Understanding MaaS: Past, Present and Future
Daily references to the changing landscape in the provision of passenger transport services is made in the transport literature, including grey material. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the acronym which appears to have caught the imagination of technology providers with promises of a new era of passenger transport whereby assets need not be owned and services can be bought at the point of need. It is the technological developments which have spearheaded the new understanding of MaaS.
MaaS has evolved into a concept that integrates public and private transport services to provide one- stop access through a common interface. MaaS is at the centre of the popular view on future collaborative and connected mobility. For transport policy, MaaS is seen as a way to reduce car traffic, and its negative externalities, by enabling citizens to satisfy their mobility needs without having to own assets such as automobiles, either conventional or (in the future) self-driving. MaaS also opens new choices for non-car owning citizens who previously had limited transport options, making some of them socially excluded. Whilst definitions vary, the concept of MaaS has several dimensions: in the form of a smart app and in real-time, it provides mobility services using multimodal options, through a sophisticated journey planner that provides the user with multiple customised options and offers the opportunity for payment either at the point of use or with a pre-purchased mobility bundle. This single platform is envisaged to eventually be transferable around the world from city to city and region to region and also to remain pervasive to the user by working and monitoring the journey in real-time and providing options for recovery in the case of disruption, and with an aspiration to support public equity objectives.
MaaS has also received considerable attention in recent years from decision-makers (for instance, the Finnish government has implemented new transport regulations intended to facilitate MaaS developments) and practitioners (examples of MaaS start-ups include MaaS Global in Finland, EC2B in Sweden and Moovel in Germany) as well as researchers (e.g., Hensher and Mulley (2019) Hensher, 2017; Jittrapirom, 2017; Sochor et al., 2016; Wong et al., 2019; Mulley, 2017). Still, the knowledge of MaaS is nascent, trials for the most part have not been thoroughly evaluated and the evidence for the mobility and societal benefits of MaaS have yet to be confirmed.
The paper is structured as follows. The next section provides the literature context that underpins the part of the title of this paper relating to the ‘Past’. This is followed by a section detailing the present in terms of a current MaaS trial in Sydney, New South Wales, designed to provide another ‘data point’ in our current understanding of MaaS. The penultimate section looks to the future and the challenges ahead by identifying some key questions critical to the development of MaaS. The final section concludes.
Mobility as a Service