What is Mobility as a Service?
It will not come as a surprise that the abundance of cars on the road today is the culprit of many problems – hours-long traffic jams and frightening carbon dioxide emissions are only the tip of the iceberg. However, what if there was a cheap, reliable and flexible way to get from point A to point B without the need to invest in a car? A shift from consuming cars as a product to consuming mobility as a service may be the solution.
Traditionally, mobility was consumed as a product. This means that if a consumer wanted to secure a reliable, flexible way of travel, that consumer would invest in a car (or any other mode of transportation). As a result, the car became the consumer’s private ownership.
However, presently, there has been a shift to the delivery of a Product as a Service. This means that the buyer no longer owns a physical product, but instead receives a service. In other words, contracts of sale are replaced by services contracts. In the context of mobility, this means that the consumer buys mobility itself rather than a car to achieve mobility with. Thus, mobility is consumed in a similar way as the service provided by a hairdresser. When a consumer wants a haircut, he goes to a salon and pays for the haircut itself, instead of buying a pair of scissors and cutting his own hair.
How does it work?
The consumer buys mobility from a service provider by exchanging money for access to a vehicle or transport. Consequently, mobility services allow consumers to get from point A to point B without the need to purchase a vehicle. In this sense, they can be compared to Spotify or Netflix: instead of becoming the owner of the music and movies, the consumer pays a certain amount of money to stream the media. A prime example of a Mobility as a Service-provider is Uber, which allows its users to travel flexibly and cheaply within supported regions in exchange for payment.
As a result of the rise of mobility services, it is no longer necessary for consumers to privately own a vehicle. Accordingly, the availability of mobility services may cause car-owners to give up their cars. This is because the use of mobility services is accompanied with lower costs than car ownership. While owning a car brings about insurance, parking, maintenance, and repair costs, users of mobility services only have to pay for the actual ride. Consequently, a shift to ‘mobility as a service’ could lead to a decline in car ownership. Not only would this lead to a reduction of emissions, it would also reduce the need for parking spaces. Furthermore, pedestrians and cyclists would have more freedom to move around.
While reducing the number of vehicles, mobility services also allow the vehicles which are currently in circulation to be used more efficiently. Firstly, the mobility services enable customers to make use of vehicles owned by someone else. This means that a consumer that only rarely needs a car, is not obliged to buy one. Secondly, several mobility service providers, such as Uber, offer customers the opportunity to share their ride with other customers against a lower price. The foregoing is based upon the idea of a ‘sharing economy’, an economic model in which individuals are able to use assets owned by someone else in exchange for payment.
It goes without saying that mobility as a service is more sustainable than mobility as a product. Consider the following: in the past, five people would drive to work in five different cars, which all yield gas, insurance, parking, maintenance, and repair costs. Furthermore, all cars emit carbon dioxide. In contrast, the arrival of mobility services allows these people to travel together in one car, limiting costs and emission to only one car, thereby making mobility more sustainable.
By decreasing the demand for vehicles and increasing their efficiency, the rise of the mobility services can be considered as a big step towards a circular economy – an economic model that aims to eradicate waste by reducing the reliance on new materials.