Journeys of the future

Alex Burrows | 02 Apr 2015 | Comments

The 21st century has seen an astonishing rate of technological development. Looking back around ten years we saw the first smartphones starting to appear, the Oyster card was taking hold in London’s public transport provision and social networks were beginning to emerge. In the last 12 months alone the proportion of the UK population who now own smartphones has risen from 51% to 61%. Correspondingly 90% of the data that exists globally was generated in the last two years alone.

The transport sector is starting to see a number of trends taking hold which are starting to change how people perceive the role of transport and what it should be doing to meet their requirements. The rise of the sharing economy has seen car share and bike hire go from a niche market to an expectation of any self-respecting city. The application of big data analytics is creating space for new market entrants to develop new products and services that are taking on the established order and forcing them to assess their business model and their customers’ experience.

Across all of these emerging opportunities there is a major strategic opportunity for the concept of intelligent mobility to be applied systematically. To achieve this, the two central tenets must be observed:

  • the user and their experience must be placed at the heart of service design and delivery;
  • the transport network must be planned and delivered as a completely integrated system.

If we perceive the term ‘Intelligent Mobility’ (IM) as a method for framing our understanding of the role of transport as actually being a utility that exists solely to meet our mobility demands in order to undertake an activity at the end of every journey, then what is the practical impact for transport as a means to an end?

IM thinking changes the landscape, moving from transport as the provision of fixed services to an integrated system of mobility opportunities focused on delivering the requirements of every user in an individualised and on-demand manner.

One practical implementation of IM is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The goal of MaaS is to enable users to purchase mobility in an individualised and flexible manner with the user requirements placed at the heart of the service they are purchasing. It enables access to mobility rather than buying a car or season ticket and, crucially, is about helping the user to get around quickly, easily and flexibly.

MaaS inverts the traditional focus on transport as the supply of capacity on a fixed network of routes (railway lines, bus routes and so on) and instead designs and directs a transport system to meet the demand of every single user. The opportunity for MaaS to be applied has been enabled by the penetration of smartphones across the population and by the power of data analytics to be able to consume and make sense of the amount of data required to manage every user’s journey in the most efficient way possible and dynamically against how the network is performing and where the demand actually is in real time.

From the user perspective, MaaS fundamentally shifts the role of the transport system from the blunt instrument of multiple forms of supply to instead meeting the individual’s demand for travel for their whole journey. There is a helpful analogy – your mobile phone contract. Imagine paying a monthly fee to your network provider (it could be your city transport authority, or perhaps EE, or BMW) and you pick the contract that provides the right options for you, for example unlimited train travel, a certain number of bike hires, some use of carsharing and liftsharing services could be included in your monthly tariff, with some bolt-on extras available as and when required.

From the perspective of the transport sector, this could see a shift to businesses focusing on one of two areas – either the provision of supply of infrastructure capacity to enable mobility (e.g. trains, buses, car rental) or the customer-facing retail element as the mobility service provider (who would meet the user demand by purchasing capacity from the supplier in block and then tailoring a package to fit their individual customers’ requirements).

MaaS can fundamentally change the game in a number of positive ways and cities across the world are taking notice of this emerging approach to reimagining how we can improve mobility.

For more on this discussion, have a read of the white paper we have published on MaaS which you can find here.

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