Open mobility – without cooperation we’re going nowhere fast

After the Open Mobility Conference TravelSpirit publishes city and industry case studies to facilitate open collaborative mobility.

Use the link below or #Open Mobility to navigate the case studies.

Why publish these now?

Technology already exists to make it possible for people to have a single transport account enabling them to use the train, hire an e-scooter, access a self-driving pod, book travel insurance and take a flight. However, the reality is that we’re not seeing this happening on any kind of scale in the world today.

Last month, TravelSpirit and MaaS Alliance hosted a conference on Open Mobility at KANAL, a former Citroën car factory turned art gallery, in a regeneration zone of Brussels. It was an exciting event that brought together diverse voices in the mobility sphere – from Amsterdam City Authorities to International Air Transport Association, IATA, investment fund SGInnovate, and Porsche. But the simple message was that whilst technology exists that can enable a truly simple, open and seamless multi-modal transport – the mobility as a service that could replace the personal car – it will only reach its potential if the industry becomes much more open and collaborative.

TravelSpirit believes that business models will need to become much more collaborative – with a diverse mix of operators including automakers, bus companies, taxis, bike share and trains working more closely with cities so that the best use of our streets is determined by the public interest, not the most aggressive business model or the one with the deepest pockets.

“Currently we are seeing that, at one end of the spectrum, some companies are calling for new thinking from policy makers and corporate leaders  – with businesses like Europcar looking forward to a completely open transport system, or “mobility as a service” bringing economic benefits to cities in a sustainable way. Whilst at the other, some companies work in silos, annexing their part of people’s journeys or attempting to keep them within their service group for multimodal trips.” According to TravelSpirit Chairman, Simon Herko.

“At the broadest level, we have been debating how to restructure the entire transport industry, to become a lot more “open” in its approach to satisfying growing consumer expectations for transport options that are more flexible, easy to consume and that can be bundled into a single customer offer or subscription-based service. 

This involves traditional transport companies being prepared to open-up to competition and accept they don’t own the complete customer journey and/or travel requirements of a customer over the course of a year. It also requires industry silos such as airline, public transport, tech platforms, to better interface and collaborate with each other for the benefit of the customer. 

This is a controversial stand-point, given the context of existing automotive firms and public transport companies feeling threatened by the new tech-platforms (aka Uber, Mobike, Google etc etc) and the implied “winner takes all” race that is being foreseen as we move into an autonomous vehicle future.”

At TravelSpirit, we believe that we need to reconfigure the transport space. An ‘if it uses public roads (and rails) it should be open’ attitude would go some way to developing open mobility. But cities too need to be able to see how the roads (and often rails) they build and maintain are used. Mobility providers need to share usage data with cities in return for public authorities to be sure that the infrastructure they provide is being used efficiently and beneficially.

It’s a drawn out process, with many stages and patchy adoption. The important lesson is that cities, public authorities, private innovators and transport operators all need to share their experience. This is a complex transition which will require collaboration and negotiation. The more information and case studies we have to inform the debate the better.

Case studies from the Open Mobility Conference here:

Cities for Open Mobility: Singapore – investment and innovation

Cities for Open Mobility: Antwerp – the open ecosystem

Cities for Open Mobility: London – open live transport data

Cities for Open Mobility: Los Angeles – data for access and the MDS

Cities for Open Mobility: Helsinki – the open data law

Standards for Open Mobility: New Distribution Capability

Standards for Open Mobility: Minimum Interoperability Mechanisms

Companies for Open Mobility: Europcar

Companies for Open Mobility: Skedgo

Companies for Open Mobility: Tranzer

Cities for Open Mobility: Singapore investment and innovation

Singapore is an island city state with a population of over 5.5 million. The authorities are already able to control vehicle ownership through vehicle licensing (car ownership requires a ‘certificate of entitlement’) and road pricing – and the city places an emphasis on its integrated public transport network with simple payment system. 

However, besides this the state has also opted to develop an investment based approach – creating an investment fund, SGInnovate, a private limited company wholly owned by the Singapore Government, which seeks out transformational technologies and provides equity-based investments, access to talent and support in building customer traction. 

