MaaS Scotland, the national division of the MaaS Alliance, launched yesterday in the heart of Edinburgh, signalling a sea-change is the way Scotland moves. The event brought together more than 150 leaders in transport tech from over 70 unique organisations including Transport Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Dundee and Glasgow Councils. Speakers at the event called for greater collaboration and customer-focus as the phenomenon of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) continues to grow.
MaaS is the concept of a seamless, unified endpoint of public and private transportation systems, with a focus on customer experience. The benefits of MaaS are expansive, including reduced congestion, travel times, pollution, ticket fares paralleled by increased technological innovation. But keynote and CEO of MaaS Global Sampo Heitanen underscored the event’s most important message in his opening address – co-operation is needed to realise the idea.
He said: “I really want to change the world. But no-one can make this happen alone. That’s the big reason why I think MaaS Scotland is a good thing. It’s about doing – but you can’t start ‘doing’ unless everyone takes a leap of faith at the same time. No transport service provider can do this, no taxi provider can do this. It takes everyone getting involved.”
The word of the day was ‘co-operation’, forwarded by several speakers throughout the event.
Legacy infrastructure is one of the key problems to be overcome, according to James Datson, Principal Technologist from mobility centre Transport Systems Catapult. He said: “What we’ve got is old infrastructure encompassed by digital marketplace infrastructure. All infrastructure is there for society, all there for us. When we look at the policy around old infrastructure we have hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation, guidance policies – all trying to make this old infrastructure work better for us. Let’s face it – traffic isn’t getting better, congestion’s getting worse.
“We definitely need new infrastructure – we need digital marketplaces. But [here] we don’t have a lot of regulation, we can’t second-guess where this is going to go. In the mid-90’s would we have seen that Amazon was going to get to global dominance? I think it’s great to work in this sector and see what happens next. We need to keep dreaming because digitisation drives huge efficiencies across markets and it’s probably the only way we’ll work out these intractable problems around transport policy. But transport’s too important to leave to the private sector, and at some point there will be some public sector versus private sector discussions.”
Krista Huhtala-jenks from Finland’s transport and communications, highlighted the fact that mobility is simply a means to an end for the user and that a focus on the user journey was fundamental to creating truly mass-market MaaS. The fight to ‘own the customer’ stopped public and private sector organisations from collaborating effectively and inhibited the user-centric approach which would enable truly disruptive MaaS to be created. She closed by highlighting the fact that agility was the key for any MaaS project and that there is no one-size-fits all approach which makes sense in the face of ongoing rapid evolution.
The event was closed by Minister for Transport and the Islands MSP Humza Yousaf, who noted that, while Scotland’s heritage as a hub for technological innovation should not be forgotten, the nation is also the perfect place for forward-looking progress. He said: “MaaS is an exciting emerging concept of the provision of transport and mobility – services and people ready to raise technological solutions with collaboration between delivery partners. When you think of Scotland, we are a nation that is small enough, in the sense that we can bring these players together while in other countries it might be more difficult.
“We face many unique challenges in Scotland. But we clearly have an ability to innovate, an ability to read the change from the front – and that will be to our benefit.”