The future of mobility is MaaS transport

Mobility around the world is witnessing a rapid paradigm shift (Photo: HT)
Mobility around the world is witnessing a rapid paradigm shift (Photo: HT)


  • Mobility as a service could aid the adoption of more sustainable modes of transport, enabling greater accessibility and greater participation in economic activity

Over a decade ago, one of my young colleagues asked me, “Why can't we travel all over the NCR on a single ticket that would apply for all modes of transport?"

“All in good time," is the best response I could muster then.

The future of mobility is a much-discussed subject now. Within that are ‘mobility as a service (MaaS)’ and – as is the norm – eMaaS (some call it electric MaaS, others prefer enhanced MaaS). Be that as it may, MaaS is the future of mobility. The Confederation of Indian Industry recently published a report on this important subject, and some of the key points will be addressed in this article.

Mobility around the world is witnessing a rapid paradigm shift. India is well on its way, with a thrust on urban transportation – whether public, private or shared. A majority of this is electric.

The transportation sector contributes 14% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions. This proportion will only increase as our economy is modernised. It is therefore imperative that policy interventions are conducted sooner rather than later. Tectonic shifts in technology are making the transition easier by enabling a single-user interface.

True MaaS will empower citizens through choice, ease of use, reduced traffic, greater access, shorter travel times, reduced emissions and greater equity, leading to considerably enhanced productivity.

A multi-pronged approach is required to unlock the potential of MaaS:

(a) A light-touch, integrated and enabling approach by policy makers

(b) Data-sharing protocols, which are crucial for synergy between operators and interoperability while ensuring privacy, security and autonomy

(c) Multiple options for commuters

(d) Integrated payments systems that ensure timely transfer of a proportionate share of revenue (we are already world class in this critical endeavour)

(e) Incentives for commercial vehicles to promote public transport

(f) Complementary policies aimed at fast-tracking the adoption of clean mobility solutions across the ecosystem

Over the past few years, governments – central, state and municipal – have been taking a lot of interest in enabling the development of ecosystems that would make cities and towns more livable, especially from a transportation and pollution standpoint. The principles for designing cities and towns for enhanced MaaS should encompass:

(a) Planning cities and mobility together

(b) Focusing on moving people, not cars

(c) Engaging all stakeholders in the decision-making process

(d) Designing for equitable access

(e) Transitioning towards zero emissions

(f) Seeking fair user fees

(g) Delivering public benefits via open data

(h) Promoting integration and seamless connectivity

(i) Promoting public transport and sharing of automobiles.

In the future, MaaS offerings will perhaps function as:

(a) Consolidated transport with public transport as the backbone. It will integrate taxis, bike sharing, walking and publicly shared cars

(b) An all-in-one digital platform relying on a mobile app that combines trip planning, booking, ticketing, payment, provision of real time information, weather forecasting and even the cost of each trip and the travel time

(c) Payment options that cover various transport modes and include the amount of km/minutes/points gained in exchange for a monthly payment; and a pay-as-you-go option in which the user is charged only when he or she uses the service

(d) Effective cooperation between the various stakeholders – transport, infrastructure and digital service providers, MaaS users, and the authorities

Once these are in place it will be fairly easy for the consumer to use the offerings. All one would have to do is:

(a) Download the MaaS app and create an account.

(b) Plan the journey by entering the point of origin and destination. The MaaS app will consider all transport modes available and combine them to provide the user with a selection of options

(c) Book and pay for the trip by selecting the specific trip option. The app will guide the user to the centralised booking and ticketing system

(d) Access transport modes using the smart device as a ticket

(e) Resolve issues en route using the app, which keeps an eye on traffic, weather conditions, delays and cancellations. If the trip is disrupted, the app will provide for viable and timely alternatives.

While there will be challenges – on technology, regulations, finances, data sharing, privacy and payments – they can all be overcome. The potential benefits of the MaaS ecosystem are enormous. That’s because MaaS is a digital solution in which the entire trip value chain – planning, booking and payment – can exist on a single platform. It can also be looked at as a mobility supply management strategy tool, creating business opportunities for multiple service providers.

MaaS could aid the adoption of more sustainable modes of transport, enabling greater accessibility and greater participation in economic activity. Mobility as a Service will indeed be a key element in the future of mobility.

Vipin Sondhi is member, CII National Council, chairperson, National Board for quality promotion, and former MD & CEO, Ashok Leyland and JCB India.

Shreyas Shibulal, is founder & director, Micelio.

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