SGInnovate believes that Singapore has all the resources and capabilities needed to tackle ‘hard problems’ that matter to people around the world. As part of its Deep Tech Nexus Strategy, it is focused on adding tangible value to the Singapore deep tech startup ecosystem in two key areas – development of Human Capital and deployment of Investment Capital. With the support of partners and co-investors, SGInnovate backs deeply technical founders through equity-based investments, access to talent, and support in building customer traction. These efforts are prioritised around transformational technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and MedTech, which represent impactful and scalable answers to global challenges.

This gives the city a stake in TRANStech – both through the regulation of transport and also in the development of next generation mobility – gaining both capital returns and social returns.

Cities for Open Mobility: Antwerp – the open ecosystem

The Belgian city of Antwerp is a historical city located at the river Scheldt in the north of the country. Due to its port and diamond trade it is the commercial heart of both Belgium and the Flemish region, hosting about 80.000 companies.  It is home to 520,000 inhabitants, and boasts one of the most congested ring roads in the TEN-T European network, resulting in a huge impact on the city and its economy. 

Antwerp has a radical investment plan to tackle extreme congestion with a masterplan with a dual approach of investing in both infrastructure projects (and one of the most ambitious set of public works Europe has seen in decades) and behaviour change simultaneously.  

According to the Vice-Mayor, Koen Kennis, speaking at the Open Mobility Conference event “Antwerp is a ‘living lab’ for smart ideas on mobility of individuals, but also for logistical and maritime challenges. As a city we reach out to all innovators working in this field. We are very excited to support calls for a new Open Ecosystem approach for transportation. This will open up the market for all mobility services all over the world and will break some local monopoly control. This means decoupling services (taxis, scooters, etc.) from their individual apps. It means creating new market opportunities for mobility providers to enter underserved markets.”

Cities for Open Mobility: London – Open live transport data

London has pioneered simple, account based travel through Oyster, and stimulated innovation by providing live data feeds for the transport it provides. The open data approach has stimulated a great deal of third party innovation using Transport for London’s transport feeds.

This has enabled start-ups like CityMapper to create sophisticated route planners able to compare costs, times and active travel metrics with real time information. Some – like CityMapper have incorporated both TfL data and third party APIs (like Uber, Zipcar and Gett).

Whilst Uber is now including public transport information using TfL open data in its app, Citymapper has added its own transport provision (which have included a bus route and a shared taxi service) as an option within its app. In addition it’s partnered with Mastercard to incorporate more services into one (subscription based) payment system than are currently included on Oyster.

Whilst the provision of public transport in London is highly regulated with a single system providing buses, underground metro and local rail to travellers (competition is for franchises to provide the service rather than at the customer interface), this enables the innovation at the data and platform level.

There are questions about new services however, with TfL responsible for roads but not fully able to regulate private hire and ride hailing. Currently the data provision is one way – with apps and new mobility providers not providing insight to TfL.

Cities for Open Mobility: Los Angeles – Data for access, the Mobility Data Specification model

Los Angeles has been a test bed for multiple new mobility modes – ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft grew rapidly on its streets, the ultimately ill-fated Ford Chariot operated there and now bike share and electric scooters have joined the fray.

The city recognised that, without access to ride-hail trip data, it was difficult to understand the new technology’s impact on congestion or on behaviour such as public transport use or bike ridership. And without information it was hard to develop policy. 

In response, the city has has pioneered a data feed specification (the Mobility Data Specification or MDS) that enables it to keep tabs on the fleets of shared scooters that have taken to its streets. Providing data via the MDS is one of the conditions for operators putting their vehicles on public pavements.

Patterns of movement derived from MDS can shape policy decisions around bike lanes, pedestrian zones or increasing social equity. However, the MDS is a real-time feed enabling the city to see out of zone or poorly parked vehicles and alert the mobility companies involved.

Whilst the feed is only used for micromobility – essentially scooters – at present, it has the potential to include all forms of mobility and give the city vastly detailed information about use patterns and the impact of new mobility on its streets.

Cities for Open Mobility: Helsinki – the open data law

The pioneering initiative enabling the first Mobility as a Service trials in Helsinki can be found in Finland’s progressive new Transport Code, which sets out to create a regulatory environment which makes open data from transport operators mandatory. 

All transport providers are required to provide access via open APIs to information on timetables, routes, ticket prices as well as real-time location data. The legislation entered into force on 1 July 2018.

