4th May 2018
How Mobility as a Service is reshaping the automotive and associated industries along with society as a whole
Formerly a somewhat bland banner focussed largely on public transport, ‘mobility’ is now the umbrella under which an absolutely vibrant and fascinating shift is taking place. From car-sharing and ride-hailing services to ‘first mile’ and ‘last mile’ solutions, the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) revolution is starting to reshape not just the automotive world but society as a whole. We take a look at the latest developments, starting with the UK.
‘Big Data’ is everywhere and we felt proud of the UK being identified by the world’s largest car manufacturer by volume, Toyota, as the best base for its new division, ‘Toyota Connected Europe’ (TCEU). Recognising that the UK and London in particular boasts an enviable concentration of data and automotive engineers, researchers and software development talent1, TCEU has received an initial investment of £4.5m and will employ up to 50 people, its focus on accelerating the brand’s mobility services while managing its Big Data Center.
Toyota’s cloud-based Mobility Services Platform includes ride-hailing, car-sharing, flexible leasing, smart key box solutions, maintenance plus data interpretation services for wide-ranging clients from the public sector and taxi operators to fleets, dealers, insurance and rental firms.
Maybe we’ll see Toyota’s incredible e-Palette vehicle, which we blogged about back in January, in operation in the wild relatively soon. Combining cutting-edge battery and powertrain technology with a fully customisable, screen-like body, this highly versatile connected electric van has so many possibilities.
Ford is also pouring significant time, resources and funds into futuristic mobility solutions. Having invested in an autonomous driving startup called Argo AI, Ford is in talks with various local authorities around the UK to help them address environmental and congestion concerns and keep people moving efficiently.
We’ve previously written about the six levels of autonomy and Joe Bakaj from Ford of Europe recently revealed to Autocar magazine2 that the firm is confident that level four vehicular automation will have been geo-mapped in certain cities by as soon as 2021. It certainly will be exciting to see vehicles ferrying themselves around with nobody in the driver’s seat and many of them also communicating digitally with surrounding buildings, road signs and other infrastructure.
Alongside ride-sharing services, Ford believes its driverless vans could help ameliorate courier firms’ struggles with recruiting and retaining staff by removing the need entirely, although we’re sure various trade unions, political figures and other voices will level plenty of appreciable criticism at such moves.
Over in the States, modified Ford Transit vans are being deployed as part of the company’s GoRide mobility service that is taking the strain out of non-emergency healthcare transportation and helping decelerate the estimated $150 billion annual losses due to missed appointments3.
Elderly and other patients who don’t or can’t drive can pre-book a ride up to 30 days in advance, and the vans’ interiors are highly customisable to accommodate various combinations of people, wheelchairs and other equipment.
Pilot trials have achieved 92% pickup punctuality while people seeking immediate collection typically only had to wait around 20 minutes. It’s always highly encouraging to learn of mobility developments like these, aimed at improving the lives of the sometimes vulnerable.
Notching the excitement level up even further, Airbus and Audi are collaborating in South America, which may surprise some, providing end-to-end transport combining road and air. Airbus’ helicopter ride-hailing service called Voom is already doing its bit in reducing congestion down there on the ground in an affordable and accessible fashion.
Okay, the aviation firm’s partnership with design studio Italdesign in producing fully electric, autonomous air capsules won’t become a reality for a while, but the current linkup with Audi using conventional four-ringed models is a hugely positive step towards a world of futuristic pods capable of virtual take-off and landing4.
With some in society unable to afford to own, lease or even rent a car, the focus is still very much on public transport – something governments have long encouraged to reduce congestion and improve air quality anyway.
The Helsinki-based MaaS platform ‘Whim’ is tapping into the tsunami of digitalisation that is beginning to gain a foothold in urban transportation, recently launching its app in Birmingham ahead of a UK-wide rollout5. Granted, local councils and transport operators have offered various online journey planners for years, but they’ve often been clunky to use and haven’t always integrated to provide an end-to-end picture.
Whim Everyday costs £99 per month and enables users to plan and pay for all buses and trains using a single app, which is great news for those who seldom carry cash. Whim Unlimited allows as many taxi journeys inside a three-mile radius as a person wants and even includes up to 30 days’ car hire, which suddenly starts to make its £349 sound cheap until the realisation that a supermini can be leased for around £100 per month anyway. Joining up all the dots, Whim’s service will also incorporate around 5,000 bikes to inject some health benefits into the mix
The traditional West Yorkshire folk song “On Ilkley Moor bar t’at” has turned into “To Ilkley Moor by MaaS” with the news that West Yorkshire Combined Authority6 is considering introducing bundled multi-modal travel services whereby customers can plan, book and pay for transport using a single app, in a convenient alternative to cars. MaaS solutions like these examples in the Midlands and Yorkshire will inevitably sweep the UK, which can only be a good thing providing the cost is right and the delivery seamless.
OEMs including SKODA are vying to eke every last drop of mobility out of their products and services and the Czech brand’s Vision X concept7, for example, incorporates a drone and a pair of electric skateboards in the boot for last-mile use, which will be unusual to say the least and may only appeal to a minority for image reasons.
By harnessing the power of mobile networks, artificial intelligence, big data, the IoT and connected vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, it’s likely that MaaS and particularly multi-modal approaches will indeed start to remove the friction traditionally associated with getting from one place to another.
Meanwhile, organisations that have typically operated purchased and or leased fleets will increasingly turn to the flexible short-term rental opportunities facilitated by MaaS. On-demand ULEV and electric vehicles, ride-sharing and similar services are consequentially changing the shape of motor insurance products and driver legislation.
In the near future, the advent of autonomous vehicles on everyday roads will herald another evolution, and Trak Global Group is ever at the forefront in pioneering insurance, fleet, technology and mobility solutions revolving around data.
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