Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – the next big idea in transport

mobility as a service

What is Mobility as a Service (MaaS)?

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a term used to describe digital transport platforms, that enables users to access a more integrated (or connected) mobility experience, from the moment people their front doors, until they reach their destinations. It allows users to pay for and get real-time information on a range of public and private transport options. The key concept behind MaaS is to put consumers at the core of transport services, offering them tailor made mobility solutions, based on their individual needs. This means, that for the first time, easy access to the most appropriate transport mode or service will be included in a collection of flexible travel options for end users.

MaaS approaches transport from a user-centric perspective and the main aim will be to try and change how consumers travel and use different types of transport. It will also try to reduce the number of private cars, as alternative transport options become more integrated and fluid. MaaS implementations and projects are planned or starting up all over Europe and Worldwide as we speak.

What does MaaS include?

  • An intermodal journey planner (providing combinations of different transport modes: car-sharing, car rental, underground, rail, bus, bike-sharing, taxi, etc.) that operates in real-time
  • A single payment portal for smartphones, whereby users can pay as they go or else buy a ‘service bundle’ in advance
  • A booking system incorporating the entire end-to-end journey stages

Where is MaaS currently being used?

Some current examples of MaaS in the UK include the app ‘Whim’ in the West Midlands, and MaaS Scotland. Whim has been designed by Helsinki-based MaaS Global, and offers a range of monthly plans, bringing in National Express, Transport for West Midlands, Gett, Nextbike and Enterprise rent-a-car as transport providers. MaaS Scotland is a joint venture operated by Technology Scotland and ScotlandIS, and has pilots starting this year in Highlands, Islands and Cities.

Payment Options

MaaS usually includes two types of payment plans – a monthly subscription or pay on demand.

‘Plan’ option: Users pay a monthly plan suited to their transport needs. For example, plans can be split into urban commuter, family, business and casual. They include all public transport options as well as taxi, rental car, car share etc, to cover everyone’s individual needs.

‘Pay on demand’ option: Users pay as they travel with the difference that they pay the whole trip in one go independent of transport means. So, if you need to take the train, bus and then a taxi in one trip, it’s all one payment, made automatically via your smartphone.

How can MaaS help with journey planning?

Consumers are always looking for ways to make their journeys easier both in terms of planning and undertaking them – this is highlighted by the introduction of new services such as journey planning and ticket purchasing, and the use of social media to communicate with operators. Travel planning usually 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 or reserving a seat on a long-distance train) would be performed.