Mobility-as-a-service: An embodiment of shared, livable and intelligent

In the lead up to the EcoMobility World Congress, taking place from 2-4 October 2017 in Kaohsiung, we have invited Congress speakers to share their thoughts on the three key Congress themes: shared, livable and intelligent mobility.

Our second guest post is by Susan Zielinski, independant mobility innovator and writer, and former Managing Director of SMART at the University of Michigan

Whether you’re in government, a big corporation, a disruptive mobility startup, or an NGO or research institution, it strikes me how very lucky we all are to be transforming transportation into something that helps us live together more equitably and sustainably on the planet.

That being said, things do get more complicated as the world urbanizes, demographics shift, climate change rears its head, the economy restructures, and a responsive flurry of new technologies and services arrive on the scene faster than we can figure out how they all fit together and what might be their effects. Suddenly transportation is as much about working together, connecting the dots, and collaborating on multi-faceted solutions across sectors and geographies as it is about engineering, planning, policy, infrastructure and finance.

Fortunately, a phenomenon called “Mobility-as-a-Service” or “MaaS” has arrived on the scene in earnest (i.e. beyond simply a vision or a partial application) as an embodiment of shared, livable, and intelligent transportation.  Thanks to a timely convergence of smart technology, thoughtful design, and innovative policies and business models MaaS offers a bouquet of seamlessly connected options like rail, bus, automated car share, bike share, parking apps, auto rickshaws, ferries, and much more through a common, real-time information and payment platform.

While at SMART, I recently led some exciting work about where MaaS is leading and flourishing in practice. We found that some of the most energetic examples come from Europe. But increasingly MaaS and MaaS-like is being adopted and customized worldwide. Admittedly with many deep and questions and complexities — both practical and philosophical – that have yet to be addressed.

But what I love about MaaS (and MaaS-like) is that amid the mounting mobility glitz and glitter of self driving cars, flying cars, delivery drones, and whatever is next, MaaS is the real deal. Envisioned for some 30 or more years it now really does herald a paradigm shift away from separate and individual modes and toward a system of seamlessly connected mobility, that moves people, moves stuff, and moves less. Meanwhile it doesn’t forget about the policy platforms, business models, and (projected multi-trillion $) New Mobility industry and economy needed to supply mobility ongoing.

In other words not only is the MOBILITY shared, livable, and intelligent, so too is the collaborative journey to get there.

The contents of this article reflect the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

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