Personal transport as a service drives across Nordics

New mobility-as-a-service projects are gaining traction in major cities across Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden

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The Nordics could see a pan-regional platform that enables citizens to access personal transportation on demand as the market for mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) expands.

Towards the end of last year, a consortium of Nordic mobility companies and transport-related organisations announced a project aiming to unify the region’s MaaS market.

And with a general shift away from personally owned transportation and towards mobility provided as a service, these schemes are gaining traction.

The aim of MaaS is to provide the most appropriate transport method to any traveller or commuter as and when they need it, eliminating, or at least reducing, the need for individual ownership of, or subscription to, any particular method of transport.

The new project, the Nordic Mobility Innovation Platform (NMIP), has the stated goal of creating open technology and business practices for MaaS and smart mobility services. Although the scheme is starting in the Nordics, the intention is for the resulting technology and practices to be relevant globally.

Coordinating NMIP is Finnish smart mobility platform company Kyyti Group, which is working alongside Nordic-based intelligent transport system (ITS) organisations ITS Norway, the Capital Region of Denmark, Swedish MaaS operator UbiGo, and research centres RISE in Sweden and TØI in Norway.

“Collaboration in the Nordics can have a global impact,” said Trond Hovland, managing director of ITS Norway. “The MaaS standards developed today may make the way people move significantly more convenient in the future, in the Nordics and beyond.” 

Pekka Niskanen, COO of Kyyti Group, said the current status of MaaS in the Nordics is seeing initiatives popping up all the time and the concept is growing rapidly. “The private and public sector are both interested and the first MaaS operations are typically still in piloting mode,” he said. “However, these initiatives are still very local and the range of services they include varies tremendously.”

For this reason, the first stages of NMIP will focus on working out the initial use cases in the Nordics – which groups would benefit from the project. Based on those findings, the consortium plans to establish a MaaS roaming pilot, which will feed input into efforts to define a market enabler framework, with the aim of creating a single, open mobility framework for the region.

Niskanen added: “It will require work to define implementation guidelines for standardisation and recommendations for pan-Nordic datasets and APIs [application programming interfaces]. We will establish a venue for knowledge-sharing and collaborative innovation, in which there is already huge interest from the US to Japan, various European countries and industry associations such as the MaaS Alliance.”

Standardising MaaS

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the NMIP consortium will collaborate with existing international MaaS initiatives, including the MaaS Alliance, which is a public-private partnership that aims to standardise MaaS, which it defines as “the integration of various forms of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand”.

The MaaS Alliance says: “To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS operator facilitates a diverse menu of transport options, be they public transport, ride-, car- or bike-sharing, taxi or car rental/lease, or a combination thereof. For the user, MaaS can offer added value through use of a single application to provide access to mobility, with a single payment channel instead of multiple ticketing and payment operations. For its users, MaaS should be the best value proposition, by helping them to meet their mobility needs and solve the inconvenient parts of individual journeys as well as the entire system of mobility services.”

With that goal in mind, the Netherlands is of particular interest to NMIP project, because that country is already at an advanced stage of MaaS standardisation. Niskanen said: “We are an open project and gladly work with different projects to know what is being done elsewhere, in order to avoid doing the same work twice.”

Progress is already being made in implementing MaaS in the Nordics, for example the world’s first nationwide MaaS offering in Finland for Matkahuolto, a provider of inter-city passenger and parcel transportation services. NMIP intends to make use of Matkahuolto’s nationwide MaaS operation as a stepping stone to initiate its own MaaS roaming pilot by the summer of 2020.

And as recently as December, it was announced that the Swedish city of Linköping will start providing a full-blown MaaS service this summer through a public/private collaboration. This will be implemented using Kyyti’s own MaaS platform, further consolidating the concept of a core Nordic approach to MaaS.

According to a recent presentation by Kyyti, the next steps for NMIP are as follows:

  • ITS Nordics has agreed on collaboration with the ODIN project and a joint workshop has been held to initiate shared work on Nordic standards and guidelines.
  • The research institutes RISE and TØI are starting to define pan-Nordic use cases to reflect real-life mobility challenges for future field tests.
  • Kyyti and UbiGo are initiating work to define an implementation plan for cross-national MaaS roaming proof of concept, building on use cases and standards.
  • The Capital Region of Denmark is working on a knowledge-sharing environment to engage the various parties that have already shown interest in the project.

Ultimately, the intention is to have a single market framework covering multiple Nordic cities. For example, whereas today a traveller in Stockholm may use a different MaaS framework and market operator to a traveller in Copenhagen, in the future, both travellers, despite using different market operators, will tap into the same underlying MaaS framework.

It is this market enabler framework that NMIP intends to provide – a single point of access for market operators, aggregating transport systems from train to bus, tram to car, bicycle to ferry, car-sharing to e-scooter, to any other form of commuter transport imaginable. The project’s short-term goal is to demonstrate the concept’s viability, after which market forces should take over.

In the long term, it is hoped that this example will inspire and create a set of standards and business practices that will work anywhere. Scalability is key for NMIP. Today the Nordics, tomorrow the world – or at least the rest of Europe.

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