With this, the Finnish government set regulatory conditions to boost the implementation of new technology and business concepts. The Act is part of the more comprehensive Transport Code project and represents a step forward in Finland’s vision of providing “Mobility as a Service” and creating a digital future for mobility that relies on the interoperability of data and open interfaces.

This has supported numerous innovations –spearheaded by Finnish startup, MaaS Global, in Helsinki.

Standards for Open Mobility: New Distribution Capability

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 290 airlines or 82% of total air traffic. IATA supports many areas of aviation activity and helps to formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.

‘One order’ is the new standard identification for each passenger journey at the heart of the  New Distribution Capability (NDC). This is a travel industry-supported program launched by IATA to enhance the capability of communications between airlines and travel agents. 

A key outcome will be to replace the multiple and rigid booking, ticketing, delivery and accounting methods with a single Customer Order record, holding all data elements obtained and required for order fulfilment across the air travel cycle. 

Commenting on the conference, Olivier Hours, Head of Industry Distribution Programs Adoption, IATA said: “This event helped to confirm there are strong opportunities for cities to adopt versions of IATA’s One Order and New Distribution Capability (NDC) protocols for intermodal travel and MaaS.”

Standards for Open Mobility: Minimum Interoperability Mechanisms

The OASC (Open & Agile Smart Cities – founded by the Future Cities Catapult among others) has developed a set of three ‘minimal interoperability mechanisms’ which have been formally adopted by 130 cities in 28 countries:

  • Context information management API which permits access to real-time context information from different cities.
  • Shared data models – Guidelines and catalogue of common data models in different verticals to enable interoperability for applications and systems among different cities
  • Marketplace API – this is the OASC ecosystems transaction management MIM – it exposes functionalities such as catalogue management, ordering management, revenue management, Service Level Agreements, license management and is complemented by marketplaces for hardware and service

Companies for Open Mobility: Europcar Mobility Group

Companies are calling for new thinking from policy makers and corporate leaders. For example, businesses like Europcar Mobility Group are promoting a completely “open transport system” that will enable MaaS to deliver economic benefits to cities in a sustainable way. 

Jehan de The from Europcar Mobility Group said “a completely open transport system, or “Mobility as a Service” would bring economic benefits to cities in a sustainable way. He said that while progress would be dependent on new thinking from global policymakers and business leaders, technology was not a barrier.”

Europcar Mobility Group is a major player in mobility markets and listed on Euronext Paris. The mission of Europcar Mobility Group is to be the preferred “Mobility Service Company” by offering alternative attractive solutions to vehicle ownership, with a wide range of mobility-related services: vehicle-rental, chauffeur services, car-sharing, scooter-sharing and peer-to-peer car-rental.

Europcar Mobility Group operates through multi brands to meet different requirements – it’s four major brands are: Europcar® – the European leader in vehicle rental services, Goldcar® – the most important low-cost car-rental company in Europe, InterRent® – ‘mid-tier’ brand focused on leisure and Ubeeqo® – one of the European leaders in car-sharing (BtoB, BtoC). 

Europcar Mobility Group delivers its mobility solutions worldwide solutions through an extensive network in 135 countries (including 16 wholly owned subsidiaries in Europe, 2 in Australia and New Zealand, franchises and partners).  

Companies for Open Mobility: Skedgo

At the Open Mobility Conference in 2019, Sandra Witzel, Head of Marketing at MaaS platform provider Skedgo, provided us an insight into the motivation behind MaaS entrepreneurs: 

“We want a future where consumers have complete information about their travel options and at the same time are free to choose how they access and pay for those journeys. We see this approach as an essential ingredient for a major shift away from private car use and enabling rapid adoption of electric and shared mobility solutions, intermixed with an increase in the levels of walking and cycling around our cities.” 

SkedGo was started in 2009 by three founders with previous successful exits and has offices in Australia, Germany, UK, Finland, Argentina and Vietnam. SkedGo provides personalised trip planning, corporate mobility and other mobility-as-a-service technology for start-ups, corporations and governments. A senior developer team creates tailored solutions leveraging our unique API. The result: organisations can rapidly create their own multi/mixed modal MaaS offering, including parking, book & pay features, events and itineraries as well as complete corporate mobility solutions.