rail. It’s all part of the move towards influencing city dwellers to switch from cars to cleaner, open transportation.
Urban Mobility Gamification
Finland has also made a mark, with MaaS Global’s app, Whim, which is pitched as, ‘the Netflix of transportation.’ Its major USP is its use of gamification, allowing users to earn points by using public transport. These points can then be cashed in for prizes.
“MaaS needs to be more than a trip planner, better than owning a car and cheaper than the €300 monthly investment,” said Kaj Pyyhtiä, MaaS Global’s Chief Customer Experience Officer.
“It should know more about my needs than I do,” he added.
Get ahead of your competitors
The days of manually phoning for a taxi are long gone, in place of passenger and driver apps and intuitive real-time systems and updates.
The average consumer wants ease-of-use and efficiency, two of the core principles of MaaS. Smart cab company owners need to adopt digital fleet management technology to be a part of the ecosystem, enlivening the market and keeping up with transport conglomerates like Uber and Lyft.
Technology is key to keeping ahead of trends that will disrupt the industry. MaaS and a global increased emphasis on mobility will affect companies around the world – and technology like iCabbi’s will be crucial to success. Get in touch to book a demo now.
New York’s innovations include a citywide plan to place smart screens across the city, with partners Cisco and City 24/7 in an attempt to give all its residents access to the internet, alongside news, events, and couponing. Smart hubs with Near Field Communication (NFC) and Wi-Fi are also on the cards.