Mobility-as-a-Service Will Grow Fast & Save Fuel – Study

A key solution to long commutes and big gas bills could be cloud platforms that help travelers use multiple shared transportation options and pay for them all in one app.

Nearly 10 million people globally will use these so-called mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platforms by 2023, Juniper Research predicted in an October 15 report. The report also forecast rapid growth in revenue from such services, from about $100 million this year to $ 11 billion five years from now. The average annual growth rate will be 156%, Juniper predicted.

Meanwhile, the giants of ride-hailing, such as Uber and Lyft, are also combining different types of shared mobility — their own and others’ — into their widely used platforms.

To compete, dedicated MaaS platforms will need to offer a superior user experience and financial incentives to get consumers to adopt them, as well as support from cities and legislative backing, the firm said. Open data policies will also be important.

MaaS is a hot concept in city transportation as shared, on-demand options proliferate. Platforms built specifically for MaaS, such as Moovel and Whim, use real-time availability data and online analysis to recommend routes that may combine public transit, ride-hailing and microtransit options like dockless scooters. They can also provide a single payment platform for all modes.

A major goal of MaaS is to make it easier to leave your car at home by taking the guesswork and multiple accounts out of transportation choices. This may reduce congestion, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and possibly help public transit compete with driving and ride-hailing.

The growing popularity of MaaS will slash fuel costs over the next five years, Juniper predicts. It will create $210 million in fuel savings in 2018, growing to more than $32 billion saved in 2023, the firm said.

Shared modes of transportation, such as public buses and private ride-hailing services, are often seen to compete for riders. Ride-hailing has been blamed in part for declines in transit ridership in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco in recent years. But in some cases, the fastest way to get from one place to another may be to use more than one mode, and that may vary depending on the day, time and current traffic conditions.

MaaS helps travelers see those opportunities. But it requires a new way of thinking about services as complementary instead of competing, as well as sharing of data among them. Open data policies are needed immediately for MaaS to succeed, Juniper predicted.

Every connected transportation service collects data about its own operation and use. If kept in separate silos, that data can’t help cities determine the best use of their streets or riders discover the fastest way to get around. Some cities are pushing data-sharing along by providing common formats. Los Angeles recently introduced its Mobile Data Specification, which includes one API for mobility companies to provide information to municipalities and another for governments to query and integrate the data.

Also in Los Angeles, Moovel is participating with the city in a pilot project launched this month in which Mercedes vans complement public transit. (Moovel is owned by Mercedes parent company Daimler.) The FlexLA vans serve the downtown area between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m., when transit service is less frequent. Riders hail the vans with a mobile app, go to designated pickup spots and pay a flat fare through the same app.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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