From car owner to traffic services user

26.08.2015
Timo Hämäläinen

With future transportation services personal ownership of a vehicle becomes unnecessary.

Purchasing transportation services will become more attractive and there will be less of a need to own a car, explains Eric Sampson, a visiting professor from Newcastle University and City University London.

Researchers, transport sector experts and innovative enterprisers are working to develop transportation services to the extent that personal ownership of a vehicle becomes unnecessary.

In August, transportation technology experts and graduate students in the field from all over the world gathered in Otaniemi to discuss and analyse Transportation in the Digital Age. The main theme of the Aalto University Summer School on Transportation was mobility as a service.

- The 'mobility as a service' concept gives us the opportunity to take a huge step toward realising a seamless transport chain. The customer can purchase transportation services from a service provider wherever and whenever they choose. This will make purchasing transportation services more attractive and there will be less of a need to own a car, explains Eric Sampson, a visiting professor from Newcastle University and City University London.

The idea is that mobility services would be provided by operators in almost the same way that telephone operators provide telephony and data traffic services. A customer could order a transportation service by mobile phone with a user-friendly application and pay for all services through the same mobility operator.

In practice, operators would consolidate an array of transportation services, such as metro, bus, tram and rail transports, taxis, carpools and citybikes as well as parking and small goods transports into a single package. The operator would make a travel plan and select the mode of transport on behalf of the customer as well as include all the mobility services they will need on their trip in a single package for a single charge. As things stand now, a person looking for transport has to find the various connections, timetables, fares, departure and arrival points themselves, and then purchase tickets separately from each service provider on the transportation chain.

Technologies already exist

In Finland, the idea behind the mobility as a service concept has gradually been introduced by several operators in the transportation sector, when considering its future. Elsewhere in the world, the concept is being enthusiastically developed, such as in Gothenburg, Copenhagen, London, Singapore, Wellington and California.

- Finland is at the forefront of development because the government has embraced this new paradigm and supports legislative amendments that are necessary to development.  Many other European countries protect established practices, which prevents the introduction of new services, says Sampson.

According to Sampson, all the required technologies already exist. Organisational and institutional factors and attitudes are obstacles to development.

- Government and city decision-makers should give trying innovative solutions a chance. This will help to increase the level of knowledge, which could then be used to develop even better, more reliable and more affordable transportation services, says Sampson.

Sampson points out that decision-makers should also accept the fact that some practical trials might not succeed.

Trials slated to begin

Senior Adviser Sonja Heikkilä of Tekes - Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation presented the Mobility as a service development projects at the Summer School. Heikkilä works on a joint Tekes and Ministry of Transport and Communications programme, whose aim is to develop the world's first open innovation platform for mobility services.

Heikkilä predicts that there will be next-generation transportation services available within the next couple years.

– Operator companies, which will be developing service products with partial funding from Tekes, were founded this year. We're making our funding decisions in August. The development and pilot projects will be launched right after this, with the first service products expected to be ready at the beginning of next year, says Heikkilä.

There are currently plans for Mobility as a service projects in Helsinki as well as Seinäjoki, Growth Corridor Finland (http://suomenkasvukaytava.fi/) and Lapland, among others.

- The idea is that operations and services will expand from a national to an international level. Consumers could, regardless of the departure or arrival point, order a seamless transportation service from the operator of their choice, such as from Tampere to Paris. The customer would pay for the service on the same user interface used to book the entire travel chain.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications is actively working to amend transportation legislation in order to improve the possibilities for next-generation service operations.