Prerequisites to Having On-Demand Mobility

In October, The Routing Company (TRC) announced the launch of Pingo Journey, which offers users on-demand transit and end-to-end journey planning in one app.

It delivers Google Maps functionality while giving transit agencies control of on-demand dispatch. The app is the latest in a growing list of products, such as Citymapper and Moovit, that offer users data for end-to-end multimodal journeys and enable them to purchase on-demand transit tickets and link up with all other transit modes in the city.

According to Shwetha Surender, director of future mobility at Frost and Sullivan, a service that offers users the ability to plan, book and pay for their journeys seamlessly will be an essential part of future on-demand mobility systems. “That’s what we mean by providing on-demand mobility,” she said.

The competition for this market is now starting to heat up, she noted, as various stakeholders build up capability and a business model. “And, more importantly, build up the customer base as well, to allow them to scale up on the demand side,” Surender explained. “They are also building up the supply-side network because when you go to trip booking and payment, you have to be connected to the other mobility service providers to allow a consumer who’s using this app to have that seamless journey experience.” With its ubiquitous mapping service, Google Maps seems ideally positioned to play a leading role in the market but has not yet adding the booking and payment features to its maps. “This is a very easy fix for them,” Surender said.

Adam Kozłowski, head of automotive R&D at Grape Up, said that not only will Google Maps eventually be a major player in this aspect of on-demand mobility but it will also provide the best user experience. “There are two main reasons for that,” he said. “One is that the core navigation functionality is there, including Points of Interest and support for multimodal transportation routing, the combination of on foot, by train, bus and so on. There is also integration with micromobility, and even for some time with Uber. That’s basically half of the required features.”

The other reason is that: “The applications are integrated in most of our smartphones and in near future [will be] in some of our cars. Having exactly the system both on-board of the vehicle and on the smartphone is a great user experience and may even result in Google and probably Apple becoming market leaders in this field,” he added.

However, other stakeholders will also want to enter this market. For example, in 2015, Uber bought mapping start-up deCarta and acquired a large piece of Microsoft Bing’s mapping assets. That same year, Audi, Mercedes and Audi purchased Nokia’s mapping service HERE. Then there is the public transport sector, which is already active in this area.

“Journey planning is the remit of the public sector,” Surender said, noting that the MaaS provider Trafi  “has worked with quite a few governments across Europe,” including the UK’s Solent region and local governments in Munich, Berlin, Vilnius and Zurich. “They are basically providing a white label platform for the local government transport operator to offer the journey planning, booking and payment solution.”

One big advantage of public transport offering the journey planning service is that it would be free of charge or included in the ticket price. “Public authorities providing a free solution or partnering with a vendor who provides the solution free of charge is vital to making the service available to every citizen,” Kozłowski said. “Especially as they already sell tickets and city cards. And creating more interest in using their services is a benefit of its own.”

Surender sees an inherent contradiction in carmakers providing the service. “The concept of OEMs using the MaaS platform to their advantage to drive car usage sounds good in theory but, in practice, the applications that we’ve seen are moving people away from private car use towards alternative forms of transport and that’s the way a lot of cities are using this platform as well.”

However, she noted that some carmakers, such as Stellantis, appear to be moving into that space. In China and other, non-European countries, the service is exclusively offered by private companies, such as DiDi Chuxing (China) and Uber (India). It’s obviously very early days but the vision of what the ideal journey-planning service must provide is clear.

“The app which can integrate most of the third parties under a single umbrella gets the biggest piece of the cake,” Kozłowski said. Yet, what the market will look like in the future is murky at best. It will, at first, differ from country to country and perhaps even city to city. Eventually, MaaS platforms should provide the same seamless on-demand mobility experience abroad as they do at home.

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