Transportation as a Service
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Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS), also known as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), describes a shift away from personally-owned modes of transportation and towards mobility solutions that are consumed as a service. This is enabled by combining transportation services from public and private transportation providers through a unified gateway that creates and manages the trip, which users can pay for with a single account. Users can pay per trip or a monthly fee for a limited distance. The key concept behind MaaS is to offer both the travelers and goods mobility solutions based on the travel needs. MaaS is not limited to individual mobility; the approach can be applied to movement of goods, as well – particularly in urban areas.
This shift is fueled by a myriad of innovative new mobility service providers such as ride-sharing and e-hailing services, bike-sharing programs, and car-sharing services as well as on-demand "pop-up" bus services. On the other hand, the trend is motivated by the anticipation of self-driving cars, which put in question the economic benefit of owning a personal car over using on-demand car services, which are widely expected to become significantly more affordable when cars can drive autonomously.
This shift is further enabled by improvements in the integration of multiple modes of transport into seamless trip chains, with bookings and payments managed collectively for all legs of the trip. In London, commuters may use a contactless payment bank card (or a dedicated travel card called an Oyster card) to pay for their travel. Between the multiple modes, trips, and payments, data is gathered and used to help people’s journeys become more efficient. In the government space, the same data allows for informed decision-making when considering improvements in regional transit systems. Public transport scheduling and the spending of consumer dollars can be justified by obtaining and analyzing data based around modern urban mobility trends.
Travel planning typically begins in a journey planner. For example, a trip planner can show that the user can get from one destination to another by using a train/bus combination. The user can then choose their preferred trip based on cost, time, and convenience. At that point, any necessary bookings (e.g. calling a taxi, reserving a seat on a long-distance train) would be performed as a unit. It is expected that this service should allow roaming, that is, the same end-user app should work in different cities, without the user needing to become familiar with a new app or to sign up to new services.
Transportation-as-a-Service may cause a decline in car ownership. It is unclear whether it would reduce overall emissions, since the number of vehicle-kilometres travelled (VKT) could be higher than is the case with private cars, depending on VKT for empty TaaS vehicles and the relative extent of ride-sharing. In general, if average vehicle occupancy for on-road time decreases, total VKT will increase.
TaaS could significantly increase the efficiency and utilization of transit providers that contribute to the overall transit network in a region. The predictions were validated by the Ubigo trial in Gothenburg during which many private cars were deregistered for the duration of the trial and utilization of existing transit services increased the efficiency of the overall network. Ultimately, a more efficient network coupled with new technology such as autonomous vehicles will significantly reduce the cost of public transit.
TaaS has many benefits that can improve ridership habits, transit network efficiency, and societies that adopt TaaS as a viable means of transportation. According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average cost to own and operate a vehicle is $8858 per year assuming 15k miles. TaaS would decrease costs to the user, improve utilization of TaaS transit providers, reduce city congestion as more users adopt TaaS as a main source of transit, and reduce emissions as more users rely on public transit components or electric, autonomous vehicles in a TaaS network.
TaaS equally has many benefits for the business world - understanding the Total Cost of Business Mobility could help travel decision makers in the corporate world save hundred of thousands. By analysing data and costs attributed to "business mobility" (e.g. vehicle rental costs, fuel costs, parking charges, train ticket admin fees and even the time taken to book a journey) businesses can make informed decisions about travel policy, fleet management and expense claims. Business TaaS companies such as Mobilleo suggest that in journey planning alone, it can take up to 9 steps before a simple travel arrangement is booked.
The concept assumes use through mobile app, although the concept can also be used for any type of payment (transit card, ticket, etc.).
The concept is then broken down further into 2 payment models:
The Monthly subscription model assumes that enough users consume public transit services on a monthly basis to offer bundled transit service. Users pay a monthly fee and receive bundled transit services such as unlimited travel on urban public transport in addition to a fixed number of taxi kilometers. The monthly subscription model incorporates a well-funded commercially operated "MaaS Operator" which will purchase transport services in bulk and provide guarantees to users. In Hanover, Germany, the MaaS operator can purchase bulk transit services and act as the middleman through the product, Hannovermobil. It is not necessary that the operator include all forms of transport, but just enough to be able to provide reasonable guarantees. A monthly subscription will also provide enough funding for the MaaS operator to purchase significant enough transit services that it can use market power to achieve competitive prices. In particular, a MaaS operator may improve the problems of low utilization - e.g. in Helsinki, taxi drivers spend 75% of their working time waiting for a customer, and 50% of kilometers driven without generating revenue. A MaaS operator can solve this problem by guaranteeing a base salary to taxi drivers through existing employers.
The Pay-as-you-go model operates well in environments with a high number of “one-off” riders (tourists, transit networks in areas with high car adoption, etc.). Each leg of the booked trip (each train trip, taxi trip etc.) is priced separately and is set by the transport service provider. In this model, mobile applications would operate as search engines, seeking to draw all transport service providers into a single application, enabling users to avoid having to interact with multiple gateways in an attempt to assemble the most optimal trip. Many cities have cards which pay for intermodal public transport, including Vienna and Stuttgart but none yet include taxis/on-demand buses in the service.
Both models have similar requirements, such as trip planners to construct optimal trip chains, and technical and business relationships with transport service providers, (i.e. a taxi booking/payment API and e-ticketing, QR codes on urban buses and metros, etc.).
Impact of autonomous vehicles
As the development of the autonomous car accelerates, the company Uber has announced that it plans to transition its app to a fully autonomous service and aims to be cheaper than car ownership. Many automobile manufacturers and technology companies have announced plans or are rumored to develop autonomous vehicles, including Tesla, General Motors, Waymo, Apple, and Local Motors.
Autonomous vehicles could allow the public to use roads in low cost-per-mile, self-navigating vehicles to a preferred destination at a significantly lower cost than current taxi and ridesharing prices. The vehicles could have a large impact on the quality of life in urban areas and form a critical part of the future of transportation, while benefiting the traveler, the environment, and even other sectors such as healthcare.
Modelling scenarios were conducted on the deployment of shared autonomous vehicles on the city of Lisbon by PTV as part of the International Transport Forum's Corporate Partnership Board. This model shows that the positive impacts on transport networks and mobility in congested places will be realised to their greatest extent with increases in shared minibus/bus scale public transport in addition to ride-sharing; whereas autonomous taxis with individual passengers would see a large increase in vehicle kilometres and congestion.
The concept first arose in Sweden. A well-executed trial was conducted in Gothenburg under the monthly subscription model. The service was well received, however, it was discontinued due to lack of support at the government level for third party on-selling of public transport tickets.
The idea then gained widespread publicity through the efforts of Sampo Hietanen, CEO of ITS Finland (later founder and CEO of Maas Global), and Sonja Heikkila, then a Masters student at Aalto University, and the support of the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communication.
The EU-funded "Mobinet" project has laid some of the groundwork for TaaS, e.g. pan-European identity management of travellers, and payments, and links to trip planners.
UK technology entrepreneur Justin Whitston launched the world's first Mobility-as-a-Service app (Mobilleo) specifically designed for business - at the World Business Travel Show.
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