Helsinki may well be the most intriguing city of the world when it comes to transportation. The new Mobility as a service concept will integrate shared and public transport in a single payment network by 2025, and make car ownership pointless. The strikingly innovative system will not only make the life of the citizens smoother, but it also offers great business and investment opportunities.
Think about the challenging daily puzzle to be solved in numerous families. How many cars, forms of public transport, bicycles, tickets, and travel cards are needed to get the children to their schools and hobbies, and the parents to their work and evening duties? Quite a few. What if the mother needs the car to get to the office but would, in fact, love to cycle back to get some exercise? What if the father should today drive the daughter’s four teammates to their workout, all too much to fit in their normal-size passenger car?
Now think about a solution: all this mobility would be effortlessly purchased with the mobile phone using one single application. This clever application would let the family have the right type of vehicle where and whenever needed. The car, necessary at some stages of the day, could be hired for only those kilometres and left for use by fellow citizens later on. The same with the shared bicycle. Or you could ride a minibus door to door and let others drive.
This is the basic idea of the mobility-on-demand concept soon to be piloted in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. A real-time marketplace will allow customers to choose among transport providers and easily piece together the fastest or cheapest way of getting around. Flexible, convenient – and completely radical.
“Transport is an old sector with its conventions and strong regulation. What we suggest are new roles for the transport service providers, and use of modern technology. The Mobility as a service model is very future-orientated and responds to such current trends as sharing economy, servicizing, and ownership decline. At the same time, it provides solutions to ever-existing challenges including traffic jams, sustainability, service level, and high costs of transport leading to the need of public funding,” says the leading force behind the concept, transportation engineer Sonja Heikkilä from the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (TEKES).
Heikkilä is the ambassador of Mobility as a service. She has developed the concept together with the Intelligent Transport Systems Finland and the Helsinki City Planning Department. The concept has received a lot of international media attention. In 2014 Heikkilä was listed by the Foreign Policy magazine as one of the 100 most important thinkers of the world and quoted by a number of influential media, such as Bloomberg, the Guardian and Business Insider.
Welcome, mobility service operators
Transportation rethought means new exciting business opportunities. The plan is not to launch a project but to create a permanent and open service ecosystem which companies may enter at any time, regardless of their volume or origin.
“The fundamental pieces of the concept are mobility service operators. They put together all the mobility services and provide their customers with a single service package through a mobile application. These operators do not yet exist, and this is the first of the business opportunities that the concept will spin. For the moment, an average Finn spends around 300 Euros monthly on transportation. In the future, this money could be consumed through operators,” says Heikkilä.
Furthermore, mobility service operators will need technological know-how, and smart user interfaces and paying systems. According to Heikkilä, all this creates a great business potential for various companies and investors.
“Mobility service operators will need investments to create very high-level services right from the start, to gain their customers’ confidence. There are constantly more and more companies getting in touch with us, and foreign investors have also shown their interest. New mobility services could be developed. I hope there will also be more services – such as ride and car sharing, or letting others rent your own car – than we have at the present,” says Heikkilä.
From Helsinki to the world
Helsinki has long been in the forefront of developing modern transport solutions. The area already enjoys the minibus service called Kutsuplus which lets riders specify their own pick-up points and destinations. Why is the Finnish capital such a pioneer?
”Helsinki can serve well as a test area for the new service – the availability of services is best in the capital, although experiments in other Finnish cities would also be fruitful. The whole mobility-on-demand concept draws from trends characteristic of younger generations who tend to move to cities ever more. Finland is quite ready for changes in current thinking of transport. In addition, Finland has strong technology expertise, and small and medium-sized enterprises are offered support to help them to flourish,” says Heikkilä.
However, it is not just Helsinki, its citizens and various investors who will benefit from the new mobility-on-demand solutions. The whole concept can be easily scaled and duplicated to other cities as well. According to Heikkilä, the goal is to create a global service network. So keep your eyes open, wherever you live, and come to the Finnish capital to have the first taste of new urban mobility!
Text: Laura Tahkokallio
Copyright: Tekes / Anton Kalland