Why freedom of mobility is at the center of dealing with the climate crisis

Posted on April 1, 2019 by Sampo Hietanen - Also by this author

Whim [MaaS Global's mobility app] users are steeped in multimodalism and use both bicycle and taxi to solve the last-mile problem, according to a new study.
MaaS Global/Pasi Salminen
Whim [MaaS Global's mobility app] users are steeped in multimodalism and use both bicycle and taxi to solve the last-mile problem, according to a new study.
MaaS Global/Pasi Salminen
This was original posted on MaaS Global.

The single biggest driver of change in transportation in the coming years will undoubtedly be the impending climate catastrophe. One of the core questions, probably the core question, as this change takes place, is: what will replace the privately owned automobile? Is it virtual reality (VR) and we all stay home? Is it a congested public transportation system enforced by law? Is it multiple fleets of autonomous cars jamming up the streets? Or is it the kind of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) that optimizes low-emission transportation while giving individuals freedom of choice?

Helsinki is the world’s most developed MaaS city. For the first time, we now have real-life annual data on how people use MaaS and how that compares to the overall usage of transportation modes in a particular city from a study called Whimpact: Insights from the World’s First Mobility as a Service Solution we conducted together with consulting engineering firm Ramboll. The key findings are:

  • Whim [MaaS Global's mobility app] users are steeped in multimodalism and use both bicycle and taxi to solve the last-mile problem.
  • Growth in MaaS usage has been strongest in the inner-city region.

So, the first numbers are in and it looks like MaaS, when done right, does exactly what we expect it to do: it relies on mass transit (not automobiles), solves the last-mile problem (that automobiles used to solve) and is most popular in dense areas (where automobiles pose the biggest challenge).

It may be fashionable to throw around the idea of electric robot cars taking over and fixing both the CO2 crisis and the urban transportation challenge, but that is not sustainable.

MaaS, when done right, does exactly what we expect it to do: it relies on mass transit (not automobiles), solves the last-mile problem (that automobiles used to solve) and is most popular in dense areas (where automobiles pose the biggest challenge).

Let’s stop and imagine the moment when autonomous cars will be fit to serve us. The first company drops a fleet of 500 cars into a city. Since there’s no wage cost, the price of a ride is reasonable, close to a bus ticket. People love the service. And as we have seen with private cars, it’s not wisdom that prevails, but freedom. The fleet grows according to demand and not until long, the amount of automobiles on the streets has more than doubled (there’s research on this). Think of any modern city and then, in your mind, double the amount of automobiles on the street. Gridlock. The whole city ceases to function.

Therefore, we do not want people to use autonomous cars instead of public transport; we want folks to use them in addition to public transport. The business case and the positive environmental impact of smart MaaS are based on people using more public transportation than before, not less.

Mobility as a Service, when done right, does exactly what we expect it to do: it relies on mass transit (not automobiles).
MaaS Global
Mobility as a Service, when done right, does exactly what we expect it to do: it relies on mass transit (not automobiles).
MaaS Global
Public transport, walking and biking are the desired substitutes for private automobiles, but not the automatic ones. We choose them if they are the most convenient and pleasant choice available. But we will not choose them if traffic planners and municipal traffic operators are going to force us into using public transport by limiting our options. Many of us will rather sit and swear in traffic jams instead.

This is where things can go amazingly well or awfully wrong...Mobility is the second-biggest sector of economic activity in the world after real estate, and it is entering a hurricane of change. Europe, with its walkable cities and dedication to public transportation, stands to be at the forefront of positive change. But that is not going to happen if every public transport operator in every city tries to go it alone, which is all too often the case.

We do not want people to use autonomous cars instead of public transport; we want folks to use them in addition to public transport.

At MaaS Global, we are frequently asked by European cities to license our software as a white-label solution just for them. We have chosen to not get into these talks because single cities should not see themselves as disruptors and then… well, stall disruption.

  • Instead of building walled gardens around their service, they can build application programming interfaces (APIs) and make themselves attractive to as many added service providers as possible.
  • Instead of solving for a city, they can be part of a worldwide solution.
  • Instead of running out of money and expertise against fierce international competition, they can oversee that whatever happens is for the benefit of their citizens.
  • Instead of building an entry-level mobile interface to their otherwise compelling services, they can connect to existing world-class applications.
  • Instead of digging in behind a local monopoly, they can be part of a global solution, for cities and for the planet; the one that makes people ditch their cars because they have found something better. Something that gives them more freedom than before — not less.

Sampo Hietanen is the CEO and founder of Helsinki-based MaaS Global, developer of the Whim app.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

April 17, 2019

Transportation Innovation Steers Mobility for All

In the U.S., we love our cars and prefer to drive alone. More than 90% of Americans owned personal automobiles in 2017, and 21% of families had more than three cars per household, says the U.S. Census Bureau.

March 26, 2019

'Going to School' to Cultivate the Next Generation of Transit Employees

To help mitigate the effects of a potential workforce shortage, SEPTA is taking its recruitment efforts to the next generation, reaching out to students about careers in transportation.

March 17, 2019

How congestion pricing, MaaS, and new transit policies will benefit all

By working in tandem, these elements will result in better public transportation infrastructure, more egalitarian access to transit options, affordable or free services, and a healthier environment.

March 13, 2019

How private-sector vendors can successfully navigate transit agencies

What I found in my public sector roles was that often private sector vendors did not understand how we operated nor how to interface effectively with us as the public agency.

March 6, 2019

Labor Concerns Should Not Deter Deployment of AV Bus Tech

Transit agencies don’t need to wait for fully autonomous vehicles to become a reality before they can begin saving money, augmenting safety, and enhancing efficiencies in their bus operations.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation