Exploring Mobility as a Service

eolas looks at the potential further exploration of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) in a European and Irish context.

Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, as it is becoming more broadly known can be described at its most basic level as a full transport package for the individual, encapsulating all of their transport needs in one service and as a result lowering the overall carbon footprint.

The idea centres around an individual transitioning away from owning their own vehicle to accessing a broad range of service providers which will cover infrastructure, transportation and payment services.

The idea was conceived in 2014 by Sampo Hietanen of ITS Finland and Hietanen has went on to broaden the concept of MaaS globally, inspiring greater research in the field. The shift was fuelled by the appearance on the market of new mobile service providers such as mytaxi and Uber in the taxi industry, or car-pooling services such as Lyft.

A White Paper by TSSG outlining the case for future Irish and EU research in the area states: “As a result, MaaS is gaining prominence as a possible solution to the long-standing challenge of seamless mobility, overcoming the boundaries between the different transport modes and achieving an integrated transport system for both people and goods.”

The concept is that travel service packages, such as those currently offered by the Leap Card, would be expanded where all modes of transport required for a journey are provided and coordinated under one central control system. Digital real-time control systems would support these services when they are accessed via mobile internet and it is envisaged that packages would resemble something similar to what is currently offered by mobile phone operators.

In Europe, the MOBIINET network has created a base for further exploration of MaaS by funding research on user identification and payment management systems as well as integration of trip planner applications. USEMOBILITY has helped shape developments in multi-modal transport offerings and TSSG state that findings from this programme have highlighted that more and more Europeans “have started mixing their mobility options and are switching to the more environmentally friendly modes of transport in the past five years, depending on their individual needs.” This finding gives strong indication of the future potential and desire for MaaS.

Created in October 2015, the European Mobility as a Service Alliance, which brings together public and private stakeholders, is at initial stages of providing a business model for successful implementation.

In Ireland, the concept of MaaS is in its “infancy”. The TSSG White Paper points to the European FLIPPER project, which looked at nine EU geographically isolated regions – including South Tipperary – to study good practices in flexible transport services that promote sustained social and economic growth of regions whilst minimising energy usage, environmental pollution, and social exclusion of vulnerable groups, however this form of research is scarce. The White Paper identifies three reasons for greater exploration by Ireland:

Firstly, a broad scope for researchers and potential to influence future trends. Secondly, a potential to guide existing and start-up companies to implement MaaS applications within geographic clusters in Ireland and as a result help grow the overall economy and thirdly, to contribute to wider EU-wide research and global trends.

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