Mobility as a Service: The route forward?
Meet the researchers looking into the concept of ‘mobility as a service’ that could replace the need for personal vehicles.
Attitudes to transport
With the need to reduce carbon emissions across society ever-growing, every area of our lives is being scrutinised for ways to cut down on unnecessary energy use. Transport is a major area where large reductions are possible, with the potential for electric vehicles and non-motorised forms of transport still only just beginning to break through. Although the technology is there, a change in people’s attitudes and social practices is needed for large scale adoption of a different idea of transport to take hold.
Researchers in the RCUK Centre for Energy Epidemiology (CEE) are looking at how the concept of ‘mobility as a service’ can feed into changing transport patterns. The idea is that a consumer pays for access to a network of travel services across a city which could include public transport modes, shared-cars, trains, bicycles etc. and plans out their journey based on the most convenient combination.
Where are we now?
Cycle hire, car sharing, driverless vehicles and mobile transport apps illustrate that the technology and infrastructure needed for this type of service to work is beginning to be available. The other piece of the puzzle though is for people to adopt these types of services en masse and perhaps eventually give up their personal cars in favour of a more low-carbon system. This is the area with which the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) project is particularly concerned.
“We aim to investigate and model consumers’ demand for purchasing and using MaaS, as well as its potential impact on private vehicle ownership”, says Dr Maria Kamargianni, leader of the MaaS project based at UCL Energy Institute.
Increasing the use of private vehicles at the current rate is unsustainable for future decades, so innovation is needed to move towards services that use the existing transport fleet more effectively and offer more efficient ways of getting around.
The key is to offer consumers a service with all the ‘door-to-door’ benefits of their personal cars without needing to own one. The availability the optimum form of public or private transport at the right time offered as part of a service is the vision for a low-carbon transport future.
Seamless and ubiquitous transport?
“We are already seeing innovations such as pay-as-you-go services on multiple forms of public transport in cities, car sharing services and cycle hire schemes” says Dr Kamargianni. “The MaaS vision is that access to the various forms of transport will become so seamless and ubiquitous that it really won’t be necessary to own a personal car in the city”.
The MaaS project’s work involves analysing consumer attitudes and behaviours and modelling the likelihood of their take-up of these ‘bundled’ transport services based on their current patterns of travel. For example, one study involves users signing up to use a smartphone app which tracks their movements across London. They also log their trips around the city to provide a better picture of the way people are using various transport options in real-world scenarios. It is hoped that by gaining a deeper understanding of what consumers’ needs are, researchers can advise business and policymakers of the best measures to introduce Mobility as a Service into the mainstream.
Dr Maria Kamargianni is a Lecturer in Energy and Transport at the UCL Energy Institute
Find out more about the Investigating the Demand for Mobility as a Service (Maas) Project
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Photo credit: By Ucarshareberkeley (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons