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Business model innovation for sustainability: Mobility as a Service

<p>Combined mobility services (also referred to as Mobility as a Service - MaaS) represent an opportunity to revolutionise passenger transportation and could potentially have significantly positive impacts related to the sustainability of the transport system.</p>

The MaaS concept bundles different transport services such as public transport, car pools, rideshare initiatives, taxis, bicycle pools, shuttles (and so on) into integrated service offers as a means to provide an alternative to private vehicle ownership and usage.

In principle, MaaS can result in reduced transport emissions and congestion, improved accessibility and affordability, and can help to alleviate land scarcity pressures. As a servitised business model, MaaS could also stimulate the deployment of environment-friendly technology and, in the longer term, circular manufacturing processes. 

MaaS comprises a transformation in the way in which we produce and consume passenger transportation. By purchasing services instead of products, individual travellers can fulfil their transportation needs by shifting to more environment-friendly and active modes such as public transport, cycling and walking. MaaS acknowledges the need for car-based travel, but encourages the use of shared modes in place of low-occupancy vehicles. 

The potential to stimulate sustainable travel behaviour among individuals is complemented by incentives to make resource productivity gains further upstream in the value chain. That is, servitised business models create incentives to deploy fuel-efficient technologies in the vehicle stock and ensure that vehicles have longer lifespans. While these types of benefits are perhaps contingent upon a large-scale penetration of MaaS within passenger transportation, they are inherent to the shift away from linear business logics that develop and sell products and can bring about more rapid transformations vis-à-vis sustainable technologies and circular manufacturing processes. 

MaaS may also help to alleviate land-scarcity pressures in densely populated areas, by reducing the number of vehicles needed to fulfil transportation needs, particularly if MaaS can utilise autonomous vehicle technologies. Hence MaaS could simultaneously reduce the need for parking infrastructure and alleviate congestion, influencing urban development and creating opportunities within urban traffic management. 

At present, MaaS is a hyped concept within and around the transport system, with several pilots and initiatives underway, both in Sweden and internationally. Pilots provide the opportunity to investigate key issues linked to the development of the MaaS concept:

  • How can barriers to collaboration within the value chain be overcome, such that new business ecosystems emerge, with a common interest in developing sustainable MaaS business models and services? 
  • What are the sustainability impacts of MaaS, and what types of tradeoffs exist between different sustainability criteria? 
  • What are the technical prerequisites that can enable MaaS developments? 
  • How can MaaS services that stimulate sustainable travel behaviour be designed?
  • How can MaaS be developed to fulfil transportation needs in different geographical contexts (e.g. urban vs. rural areas, roaming, etc.)
  • What are the practical implications of MaaS with regard to urban developments and the built environment?
  • What types of institutional changes and policy innovations are needed to allow sustainable forms of MaaS to flourish? 

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Steven Sarasini

Senior Researcher

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