To turn Mobility as a Service into widespread reality, transport operators, providers and manufacturers must coalesce around an integrated framework.

By Jean-Marie Vial

From tram to train, from bus to bicycle, MaaS combines all modes of transport to create journeys that can be planned, booked and paid for seamlessly. MaaS shows much promise, so it surely won’t be too long before it moves into the mainstream.

Not long, in other words, before MaaS goes mass market. Except for this: the frontend concept, however compelling, lacks the unified backend infrastructure to support widespread adoption. More on that later but first it’s worth considering why the old rules of transit are being rewritten.

Three interlocking factors are prompting change

First, providers and operators – propelled by citizen sentiment and government policy – are seeking ways to make city living more sustainable. That means less pollution, reduced congestion and lower carbon emissions. Consider, for example, that London has just introduced an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ), a pioneering traffic pollution charge scheme, while Paris intends to exclude all gasoline and diesel engines from its city centre by 2030. Analysts at Dutch bank ING believe electric vehicles (EVs) will soon become “the rational choice.”

Second, behaviours are changing. Most notably, there’s a move away from individual vehicle ownership and towards rental or shared ownership. This makes economic sense.  Today, cars stand idle 95%of the time – and reflects a generational shift. Automotive executives believe that by the middle of the next decade, up to half of current car owners will no longer wish to possess a personal vehicle. The advent of connected and highly automated cars is likely to drive this trend further.

Third, transport users want a system that works, that makes life easier not more complicated. In a survey across 19 major European cities, 43% of commuters say that public transport provision “heavily” influences where they choose to live.

What does this mean for those directly involved?

For public transport operators and local authorities, it means providing an environmental and commuter-friendly way of completing the first and last mile of the daily commute. It means offering soft mobility solutions and additional services – such as in the French city of Mulhouse – that present a variety of transport options delivered uniformly with seamless transaction management.

For car makers it means understanding the implications of its double-sided challenge – the transition from the internal combustion engine to EVs, and the move away from private ownership. The auto industry is taking note of these trends, as evidenced by the joint mobility venture between BMW and Daimler designed to compete with Uber; by Renault and PSA’s EV car-sharing programme launched in Paris last autumn; and by VW’s auto-sharing scheme in Hamburg. Even in Europe, there is insufficient EV charging infrastructure to drive widespread demand which could be a limiting factor.

The future must be seamless

These examples of service extension are welcome and necessary for those that want a part in the MaaS future. A problem remains, however: most cities run separate back office systems for each operation – fare collection, congestion charge, route mapping, toll collection, bike hire and so on. Typically, these systems will hold similar – if not duplicate – data and manage similar transactions.

A mixture of historical accident and commercial rivalry has meant systems are rarely linked, thereby preventing synergies that would otherwise benefit all concerned. This needn’t be the case in future. At Conduent, we believe we can help create a new value chain under the umbrella of the Conduent Seamless Transportation System.

Let’s consider the different steps of seamless mobility. A commuter needs firstly to plan a trip. He or she may need to share a car, a bike or a scooter. He or she will need to get a ticket, might need to park a car, pay a toll and seek support from a customer care desk. From a mobility companion solution to ticketing, parking, tolling and customer services —Conduent can deliver them all.

That’s the frontend. From a backend perspective the mobility provider will need to process transactions across the full range of services; fine tune its mobility offering based on updated data analytics; and automate its order-to-cash and source-to-pay operations. Conduent ticketing and business process service solutions will meet these needs.

The advantages are clear. In northern France, for example, 14 local transportation authorities have joined forces to deliver combined bus, train, carpooling and bike hire services to over three million citizens. Conduent has been selected as the Mobility Platform provider. The service plans door-to-door routes based on an array of factors including speed of overall journey, number of connections, maximum walking time, price and carbon footprint.

Built on a unified backend platform, this is the MaaS of the future.