Finland: Setting the benchmark for a new era of smart mobility

The global market for intelligent mobility is predicted to be worth around £900bn by 2025, with the potential to reduce the amount of cars needed on urban roads globally by up to 20 million vehicles per year and resulting in emission savings of 56 megatonnes CO2 per year.

So what is it exactly? Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) encompass a broad range of information and communication technologies that improve safety, efficiency and performance of transportation systems. These technologies are used to collect data which is analysed and distributed through different channels to varying terminals in order to improve the capacity of traffic networks and serve commuters better.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Digitalization of traffic infrastructure has led to a new #service intelligent transport model”]

This digitalization of traffic infrastructure has led to a new service intelligent transport model: Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Currently commuters buy the means of mobility, such as a car or a bike, or the tickets for a specific transport mode. MaaS uses networked transport systems to introduce a pay-as-you-go approach, so when a commuter selects the service, price, timing and destination, the MaaS system recommends the optimum travel plan, which may include several means of transport. Providers, including train, bus and taxi companies, will transmit their information in a common format, which passengers will access using just one website, app or agent, regardless of their destination or chosen mode of transport.

And this is where Finland is already leading the way, where road infrastructure and public transport already benefit from intelligent traffic solutions. In 2015, over 23 key organisations joined forces to establish the world’s first MaaS ecosystem for traffic, which is changing the face of public transport by harnessing the capabilities of public and private entities and creating a seamless, demand-based, and flexible travel experience for the public.

Open data for the open road

MaaS will only work if the system is fed timely, accurate data, which is something Transport for London (TfL) is facilitating through the opening up of its data silos to outside agencies. In doing so, the capital’s transport authority is working out how it can disrupt itself rather than disrupting others. TfL, which operates one of the largest contactless payment systems in Europe, has responsibility not only for public transport but also the capital’s roads and traffic lights – as well as an emerging MaaS operation of its own. This is growing all the time, and TfL expects to integrate various shared mobility options as the various transport service markets converge.

Other cities are outsourcing this work to third-parties, with Montreal and Denver contracting with Xerox, the company best-known for its office automation products. It already processes more than a million public transport tickets every day alongside 16m parking fines per year.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Xerox’s research indicates that 51% of Europeans will decide where to live on the basis of mobility services.”]

Its back-end systems collect various data from transport provider points in each city – which in Montreal’s case is split across 19 different companies – and uses them to analyse how residents are getting about. This analysis helps authorities plan new routes, work out where transport assets need to be deployed, and calculate the most profitable services. This will become increasingly important, with Xerox’s research indicating that 51 per cent of Europeans will soon be deciding where to live or work primarily on the basis of mobility services.

The need for uniformity

MaaS needs just four things to thrive: traffic data, trip planners, analytics and a payment system, but the rapid introduction of competing services means there is the risk of a fractured system. MaaS Global, the world’s first MaaS operator, argues that there needs to be a small number of interfaces (APIs) for universal data sharing, that work not only on a city-wide or national scale, but also from country to country.

This year, starting in Helsinki, the operator will be rolling out a service called Whim. Whim fulfils every requirement of true MaaS, not only unifying timetables, transport options and congestion data, but also handling payments and distributing the proceeds to the transport providers. With a single app, customers will be able to book a journey across multiple modes of transport, including hired cycles, and the system will even reward them for choosing ‘greener’ methods of transport where a lower carbon option is available. MaaS Global is already talking to other cities around the world, with the potential to rolling out its services on a global scale.

Reinventing the car

Of course MaaS is not just about urban mass transit: there are some places that trains and buses still do not serve, for which a timeshared car or private vehicle is still the only option. It is for this reason that Renault Nissan, the company behind the Zoe and Leaf – the biggest-selling electric cars in the world – is working on cars specifically geared towards sharing. It is also looking to roll out autonomous driving at every price point within the next ten years – not just at the high end.

So, are we in the middle of an auto revolution? Rightwave, the company behind some of the automobile industry’s most striking user interfaces, believes so. As commuters we rely more and more on screens in every mode of transport – not only on the instrument panel, but also in the form of tablets and smartphones. The company sees a future in which these work seamlessly, presenting a unified view of your journey, whatever device or mode of transport you happen to be using.

Rightwave’s UI design application, Kanzi, is responding to this change, as the company starts to focus less on graphics excellence, and more on connectivity by any means, including TCP/IP and Bluetooth, between the mode of transport and passengers’ or drivers’ personal devices.

The shift in thinking required to bring this about – and other emergent trends in mobility – is so dramatic that Renault Nissan sees a talent war developing within the automotive market. The company argues that the demand for robotics and data analytics expertise is particularly hot, which proves that the time for innovation is now.

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